Free desk is tricky. It gives a team the opportunity to improve, but that comes with a price. Sometimes at high cost to persuade a player to join their team, be it in dollars, forward or trade clauses.
So while we’ve looked at low-cost options for expiring contracts, as well as those for a raise, next time the focus will be on those that could be on the overpriced side.
It’s not as simple as saying that these players shouldn’t be signed, or that they haven’t earned any raises at all – although of course that may be the case for some pending free agents. But some of these players are prime candidates to slide into overpaid territory with their next club.
Let’s start with the rousing kid of the hockey analytics community, Chiarot.
It is not to say the defender not have value in this competition; he blocks shocks, controls opponents of the puck with his physical play, and restores loose pucks back into his own zone, especially when his goaltender allows a rebound. The problem is, general managers have overvalued that — just look at the Panthers’ trading deadline returns and then look at his performance with Florida.
This past postseason has been only a small snippet of his career thus far, but it was telling how many shots and quality chances were generated against the Panthers while he was even on the ice. That’s the other half of Chiarot that a signing team has to take into account, and it goes beyond one playoff run. He’s the physical, defensive player that general managers flock to, but there are legitimate downsides to his game that show why a team shouldn’t invest too much.
How much can a team invest in him? According to Evolving-Hockey, the 31-year-old is projecting a four-year contract with a $5.46 million cap hit. And that seems like a deal that could be easy to regret if some term or cap can’t be skimmed off the top.
Stanley Cup rings usually lead to raises. A stint in Colorado may have boosted Manson’s worth in the competition after he began to descend on a struggling Young Ducks quad. While some of his stats slipped on the ice, the defender still played to some of his strengths.
At equal strength, he can be counted on to make important defensive moves in the neutral zone and deny access over the blue line. Manson limits the number of scoring opportunities opponents generate past him during the rush. The defender blocks passes and shots on 5-on-5 and penalty kills, and can get rid of pucks with few hands to take some pressure off his team. His physical play only adds to the hard-nosed, hard-to-play against style he embodies.
During Manson’s time in Colorado, he was a match with Sam Girard for his skating and puck-moving abilities. With equal strength, they achieved an expected target percentage of 57 percent. That’s something his signing team needs to be aware of if they want him to be at his best and not hope he can just be a closing pair with a one-dimensional partner.
The other part to look for when signing Manson to his next contract is how it will age. aging cureves tell us that players tend to decline in their 30s (Manson will be 31 around puck drop next season), so anything with too long of a term can be problematic, especially for a player whose level has dropped in recent years. A team must isolate how much of it was dropping its game and how much was affected by its environment; if it’s the first, the later years of his next deal could get dangerous.
Evolving hockey has Manson at a four-year-old contract with an average annual value of $4.05; that is not far from his deal which is currently expiring. It could be manageable everywhere, but this could be a deal that will bite a signing team if it goes much higher than that because of the hardware he just picked up with Colorado.
Finally, let’s move on to insult. Strome could strike a team-friendly deal, especially if he stays with the Rangers, where he revived his career after his value dropped with the Islanders and then the Oilers.
But if he enters the open market and a team takes him out of New York, it will likely come at a higher price.
It’s not to say that Strome can’t be effective on another team. It’s not rangers or downtown bust. The right-handed shooter is familiar in all situations, really in all moments of a game in New York. He may not be the player to count on to carry the game on the ice, but he can play in the offensive zone to build on his linemate’s transition efforts. Strome can both set up his teammates with quality passes and be the recipient of a cunning pass. A playmaker has clearly been a match for him in recent years, but a double threat can’t hurt his wing either.
Now let’s go back to that increased price. Evolving-Hockey is projecting a seven-year deal with an average annual value of $7.15 million. Even if it takes him fewer years, his cap hit can still remain in the high six and early seven range. That’s taking a gamble on a player who has done well alongside Artemi Panarin and hasn’t had much time to show what he can do without him. And a signing team clearly doesn’t add its elite winger and doesn’t have the dynamic duo to count on.
So when a CEO opens his checkbook for Strome, they need to make sure what they’re getting and determine if he’s worth the high hat it takes to sign elsewhere. If that squad has a high-end winger they want to pair with Strome, the conversation shifts because there’s confidence that this center can keep up with that linemate of that caliber. Without it, it’s counting on a player who may not be able to deliver the signing heights in the long run.
Data via Sportlogiq, CapFriendly and Evolving-Hockey