I was part-way through a post on my blog about Koivu's contract when I read Gabe's article and all the comments here last night.
Given all the good conversation, I altered my post a little to include some of the thoughts here. Take a read, let me know what you think, blast me, whatever comes to mind.
The article is after the jump.
Yesterday over at Behind the Net, Gabe made a post about Mikko Koivu’s contract extension with the Wild. In the comments, there was some great debate about how the contract compared to those signed by Tomas Plekanec and Nicklas Backstrom. Given that I’d written up reviews of both contracts here and here, I figured it was worth comparing Koivu’s deal to these two.
First off, we need to compare Koivu’s extension to the top 25 forwards by cap hit. I’ve used GVT as the measure of value here since Goals Versus Threshold should be fairly universal, given that it combines both offense and defense.
Put simply, does Koivu have the same production for every dollar the Wild spent when compared to the other top-paid forwards in the league? Overpaying for a player that isn’t truly top-tier can be the easiest way to sink a team’s cap space, just ask the New York Knicks.
The salary data, as usual, is from CapGeek.com while the GVT data is from Tom Awad’s all-time GVT spreadsheet.
Looking purely at GVT, Koivu’s contract is 17th in value out of the top 25 contracts. GVT may not account for his tough minutes or poor teammate quality perfectly, but it definitely gives us a proxy for value. I would say that Koivu’s contract isn’t a bust but he’s unlikely to outperform it.
I looked at GVT value for all free agents signed until July 8th and the average value for forwards was 4.12 GVT per $M, which somewhat validates Gabe Desjardins’ assertion that defense is becoming overvalued.
Maybe this is due to Montreal’s great "defensive system" in the playoffs (please note that quotes indicate extreme sarcasm).
As for Koivu’s contract compared to Plekanec and Backstrom, take a look at this more in-depth table.
All data is from BehindTheNet.ca.
At first glance, it’s easy to say that Koivu and Plekanec are more similar than Koivu and Backstrom.
Both Koivu and Plekanec were used in the defensive zone (see zone starts), faced the opposition’s better forwards and played with weaker teammates from a Corsi perspective. Backstrom is paired with top wingers and is deployed offensively.
From the comparison, Koivu appears to be the stronger player, given his much better Corsi while the differences in QoC and QoT balance each other out.
That said, Koivu’s deal appears to be immense. He is phenomenal value for the last year of his current deal at a $3.7M cap hit, but his value drops dramatically when his cap hit jumps to $6.75M. Having a cap hit higher than the Sedins and Toews seems extravagant and possibly a bit desperate.
Obviously it’s hard to measure the value of locking up a team captain and fan favorite, Flames fans understand this better than anyone. There is also value in having player that does the hard work possession-wise, making it easier on a team’s scoring forwards. Not only that, but Minnesota isn’t considered a destination team, despite having great hockey fans.
Koivu can be the centerpiece of a very good team, but if they don’t put something around him his contract will be wasted.