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Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Do Faceoffs Matter to Stanley Cup Champions? How pricey are Stepan, Hagelin this summer? Nobody shuts the door in 3rd periods like Henrik Lundqvist.

How Often Are Certain Elements In A Stanley Cup Champion?

I was sifting through some team statistics of NHL postseasons, looking over how strong or weak the last 8 Stanley Cup teams were in Power Play, Penalty Killing, Goals For/Against per Game, Face-off Percentage, & Goaltender Save Percentage. I was wondering how the current New York Rangers look on paper in terms of these stats.

Power Play: Believe it or not, most of the recent Stanley-Cup-winning teams have not had to have an exquisite power play in the postseason. In fact, the 2013 Chicago Blackhawks (13th of 16), the 2012 Los Angeles Kings (12th of 16), & the 2011 Boston Bruins (14th of 16) were amongst the worst PP teams in the postseason. The New York Rangers currently have a league-average Power Play, which is 15th of 30 (or 9th of the 16 currently projected playoff teams*). The average Cup winner the past 8 seasons has also had a 9th-of-16 power play. No championship team since 2006 has been Top-4 (out of 16) in a given playoff! 

Winning Face-offs: Since hockey is a game of possession, its axiomatic having a frequent faceoff-percentage, thus frequent puck possession, sounds like an element absolutely needed for a Stanley Cup campaign, right?... Believe it or not, the latest trend of Cup winning teams have only had to be average-to-slightly-above-average in the face-off circles. The 2013 Chicago Blackhawks (12th of 16), the 2012 Los Angeles Kings (10th of 16), & the 2009 Pittsburgh Penguins (t-11th of 16) were overall face-off losers. The past 4 Stanley Cup winners have featured 2 strong face-off teams & 2 weak face-off teams, so it’s been a high-variance element in evaluating championship calibre. The New York Rangers are nearly the weakest face-off team in the league, ranking 29th of 30 (or 16th of 16 vs currently projected playoff teams*).

It isn't at all uncommon for teams with a lousy Power Play to find a way to win it all. The 2011 Boston Bruins had the 3rd worst PP of all 16 playoff teams that postseason. 

Goals Allowed per Game: What’s the scoop on allowing goals en route to winning the Stanley Cup? Well, it doesn’t take a rocket surgeon to figure out the teams that win championships don’t allow many goals. In fact, the past 8 Stanley Cup teams were all Top-5 in GAA (average rank of 3rd of 16). Fortunately, the New York Rangers are 2nd of 30 in the NHL (and 2nd of 16 amongst projected playoff teams*, only behind Chicago). 

Penalty Kill: Well if a strong Power Play isn’t always an absolute ingredient in winning 16 playoff games, is Penalty Killing any different? Well, looking over the past 8 years, Penalty Kill has been considerably better than Power Play. The 2014 Los Angeles Kings (9th of 16 in PK) were the weakest penalty-killing team in a decade to win it all. Otherwise, all winners from 2007 to 2013 were teams exclusively sporting a PK that was Top-6 in the postseason. The New York Rangers are currently 9th of 30 on the kill in the NHL (7th of 16 vs currently projected playoff teams*). Conclusion? With occasional exception, a tight PK is a must. NY Rangers, while there’s always longing for improvement, must utilize their playoff PK execution, perhaps even more than their playoff PP.

It isn't at all uncommon for teams with a losing face-off winning percentage to still find a way to win it all. The 2013 Chicago Blackhawks had the 5th lowest face-off winning percentage en route to the Stanley Cup.


In this era, having a lethal Power Play or top-tier faceoff winning percentage can definitely help... but doesn't seem all that required in the average recent Cup winner. 

Penalty Kill and Save Percentage are slightly more important, both averaging out to be all over the Top-10 spectrum in championship campaigns.

The categories of postseason Goals-For-Per-Game & Goals-Against-Per-Game are most critical. It constantly and consistently takes a Top-5 goal-differential club to win the Stanley Cup. The previous categories had a lot of leeway and variance, Goal Differential does not.

*When comparing NYR to ‘currently projected playoff teams’, I am ranking NYR vs MTL, DET, NYI, TBL, PIT, WSH, BOS, NSH, STL, ANH, CHI, VAN, LAK, MIN & WPG.

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How Much Money Would Derek Stepan, Carl Hagelin Receive in Salary Arbitration?

Carl Hagelin: What is Hagelin’s value? There has been only 1 single salary-arbitration case the last few summers… Vladimir Sobotka’s in the Summer of 2014. Oddly enough, Sobotka appears to be a very similar player to Hagelin statistically. Specifically…

  • Hagelin will be 27 years old this summer when he is eligible for arbitration… the same age Sobotka when he had his case.
  • Sobotka went 9-24-33 in 61 games the season before his hearing, and had a STL career of 29-72-101 in 247 games.
  • Right now, Hagelin is 14-14-28 in 59 games, and has a NY Rangers career of 55-68-123 in 243 games.
  • Hagelin has a slight edge in career stats, but projected to have a lesser-pedigree of ice time and points than Sobotka had in the year before his arbitration
  • Both have a career differential of 20 seconds contrasting career average ice time per game of the two

It would seem Hagelin likely gets a similar salary increase as Sobotka received, or perhaps a bit more considering better career numbers (despite a slightly worse season). Sobotka was awarded 1-year, $2.725 million settlement (which remains pending as Sobotka had already defected to the KHL), or 3.95% of the incoming $69 million salary cap. Considering Hagelin may get slightly more than Sobotka, and the salary cap may only slightly increase next season…

My estimate, for a 1-year arbitration result, would be something like 4 or 4.1 percent of $70 million (assuming a modest $1 million increase of the cap). That math gets us somewhere between $2.80 - $2.87 million cap hit on a 1-year deal. Of course, a sluggish or hot-handed regular season finish and/or postseason performance can always change these numbers for better or worse.

