Wednesday, September 9, 2009

The Derick Brassard Deal - Anticipation

We often belabor the point here at Hockey On Paper - in fact, we think that should be our slogan: Hockey on Paper, We Love to Belabor. One of the points we've been trying to hammer home is just how important it is in a salary cap environment to have underpriced contracts somewhere on one's roster. We like to think of contract value not in terms of goals and assists but in terms goals and assists converted back to dollars. The best team in the league (however one chooses to define this) has salaries worth some X above their total salary costs, that is why they are the best.

Derick Brassard only has 48 NHL games played, but Columbus is gambling and giving him a 4 year, 12.8 million dollar deal. This contract is similar to the one given to Evan Longoria of the Tampa Bay Rays, a move that puzzled MLB experts but excited sabermetricians. It was a risk - sure, Longoria may not turn out to be a great player, but almost all indications were that he would. Likewise, while Brassard has not played that many NHL games, all signs point to him being an excellent contributor. So why now instead of after next season?

Columbus gets a discount

Brassard's lack of experience increases the risk, but if he has an excellent season, his contract demands will go way up. Unless he gets injured again, it's not likely that a contract offer of that length would plummet - Brassard is almost certainly going to be worth more than 3.2 million per season in 2013-14.

Columbus avoids an impasse

Phil Kessel and Brandon Dubinsky are still unsigned with training camp's beginning a few short days away. Columbus must have noticed this - furthermore, Brassard isn't arbitration-eligible until 2011-12. With neither side having recourse to arbitration, contract negotiations could have gotten contentious, which benefits no one.

Columbus pays out the largest amount when it can afford it

Steve Mason and Nikita Filatov will still be on entry-level contracts in the first year of Brassard's new contract. This means that while Brassard will be overpaid relative to what an arbitration-ineligible RFA should get for the 2010-11 season, Columbus has enough low-priced contracts to weather that storm. However, down the road, it will need all the cap room it can get, and if Brassard can emerge into the 20-50-70 (or better) sort of player it looks like he might be, Columbus gets a steep discount during the final two years of that deal, enabling a possible Stanley Cup run to come to Central Ohio.

Okay, yeah, there's downside

This contract is not without its risks, of course. Everyone loves to make fun of the Rick Dipietro contract, not realizing that said contract has been copied around the NHL as a model of excellent management. So, Negative Nellies, have at it:

Brassard is injury-prone

He has missed significant time in 2 of the last 3 years. We can't be totally sure if that indicates a lack of durability or simply bad luck. He may well be injury prone, but the Jackets likely got a discount as a result of that.

Brassard might never develop past this point

Brassard not developing further would be rather shocking - even if he doesn't, he is still likely a 15-45-60 type of player. Overpaying for that isn't really a crime, although it would be a large setback for Columbus.

Brassard might get complacent

Being signed for the next 5 years may cause a 22 year old to get a swelled head and bloated body if he doesn't watch himself. However, this is unknowable to anyone who isn't in the Columbus organization - it's the type of risk that Stanley Cup contention is built on.


The Derick Brassard deal is perfect for the Columbus Blue Jackets. While they have made contract mistakes in the past, this one makes up for some of them.

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