While the playoffs are in full gear, a fairly interesting piece of news was announced in the NHL in the last week. Nicklas Backstrom signed a 10-year deal with the Washington Capitals that ensures they have their top pair of he and Alex Ovechkin intact for a very long time.
At first, $67 million over 10 years seemed like a lot of cash to me to commit to a 22-year-old but I’ve definitely been impressed when I’ve watched Backstrom play.
It's not that the contract looks like another DiPietro special, but I decided to dive into this performance a little just to see what his numbers have been like for his first 3 years in the league.
At first glance, it’s pretty obvious that Backstrom has been extremely productive so far in his career. That said, his Quality of Teammate index during this season has been in the top 10 of NHL forwards with 60 or more games played, so 09-10 can be considered slightly inflated (also see his PDO).
Backstrom has excelled in pretty much every major category for a forward, racking up points, a great Relative +/- on an already good team and excellent Corsi showing an ability to drive possession. He has also been very durable, playing more than 80 games each season.
The real question then, is whether he’s worth the money. I compared his 09-10 season to those of Anze Kopitar, Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane since all of them will have similar cap hits and are of a similar age.
Given the players that he’s being compared to cap-wise, I think Backstrom’s contract is favorable to Kopitar’s and Kane’s, but not sure about Toews. Kopitar does not have the same quality of team-mates as the other three and doesn’t receive the same zone-start benefits but his GVT shows a high true player value.
In some ways Toews is used as a much more two-way player than the rest, but that’s more a matter of player style though. GM’s can choose whether to pay for offense or defense, but either way, he is the cream of the Corsi crop in this bunch.
In the end, I would say the Capitals have obviously taken some risk by signing a player to a 10 year deal, but the money they’ve committed is very reasonable given the talent of Backstrom and the comparable contracts in the NHL. By year 4 or 5 of the deal, it could be considered an amazing value if salaries continue to rise.