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Gauging Ryan McDonagh’s RFA Market

Perhaps the most important task on the agenda of Glen Sather (or whomever may be calling the shots on Manhattan) this summer is extending the contract of shutdown defender Ryan McDonagh. We’ve already assessed the value of fellow RFA Derek Stepan and determined he is going to be NHL: New York Rangers at New York Islandersexpensive. McDonagh, given his performance through the parts of three seasons in the NHL, is in line to be just as expensive if not more so.

In this post we’ll try to project the contract McDonagh may receive by comparing his play through 169 NHL games with other defensemen in the league that fulfilled their entry-level contracts and signed new deals. Finding reasonable comparables is never easy and that proved to be the case with McDonagh. However, after reviewing the rosters of all 30 NHL teams I did find six other defensemen who have all signed extensions within the last three years upon the expiration of their ELC’s.

As we did in the Stepan examination we’ll look at the traditional scoring stats for each through the final year of their ELC’s. Since McDonagh is a blue liner we will also look at several advanced metrics that show primarily how well he played five-on-five (5v5).

Player

GP

G

A

Pts

Pts/Game

John Carlson

186

17

58

75

0.40

Oliver Ekman-Larson

178

17

50

67

0.38

Marc Staal

244

13

39

52

0.21

Luke Schenn

231

12

41

53

0.23

Kris Letang

217

21

58

79

0.36

Victor Hedman

214

12

57

69

0.32

Ryan McDonagh

169

12

48

60

0.36

 

At least in terms of offensive production it can reasonably be argued that McDonagh belongs in this group. Of course these raw stats can be misleading. They don’t take into account ice time; neither total nor the quality of that time. The more ice time, particularly on the man-advantage, the more points a player has the opportunity to score. And tell me you don’t think that McDonagh has some untapped offensive ability. I think McDonagh can be a 40-point guy easily once he begins to trust his ability and feels more comfortable with his game.

These numbers also doesn’t reflect on a defenseman’s primary responsibility which is goal prevention. It’s all in the name of the position: Defenseman.

The following table will show how McDonagh compares with his peers in terms of Relative Corsi (puck possession, +/-QoC (Quality of Competition) along with goals scored for and against while that player is on the ice per sixty minutes of ice time (5v5 GF/60 and 5v5 GA/60). That will give us an idea how the player is performing at even strength and is a better indicator than +/-.

Note: This table only reflects the numbers accrued during the final season of each player’s ELC.

Player

Rel. Corsi

+/- QoC

5v5 GF/60

5v5 GA/60

5v5 G/60 Differential

5v5 Pts/60

Carlson

-3.8

0.63

2.41

2.92

-0.51

0.89

Ekman-Larson

6.4

0.030

2.24

2.07

0.17

0.95

Staal

-6.7

0.139

2.36

1.87

0.49

1.02

Schenn

-7.3

-0.053

2.19

2.65

-0.46

0.90

Letang

12.1

0.045

3.08

2.88

0.20

1.06

Hedman

1.8

0.014

2.8

3.02

-0.22

0.86

McDonagh

6.0

0.003

2.58

1.94

0.64

1.01

 

Perhaps surprisingly, Staal and McDonagh rank behind only Letang in 5v5 Pts/60 meaning they didn’t benefit from padding their stat line with easy PP points (some sarcasm in that). Also, McDonagh has the best 5v5 G/60 Differential of everyone in this comparison. His Rel. Corsi is in the top half of the defensemen in this study so he does a fair job helping his team control puck possession. All in all, there is little doubt that McDonagh ranks right near the top of the blueliners on this list and as such could command a salary in line with the top contracts awarded.

Now we get to the next table. Here we see what kind of money McDonagh’s contemporaries got as RFA’s after completing their ELC’s and consequently, what McDonagh might be looking at.

Player

Year Signed

Term

Total Value

AAV

Carlson

2012

6 years

$23.8MM

$3.967MM

Ekman-Larson

2013

6 years

$33MM

$5.5MM

Staal

2010

5 years

$19.875MM

$3.975MM

Schenn

2011

5 years

$18MM

$3.6MM

Letang

2010

4 years

$14MM

$3.5MM

Hedman

2012

5 years

$20MM

$4MM

 

Looking at these contracts, the Ekman-Larson deal seems out of sorts. Each of the other deals run from $3.5MM to $4MM annually but the deal for the Phoenix defender pays him significantly more per season. Now Ekman-Larsson’s contract does cover two free agent years but many of the others also buy out one or more UFA seasons. Perhaps this is the extreme outlier and shouldn’t represent a true comparable so we’ll weigh Ekman-Larsson’s contract less.

It would appear that a deal in the five year and $20MM range would be appropriate for McDonagh but it’s important to realize that nearly all of the comparable contracts referenced here were signed under a different CBA. How teams approach RFA’s in the new CBA may alter the market somewhat. In fact, the only “comparable” who signed an extension under this CBA was Ekman-Larsson.

However, there is a new contract we can use as a comparable thanks to Nashville agreeing to a long-term deal with soon-to-be RFA Roman Josi. The Predators felt strongly enough about Josi’s ability and potential to give him a seven-year, $28MM contract Monday. So, how does Josi’s performance to this point compare to that of McDonagh? Let’s take a look.

We’ll break this down into two tables; the first breaking down the same traditional scoring stats we used earlier and the second demonstrating the same advanced stats for the used earlier in this study for both Roman Josi and Ryan McDonagh for the 2013 season.

Player

GP

G

A

Pts

Pts/Game

Josi

100

10

24

34

.34

McDonagh

169

12

48

60

.36

 

Player

Rel. Corsi

+/- QoC

5v5 GF/60

5v5 GA/60

5v5 G Differential/60

5v5 Pts/60

Josi

-0.4

.030

2.32

2.65

-0.33

.66

McDonagh

6.0

.003

2.58

1.94

0.64

1.01

 

Well, to be blunt I just don’t see how Josi is better or even as good as McDonagh. Can anyone else out there show me that he is? I just don’t get it. McDonagh has been a better 5v5 point producer, has helped his club more in the puck possession category and has a better 5v5 goal differential. But Josi is set to earn an average of $4MM over the next seven seasons so where might that put McDonagh?

Now, one thing to consider is that Josi’s contract does buy out three potential free agent seasons. Nashville paid a premium to secure those seasons. Josi’s cap hit is $4MM but he is set to earn in actual salary $14.25MM in the last three seasons of his deal. That is an average of $4.75MM to cover what would have been three UFA years. If we subtract those seasons we are left with a four-year, $13.75MM deal which means his controlled seasons will cost Nashville less than $3.5MM per.

McDonagh is team controlled for the next three seasons only. Anything beyond that could cost the Rangers a lot of money and cap space. Perhaps a contract that pays McDonagh $4MM over the next three seasons followed by five more seasons at an AAV of $4.8MM. That’s a total of $36MM over eight years ($4.5MM average) and a total of $24MM over the last five years.

That’s a better contract overall than everyone but Ekman-Larsson (the outlier) and it represents what appears to be good, but maybe not fair market money over the final five years when McDonagh sells out his UFA seasons. It’s just an idea and I don’t know if McDonagh and his representation will be amenable to that type of deal. I do know that without a doubt Ryan McDonagh is going to make some good money on his new deal and the Rangers would best be served by trying to work out a long-term contract with the guy who might be their best defenseman sooner rather than later.

 

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