On Special Talents, Patrick Kaleta and Ilya Kovalchuk

I'm sure some of you are wishing that I would just shut the hell up about Ilya Kovalchuk and go back to writing about soccer.  But I was struck by the suggestion that you'd want to acquire Kovalchuk because he has a special, rare talent...a one-man show, so to speak.

Do you know who else has an elite talent?  Patrick Kaleta of the Buffalo Sabres.  Kaleta has drawn 72 more penalties than he's taken in his last three seasons.  But Kaleta barely plays 10 minutes a night and he misses a lot of games, so his rate stats are ridiculous.  Let's run through Kaleta's value:

 

Pen +/- Goals Wins Total TOI
+72 +14.4 2.4 1266

 

This assumes that a penalty drawn is worth 0.2 goals. (Forwards typically have a positive penalty differential, but it's small enough that Kaleta blows it away - his other contributions on the ice are probably equal to whatever he might lose if we go through the details of that calculation.)

In my previous piece, the voting public put Kovalchuk's value at 2.5 wins.  Let's put that into context with his annual ice time over the last three seasons:

 

Wins/Yr TOI/Yr
Kovalchuk 2.5 1335

 

And per 1335 minutes:

 

Wins/1335
Kaleta 2.53
Kovalchuk 2.5

 

Kaleta is a one-man penalty drawing show.  On a per-minute basis, he is every bit Kovalchuk's equal.  He faces roughly the same level of competition and gets roughly the same number of offensive zone faceoffs.  And yet that production cost Buffalo barely more than the NHL minimum; Kovalchuk stands to make more than $7M a year.

Do we really want Kovalchuk *just* because he has a special talent?  Why don't we want Kaleta?

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