Tuesday, October 13, 2009

The Milan Lucic Deal - Three Wrong Ideas

We like to estimate contracts here at Hockey On Paper, it's part of why we started this in the first place. Sure, lots of places can give you cap numbers, but without estimating RFA contracts, the exercise is useless. Some teams are far more jammed up than others, but one wouldn't know it just looking at the raw numbers.

We estimated Milan Lucic would make 2.5 million next season. Our estimations are far from scientific, although we did nail some pretty well (and were grossly off on some, e.g. Lucic). The contract length obviously makes a difference here - the longer the contract, the higher the price. However, the Bruins ate up none of Lucic's UFA seasons with this deal, and only two arbitration-eligible years. This is a riddle wrapped inside an enigma. However, we think we have finally established why the Bruins paid Milan Lucic 4.1 million a season over the next 3 years, which is more than Travis Zajac, David Krejci, Jordan Staal, Derick Brassard, and Dave Bolland, not to mention well over Brandon Dubinsky and Drew Stafford. It is based on one of three assumptions, all of which in our opinion are grossly incorrect.

Assumption #1: Milan Lucic will grow into a power forward in the Cam Neely/Rick Tocchet/Brendan Shanahan mold

Looking at his 19 goals last season - why not? Here's why not - Lucic had 97 shots on goal last season. Here's the other forwards who had around 97 shots on goal: Jeff Tambellini, Frederik Sjostrom, Steven Reinprecht, Tim Jackman. Lucic is obviously 20 and those people are not, but for Lucic to sustain his 17.5% shooting percentage from last season would be astounding. Lucic will have to shoot the puck a lot more to score 30 goals in a season, and so far Lucic only has 4 shots on goal in 5 games this season. We do not know when shots on goal converge - i.e. when a player's 'true' shots on goal/game rate can be established - but we certainly think it happens far quicker than goals or assists converge. The numbers indicate so far that Lucic is not getting better at shooting, and therefore not better at scoring.

Assumption #2: Milan Lucic does so many other things - hit, fight, dig pucks out of the corner, screen goalies - that he doesn't need to score goals.

We can believe that Lucic is valuable in this regard, but how many more hits and fights does he have to have to be more valuable than Travis Zajac or Jordan Staal? We understand that we are being slightly dishonest here, in that Staal and Zajac signed this past off-season and technically Lucic signed in the off-season of 2010, but RFA contract inflation does not figure to be that high. We just find it very hard to believe that the other things Lucic does add up to the 10 missing goals scored.

Assumption #3: Milan Lucic was signed early so that the GM could atone for trading away Phil Kessel

This is a meta-hockey consideration, obviously. We don't reject it, but we wonder why the panic to lock up Milan Lucic. He does not have great offensive stats in junior hockey. He does not have great offensive stats in the NHL. What really gets a general manager out of a PR bind is winning - Milan Lucic's contract will impede the Boston Bruins from winning in future seasons.

1 comment:

  1. I agree Tri that they gave Lucic too much. And to me it seems like choice C was why. Is he really that much more vital than an elite finisher who could wind up with 40-50 over the next half a decade? Assuming the Leafs aren't a laughingstock that is. Kadri will be good at least.

    I like what Lucic brings but committing that much could really impact them capwise. Is it worth the risk? We'll see.