Joe Colborne’s next contract

A number of Flames will need new contracts for next season, and none are more important than Johnny Gaudreau and Sean Monahan. They aren’t the only impending restricted free agents having impressive seasons, though: Joe Colborne, who became an NHL regular at the same time as Monahan, is an RFA as well.

Colborne just got his 100th career point against the Edmonton Oilers. His 18 goals and 39 points so far this season are new career highs. At 26 years old, though, he’s a bit older. He’s carried a $1.275 million cap hit the past two seasons. Should he get much more?

A career season

Let’s focus on Colborne’s last two years playing: enough time to get the kinks out of his rookie season, and these two seasons cover the span of Colborne’s current contract.

Season Goals Assists Points SH% ATOI 5v5 CF% 5v5 CF% Rel 5v5 OZS% 5v5 PDO
2014-15 8 20 28 11.9 15:25 42.89 -1.78 31.72 103.65
2015-16 18 21 39 18.6 15:11 47.99 -0.57 28.09 99.92

There are quite a few things to like here. His offensive production has gone up, and he hasn’t needed a boost in ice time to accomplish that. Hs possession rates have gone up as well, even as his offensive zone starts have dropped. His PDO isn’t otherworldly; in fact, it’s gone down some, although that likely has more to do with the Flames’ goaltending cratering than anything else.

There is still a major, major, major red flag here, though: Colborne’s shooting percentage jumped up almost seven points.

If there’s anything last season should have taught us, it’s that we cannot expect this to last. All it takes is one look at Lance Bouma, who went from .44 points per game with a career-high 15.4% shooting percentage to .16 points per game with a 4.3% shooting percentage. (Bouma had a .19 points per game rate the year before his career season.) 

As much as injuries have impacted Bouma’s season, he’s still played over half of the year, and is still scoring about where we would have expected to be before that career season.

Bouma already got a three-year, $2.2 million AAV contract out of his career season, but the Flames may not be able to afford taking a similar chance on Colborne. 

The comparison is somewhat unfair – Colborne looks to be a useful enough NHLer in his own right, and even if he flops, will still probably provide better value than Bouma – but should we be expecting Colborne to encroach upon 20 goals next season? Probably not, if history has taught us anything.

Cap hit comparables

Forwards with about 28 points this season, not on ELCs but on RFA deals, include:

  • Calle Jarnkrok ($735K cap hit, 18 points the season before contract was signed)
  • Jimmy Hayes ($2.3M cap hit, 35 points the season prior)
  • Brandon Pirri ($925K cap hit, 14 points the season prior)
  • David Desharnais ($3.5M cap hit, 28 points the season prior [lockout year, pro-rated to 48 points over an 82-game season])
  • Jesper Fast ($950K cap hit, 14 points the season prior)
  • Antoine Roussel ($2M cap hit, 29 points the season prior)
  • Sven Baertschi ($900K cap hit, six points the season prior)
  • Michael Raffl ($1.1M cap hit, 22 points the season prior)
  • Peter Holland ($775K cap hit, 11 points the season prior)
  • Dale Weise ($1.025M cap hit, 16 points the season prior)

Removing Desharnais from the equation, who appears to be the only major outlier among this group, Colborne’s offensive performance last season – with a more repeatable shooting percentage – hints he should receive a cap hit of roughly $1.2 million: basically, where he’s at now.

Forwards with about 39 points this season, not on ELCs but on RFA deals, include:

  • Jean-Gabriel Pageau ($900K cap hit, 19 points the season before contract was signed)
  • Alex Killorn ($2.55M cap hit, 41 points the season prior)
  • Chris Kreider ($2.475M cap hit, 37 points the season prior)
  • Jamie McGinn ($2.95M cap hit, 38 points the season prior)
  • Brock Nelson ($2.5M cap hit, 42 points the season prior)
  • Sean Couturier ($1.75M cap hit, 39 points the season prior)

These contracts average out to about a $2.2 million cap hit. Take out Pageau, and it’s $2.4 million.

That’s a difference of about $1-$1.2 million, all based on a year that should be taken with a grain of salt; a year worthy of scepticism; a year that we have reason to believe will not repeat itself.

That extra million could cut itself in rather tight in this impending cap crunch, but it should be manageable. Here’s the problem: if you don’t expect it to repeat, then you don’t give out term.

Bouma on a $2.2 million cap hit this season doesn’t hurt nearly as much if he doesn’t carry the number for the next two seasons as well. If he had a contract coming up after this season, there’s no chance he would get that figure; doesn’t matter, though, because it’s the one he now carries.

The Flames should have essentially two offers to Colborne for his extension. Does he deserve a raise? Based on this season, yes. But it should go like this: he gets a fair jump, say $1 million, and carries it for just one season, during which it’s on him to prove this season was not a fluke year. That, or he takes a modest raise, say $500K, over a two year period; maybe even $250K over three years. Longer contracts, but at less risk to prove himself not worth it as the years go on.

Either he gets term, or he gets money. Not both.

It isn’t paying Gaudreau $8 million that gets the Flames into cap trouble: it’s doing stuff like paying Colborne and Bouma a combined $4.5 million that does. Those lesser contracts add up. A player of Gaudreau’s caliber is worth the cap hit; players like Bouma and Colborne, who provide evidence their career seasons aren’t representative of their overall abilities, less so.