Carl Hagelin turns 27 years old this summer. As his speed and mobility are perhaps the largest part of his utility and effectiveness as an NHL-calibre 3rd-line winger... A stunted salary cap, and a less replaceable, exponentially more daunting Derek Stepan will probably be priority-one in reaching a long-term contract. A mutual 1-or-2 year deal slightly under or around $3 million/year would be my prediction.
   Carl Hagelin probably receives 1-year, $2.85 million salary arbitration award with the data as of 02/25/15.

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Derek Stepan: The semi-retired great NYR blogger Hockey Rodent last posted an analysis comparing Stepan’s looming pay raise to that of Ryan O’Reilly’s last summer with The Colorado Avalanche. In it, Ro’ logically predicts Stepan will top O’Reilly’s $6 million per year cap hit. O’Reilly, as of Summer 2014, had 73-118-191 in 345 career NHL games (18:20 ATOI). Stepan, in contrast, reigns is at 84-156-240 in 339 career NHL games (18:18 ATOI). That’s 49 more points in 6 less games! Stepan is 8 months older than O’Reilly, both are vital centers for their respective clubs, & both have virtually the same exact career ATOI per game

  • O’Reilly avoided arbitration by signing a 2-year, $6 million/yr deal with Colorado. The incoming salary cap was $69,000,000 (so this was 8.7% of salary cap per-year deal). If Stepan is indeed more valuable and statistically productive than O’Reilly, let’s play with some numbers. A 1-year deal would be perhaps 9 to 9.5 percent of an incoming salary cap of $70 million (6.3 to 6.65 million), a 2-year deal being 9.5 to 10 percent (6.65 to 7 million/year). 
  • Stepan is the 1st New York Ranger to reach 40 points in each of his first 5 NHL seasons since Tomas Sandstorm (’85-’89). He missed the 2014 training camp over a contract holdout probably less than $100,000 in disagreement. Stepan, who has been incredibly healthy and NHL-calibre, only to improve each season and now tinker with a point-per-game 2015 season as he is the #1 center in a seemingly seriously contending NY Rangers team. There is no reason why Stepan shouldn’t be expecting to break the bank. This is one restricted free agent Glen Sather will not be able to leverage, as he’s infamously been known to brink-push. 
  • Option 1: Let Stepan go to arbitration, and accept whatever 1-year deal is awarded. Perhaps $6-$6.5 million in a 1-year settlement. Compared to a multi-year deal, with a cap hit closer to $7 million than $6 million, and a possibly stagnant salary cap increase… NYR can take the cheapest possible salary cap for 2015-16, but risk losing him to unrestricted free agency in 2016. 
  • Option 2: Negotiate an amicable long-term extension, the sooner the better if this is the decided route, as any star player’s price gets higher the closer he gets to reaching unrestricted free agency (a little over 16 months away for Stepan). 
  • For a long-term extension, looking over relatively comparable players in similar situations/similar stats as Stepan this upcoming summer, I would estimate the following… 1-yr: $6.30 mil/yr… 2-yrs: $6.70 mil/yr… 3-yrs: $6.90 mil/yr, 4-yrs: $7.00 mil/yr, 5-yrs: $7.10 mil/yr, 6-yrs: $7.15 mil.yr, 7-yrs: $7.20 mil/yr, 8-yrs: $7.25 mil/yr. I’m not so sure one of the other 29 NHL clubs could offer $7.5 million/yr long-term on Stepan, especially if big-money market teams all experience cap crunch in 2015-16 (as the Canadian dollar remains bleak).
"Derek, will you lower your asking price if the salary cap decreases next season?..."

Derek Stepan probably receives a 1-year, $6.3 million salary arbitration award with the data as of 02/25/15. Multi-year contract extension could be anywhere from $6.7 million to $7.25 million, or perhaps higher on the open marker in July 2016. 

I would not be shocked if Stepan, Rangers ended up going to arbitration in 5 months. 

Fun Facts!

Protecting 3rd Period Leads: NY Rangers are only team in the last 15 years with no more than 1 regulation loss over a 150-game span when leading after 2 periods (140-1-9). via EliasSportsBureau

'94 Officially A Generation Ago: Making his NHL debut last weekend was NY Rangers goalie prospect Mac Skapski. Skapski was the 3rd youngest NYR netminder to ever start a game (behind John Vanbiesbrouck and Dan Blackburn respectively). But, perhaps unbelievably, Skapski was the first NYR goalie to play a game without having been alive for a NY Rangers Stanley Cup since Mike Richter broke the curse the day before he was born! Earlier in the year, prospect Anthony Duclair became the 1st NYR skater to have not been alive for a NYR Stanley Cup since the entire team in Game 7, 1994 vs the Canucks. How the years have flown by!

NYR Salary Chart: Can we get a uniformed CapGeek replacement site going on, internet? Here's the NYR salary info.

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