How much more do GMs pay for a player who can play the point on the power play? Arguably every team needs someone with a great shot to play the point regardless of power play strategy, coaching strategy, or team's financial position. When the Atlanta Thrashers signed Dustin Byfuglien to an extension averaging $5.25M/year I initially thought that he was worth something more like $4.5M/year based on his skill. But we also had quite a hole to fill on the power play where Kovalchuk used to play the point. Was the extra ~$1M/year to fill that void? To answer that question I took a look around the league at power play point men and their contracts.
Edit: thanks for the comments everyone, if I can think of a good way to interpret this data further I'll post the results. This is an open question for anyone else to answer too!
I was interested in this question because the Thrashers tried a few things because their defense was so terrible in recent years. In 2008 I watched us trade for Mathieu Schneider from the Ducks and paid his ridiculous salary ($5.75/year!!!) for half a season all in a vein attempt to get a good shot from the point on the power play. You see, Schneider had a very dramatic-looking windup that made you think a bit shot was about to happen, but it was only average in terms of speed and terrible in terms of inaccuracy. Plus he was slow, a penalty magnet, and wasn't even good at breaking up 2-on-1's. It looked like we got him just for the point shot.
Then in 2009 we traded for Pavel Kubina along with his big contract ($5/year) but he was actually good in addition to filling the point shot position. Now we just extended Buff's contract, who is also good, at $5.25/year but I can't help but think: is there a pattern here?
I was not able to answer the question that I wanted to because the more I looked into it the more complicated it became. So I present this as an open question to readers to comment on and possibly contribute to answering.
First I looked at shooting positions and shot numbers in 5v4 situations to determine who the top 1 or 2 point men were for each team. It turns out to be a little tricky because some point players like Kovalchuk set up on the far left circle while others take near the blue line at center ice. Plus, some teams have been rotating out point men due to injuries or just simply don't have a single go-to guy and instead they experiment with a few options. So the point men for some teams are really difficult to identify. Nonetheless, I have compiled a partial list below:
ATL: Byfuglien ($3 as RFA, $5.25 as UFA next year 25)
TBL: St. Louis ($4 UFA 35)
WSH: Green ($5 RFA 25)
FLA: Wideman ($4 RFA 27)
PHI: Pronger ($7.6 UFA 36), Timonen ($7 UFA 35)
NJD: Kovalchuk ($6 RFA, $11 UFA 27), Rolston ($5 UFA 38)
NYI: Formerly Wisniewski (trade to MTL), now MacDonald ($0.5 RFA 24)
PIT: Letang ($3.5 RFA 23)
NYR: Variety of players
MTL: Wisniewski ($3.25 RFA 27)
TOR: Phaneuf ($7 UFA 25)
BOS: Chara ($7.5 UFA 33)
OTT: Gonchar ($5.5 UFA 36)
BUF: Roy ($4 UFA 27)
SJS: Boyle ($6.67 UFA 34)
PHX: Doan ($4.55 UFA 34), Whitney ($3, UFA 38)
LAK: Stoll ($3.4 UFA 28), Johnson ($1.65 RFA, $3.5 UFA next year 24)
DAL: Richards ($7.8 UFA 30)
ANA: Selanne ($3.25 UFA 40), Visnovsky ($6 UFA 34)
NSH: Weber ($4.5 RFA 25)
DET: Lidstrom ($6.2 UFA 40), Rafalski ($6 UFA 37), Kronwall ($3.5 UFA 30)
STL: Steen ($2.75 UFA 27)
CHI: Sharp ($4.1 UFA 29)
COL: Liles ($4.43 UFA 30)
EDM: Foster ($1.8 UFA 29)
VAN: Ehrhoff ($3.4 UFA 28), Edler ($3.25 RFA 24), Salo ($3.5 UFA 36)
CGY: Giordano ($4.6 UFA 27), Babchuk ($1.4 RFA 26), formerly Iginla ($7 UFA 33)
MIN: Cullen ($3.5 UFA 34)
So I had a sample. I needed something to compare these players' contracts to. At first I thought that I'd identify a "comparable player", i.e. someone on the same team, with approximately the same offensive production, and on the same type of contract (ELC, RFA, UFA). Turns out I could rarely find a comparable player, and even if I could there would be many weaknesses with that method of selection. Why pick one guy as the comparable and not another? So then I tried something else. I thought I'd compare the salary of these point men to their GVS (goals versus salary, a measure of how efficient their salary is). But then I realized that the list of point men is mostly made up of high end players who, by their nature, are overpaid to begin with. We also have a statistical problem here because a player's contract depends on so many variables that trying to control for all of them would be fruitless.
Maybe this question could be thought of in a much simpler way so that it can be answered. So I pass the question on to readers. Does dropping the bomb on the power play add about a million dollars to a player's contract? Is there any way to measure this?