Look no further than the cap structure of the Flames’ defence. There’s no need to repeat that in the bottom six, especially when it’s easily avoidable.

  • Well written Ari.

    Exacly the point I’ve made in comments.
    Take the bottom 6 Stajan, Bolig, Bouma, throw in Ryamond even burried carrying a cap hit of 2.2 and you’re looking at 7-8m just in 4 guys. When you can cover those minutes at

  • mattyc

    I’m OK with Colborne at low $2M 3 yr contract. Realistically, he’s probably a 15 goal 35 pt guy who plays on the 3rd line (he has 11-12 goals if you use last years SH%). And there are signs of progression:

    – His shot generation is up this year (corsi for up 5 shot attempts/60minutes)

    – His shot suppression hasn’t gone suffered.

  • freethe flames

    I recall an interview with Joe at the start of the season in which he realized how he needed to add strength after last seasons playoffs if he wanted to contribute more. I believe he added about 10lbs of muscle in the off season and I think this helped be a better player. Yes we should be aware of his high shooting % but that should not deter the Flames from signing him to a far contract. If there is an expansion draft we have to have some players to expose, also make sure there are no “no move or no trade clauses” unless he is giving the Flames a serious home team discount.

  • everton fc

    He wants to stay here. So sign him. He’ll get 40 points this season. Much more than Bouma… Ferland… Jooris… Even Byron, who many pencilled in over Colborne. Never forget the early season comments on this site, fellow fans…

    He’ll take a discount. Whatever that means, these days. If the Flames want to keep him, he’ll stay. Moving some of the bad paper players is paramount this summer. Some (many) inked under this regime.

  • MarbledBlueCheese

    Colborne’s production has not gone unnoticed beyond Calgary, at least by TV talking heads and websites.

    Perhaps he brings something reasonable in a trade scenario.

    The presence of so many bad contracts on the 4th line and 3rd D pairing next year may make things like this a necessity (cuz no one is trading for Smid, Raymond, Stajan etc).

  • Greg

    I’d still bet he’ll get at least 2 years, solely so the flames have more salary to expose in a pending expansion draft. Hopefully it’s not over $2M though.

  • The Fall

    Living in Canada and being paid in USD is a big factor here. He’s a local boy who is thrilled to be playing for his home town. I would expect the term to be higher than the price tag.

  • BlueMoonNigel

    If not Super Joe, then who?

    Who are the Flames’ projected bottom 6 forwards heading into next season?

    Bouma, Ferland, Colborne, Shinkaruk, Hathaway, Joris? Stajan–buyout? Bollig and Raymond–trade or Stockton?

  • Jake the Snail

    “There’s no need to repeat that in the bottom six, especially when it’s easily avoidable.”

    Agreed Ari. The Flames have a lot of bottom 6 talent at Stockton and in prospects. Follow the Hawks model – pay your stars well and fill in the rest of the roster with some up and comers on their first and second contracts. Example in my previous post. Hathaway is cheaper than Bouma. Along the way the Hawks had to trade some very good (and unfortunately pricey players. So the Flames will have to do this to remain under the cap while trying to field a competitive team.

  • RKD

    There’s a real danger here, the Flames got burned on Bouma. Backlund made Bouma, without Backs centering that line last season there’s no way Bouma gets 17 goals. This season Bouma was injured twice but he still looks nowhere near the player he was last season. Let’s see what Bouma does next season, he may not hit 17 ever again but i think he can be a whole lot better. I don’t think it’s fair to compare Colborne to Bouma, Colborne has more offensive upside but can he score this many goals next year? Even if you average out his last two season a sh% of 15% is still way too high. His real sh% is probably anywhere between 12.2% and 12.9%, his shots on net is roughly 84-89. Next season he would be closer to 10-14 goals. If he’s closer to 12-13%, he would have to take a whopping 137 shots to come close to this season which is 40 more than he has right now. Anything is possible, I would love to see him go up, but sh% don’t stay that high for long.

  • flamesburn89

    $2M is the absolute max I’d give Colborne. Not his biggest fan, but I must admit that he’s been decent this year. 1 or 2 year deal is what I’d look for as well.

    Just don’t want to get into another Bouma-like contract this off-season. Death by a thousand cuts, or something to that effect.

  • cjc

    Colborne probably won’t be signed until Gaudreau, Monahan and a goalie are signed anyway. It might be possible to get a pick or a prospect for him in a trade, but I’m not sure teams would give up much for someone who is not under contract. Maybe Boston would want him back? Rask for Colborne and Wideman, seems like something they might do 😉

  • CoftheRed

    $2 million seems about right. In line with Bouma but honestly Colborne legitimately has the corresponding skill where Bouma’s good season is much more of an outlier.

    To pick on the article, can we ban the use of PDO when referring to individual players? (Personally I would ban it’s use in general). If PDO is a ‘measure of luck’ based on shooting percentage and save percentage why would you judge an individual player on it when they have no control over half of the equation (save %)? It makes no sense.

    Ari compounds the problem by first saying Joe’s PDO is decent then blasting him for having a high shooting percentage. That in a nutshell shows that PDO for a player is meaningless. PDO started out as a simple rule of thumb to judge whether teams are riding higher than average but it’s turned into some sort of super stat that gets thrown around in meaningless ways.