Tuesday, December 8, 2009

The Second Contract

We were poking around our favorite website these days, capgeek.com, when we noticed an obscure contract - defenseman Oskars Bartulis of the Philadelphia Flyers and his 13 lifetime NHL games was signed to a three year, 1.8 million dollar deal. Why would Oskars Bartulis sign this contract, and why would the Flyers offer it to him?

Bartulis's side

The contract is one-way, so Bartulis is guaranteed that money. Paradoxically, the less a fringe sort of player like Bartulis makes, the better it is for him, because he can be in the NHL without harming anyone's salary cap. The third year is probably not best for him, but that was likely a condition of having a one-way deal despite barely playing in the NHL.

Philadelphia's side

From Philadelphia's end, it's low risk, moderate reward. When a team is up against the salary cap, it needs players like Oskars Bartulis who can be a 6th or 7th defenseman for a small amount of money. If Bartulis fails to develop in Philadelphia, someone will probably take the contract off their hands, as the standard price for back-pairing defensemen in UFA seems to be around 1.2 to 1.5 million.

So with this sort of thing in mind, we present great second contracts - not so much of the Zach Parise or Sidney Crosby variety, but of little moves that really just help a team out.

D Jonathan Ericsson, Red Wings, $2.7 million/3 years - People may have balked at the Wings signing a player with 8 NHL games' experience to a three-year deal in 2008, but that's why people aren't Ken Holland. While Ericsson has not had a great start to the year, he still has 10 points in 27 games. If Nicklas Lidstrom retires, expect Ericsson to get big minutes on next year's Wings team, all for the low, low price of $900,000 a year.

D Andy Greene, Devils, 1.45 million/2 years - Devils fans were perplexed when Lou Lamoriello non-tendered Andy Greene, but even more so when they signed him to a 2 year deal a day later. Greene had shown very little in his 129 NHL games before this season. However, he has rewarded New Jersey's faith by becoming the most improved player in the NHL, and that second year is looking mighty valuable.

D Alex Goligoski, Pittsburgh, 5.5 million/3 years - Goligoski played 2 games in last year's playoffs, and was barely put on the ice - so why did Ray Shero sign him for 3 years? Because he knows that anyone playing with Crosby and Malkin gets a huge lift in goals and assists. Goligoski has 16 points in 21 games - the Penguins could have saved some coin this season lowballing Goligoski, but would have had to pay much more later.

We think it is no accident that it is only defensemen on this list. Forwards seem to be more easily evaluated, and they peak earlier as well. There are lots of great second contracts out there, but we wanted to emphasize the overlooked ones. A few Oskars Bartulis types, and one's team can afford the superstar that sends them over the top.

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