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Monday, June 15, 2015

Does Henrik Lundqvist's Contract HURT or HELP the NY Rangers?

   There's some debate that Henrik Lundqvist's league-leading salary of $8.5 million per year is too much. More specifically, some Rangers fans feel it hurts the team's chances at a Stanley Cup since all that money is not allocated towards forwards nor defensemen. So with the 2014-15 NHL regular season statistics locked in the books from now to eternity, I thought I'd spend this summer day snooping around this theory. Here we go...

   First I took all goaltenders who faced a minimum of 328 shots in the regular season (or faced a minimum of 4 shots on goal per team game during the season). This narrowed the field to 61 NHL goalies from which to extrapolate our data. Then I looked at their total Goals Saved Above Replacement, a nifty stat meant to compare a goaltender to the theoretical average goalie in the given season. I also jotted down their time on ice (rounded to the nearest minute) & 2014-15 salary cap (Average Annual Value).

   Here's the spreadsheet in case anyone would like to check my work.

   When tabulating the averages of this data, we arrived at:

   - The average NHL goalie stopped 1.037377 Goals Above Average in 2014-15
   - The average NHL goalie played 2,267 minutes in 2014-15
   - The average NHL goalie had a cap hit of $3,011,066 in 2014-15

   Taking these three findings into account, we can bundle them into a single, concise "going rate" of the average NHL goalie in 2014-15:

   - The typical NHL goalie stopped 0.027525 Goals Above Average per 60 minutes, paid at a $3,011,066 cap hit


   How does King Henrik compare relative to that clearinghouse rate?

   - Lundqvist stopped 10.43 Goals Above Average in 2014-15
   - Lundqvist played 2,743 minutes in 2014-15
   - Lundqvist had a cap hit of $8,500,000 in 2014-15


   - Lundqvist stopped 0.228144 Goals Above Average per 60 minutes, paid at a $8,500,000 cap hit

   How does Lundqvist directly contrast against our mean findings?

   - Lundqvist's GSAA/hour rate was 8.29 times the NHL's average goalie rate
   - Lundqvist's salary cap hit was 2.82 times the NHL's average goalie cap hit

   In essence, Lundqvist performed over 8.3 times the market rate for only 2.8 times the price!

   If you go to a supermarket to purchase frozen TV dinners... but they have a special offering 8.3 times the amount you intended to get, but for less than triple the price you were expecting to pay... kinda hard to categorize that as anything but a good deal.

   Why did I make frozen TV dinners the example? Because a frozen meal purchased today will likely expire right around the time Lundqvist's play will [historically] decline. Do we see Lundqvist becoming anything less than an above-average goalie at any point in the next few years? It seems highly unlikely, barring a massive injury and/or drop-off. While year-to-year subtle regression is the historical norm, HockeyGraphs analysis suggest at least 3 years before major regression.

   So even with his league-leading super-hefty cap hit, Lundqvist was still an absolute bargain in the 2014-15 season, the 1st year of his 6-year contract.

   Let's look at a few graphs to evaluate Lundqvist's legitimacy as a top-paid netminder in the post-post-salary-cap era:


   - Lundqvist has had 10 consecutive seasons of either accumulating 30 wins and/or leading the NHL in wins during a shortened season.
   - Lundqvist, compared to the top dogs of the past decade, has yet to have a below-average season.
    - Lundqvist's first 9 years saw him win the Vezina once (2012), where he received 80% of the votes, smashing the record for most-lopsided Vezina voting result since votes were made public in 1981-82.
   - Though his streak may very well end in a few weeks, Lundqvist has gone 9 consecutive seasons while placing no worse than 6th in yearly Vezina votes. In other words, there has yet to be a season where Lundqvist was not voted one of the Top-6 NHL goalies by the league's general managers
   - Lundqvist has never gone a season without receiving votes for at least 1 NHL trophy.

   Lundqvist's contribution to the NY Rangers last multi-round playoff runs the past 4 seasons undoubtedly suggest value, even at the steepest price in the land:

   So, while Lundqvist's heavy cap hit will ultimately depreciate in terms of bang-for-buck, as he is contracted until his late 30's... it is not a liability yet. In fact the numbers suggest that it unbelievably remains a bargain, at least in this point in time. In fact, until we see significant regression, there is no way someone can honestly claim Lundqvist (or his plump contract) has actually hurt the Rangers' chances at winning it all.

   Recent goalies to remain extremely productive and valuable to their team, even north of their 35th birthdays, include...

   Tim Thomas

Dominik Hasek

Patrick Roy

   Has Lundqvist not earned the right to be compared to Thomas, Hasek or Roy? While all these players went on to win a Cup (which Lundqvist obviously hasn't...yet?)... he is inarguably one of, if not the, best goalie of his era. 

   Thomas & Hasek also poke holes in the theory "If Lundqvist hasn't won a Cup by now, he never will!" That contention, plus the absolute myth that Lundqvist himself has cost the Rangers a Cup, is irrefutably flawed. Who can genuinely believe it was Lundqvist's contract which cost the Rangers the 2015 postseason, instead of, oh I don't know... The injuries to Mats ZuccarelloRyan McDonagh, Dan Girardi, Keith Yandle, & Jesper Fast? 

   If 10 consecutive coinflips are all heads, how logical is it to conclude "since there hasn't been any tails before, their never will be in the future!"

   ... That logic simply doesn't hold water.

   Speaking of injuries... other than a few weeks in 2006, a few games in 2013, and the freak vascular injury suffered last February... Lundqvist's healthiness in his career has been absolutely remarkable. No torn ligaments, no broken bones, no concussions, no major or relevant surgery... in a decade! His high-quality production aside, surely his abnormally high attendance in regular season & playoff games also validate his contractual worth.

   Quality, quantity, relativity... they all point towards Lundqvist being a resounding "positive" on the New York roster.

   We'll be posting more goaltender analytical evaluations throughout the summer, including league-wide goaltender stats we've personally created here at SatherOnWaivers. Follow us on Twitter (@HockeyStatMiner ) to receive further updates, and feel free to leave feedback as well.

   All hail the [now economically validated] King!

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