A Glass Half-Full Leaf Fan

    Nick Kashty

    Missing out on Steven Stamkos best result for Leafs

    Leafs fans across the world groaned as they heard Stamkos decided to remain in Tampa Bay a few weeks ago.

    So much had gone right the past few years.

    Mike Babcock.
    Lou Lamoriello.
    Dump salary.
    Accumulate draft picks.
    Rebuild prospect pool.
    Auston Matthews.

    The signing of Steven Stamkos was supposed to be the culmination of the perfect restructuring of the franchise.

    Many Maple Leafs fans viewed the situation as a devasting scenario, maybe because it had been such a long build-up to his free agency. However, looking at the results as a whole, maybe this is the best thing for the organization in the long run.

    Why was this decision a good thing for the Maple Leafs?

    1. Future Cap Situation

    The Maple Leafs are loaded with young talent. Young talent that is cheap as hell right now, but will begin to be expensive in a few years. In 2-3 years we will see a few of the Maple Leafs key young pieces finish their rookie contracts and will be looking for a decent payday.

    Let’s assume that if Steven Stamkos signed with Toronto it would have been at $10 million AAV over 7 years. If we include that with the salary already committed to 2019/2020, the Maple Leafs would have $25,700,000 in salary lined up for the start of that season.

    Steven Stamkos $10,000,000
    Frederik Andersen $5,000,000
    Morgan Rielly $5,000,000
    Nazem Kadri $4,500,000
    Phil Kessel (Retained) $1,200,000

    Total Cap Hit $25,700,000
    Total Cap $73,000,000 (If it stayed the same)
    (Not including Nathan Horton’s cap hit in this situation)

    Does not seem like a terrible cap situation at first glance. However, in two years the Maple Leafs will have to sign William Nylander, and a year after that Auston Matthews and Mitch Marner.

    We can never be totally sure how these players will perform over the next 2-3 years. However, based on their productions to this point, we can be fairly certain that they will turn out to be pretty productive players early on in their career.

    To predict what these players potential contract hits could be, let’s take a look at player comparables at this point in their career.

    Auston Matthews comparable = Anze Kopitar (difficult to find point production comparables since Auston Matthews played in the Swiss National League during his draft year) (Yahoo Sports)

    NHL CAP PLAYER SALARY % OF CAP
    Anze Kopitar $56,800,000 $6,800,000 11.97
    Auston Matthews $73,000,000 $8,738,100 11.97

    Mitch Marner (1.99 PPG in draft year) comparable = Taylor Hall (1.84 PPG in draft year) (Copper & Blue).

    NHL CAP PLAYER SALARY % OF CAP
    Taylor Hall $64,300,000 $6,000,000 9.33
    Mitch Marner $73,000,000 $6,810,900 9.33

    William Nylander (0.952 PPG 2nd year in MODO) comparable = Marcus Naslund (1.00 PPG 2nd year in MODO)

    AVG. TEAM CAP/ CAP PLAYER SALARY % OF CAP
    Marcus Naslund $31,564,167 $2,250,000 %0.071
    William Nylander $73,000,000 $5,183,500 %0.071

    Taking that into consideration, the Maple Leafs would be playing 6 players $5,000,000 or more at the beginning of the 2019/2020 (assuming all these players are still on the roster). If these players live up to their comparables early in their career, the Maple Leafs can expect to contribute another $21,000,000 ish ($20,732,500) between these three players. Their top six players would be making a total of $41,000,000 +.

    To give some perspective, only two other teams contribute $40,000,000 + to six players (Chicago, Pittsburgh).

    Not signing Stamkos gives the team a lot more cap flexibility than if they if they did in a few years.

    2. Potential Injury Issues

    Steven Stamkos has had some serious injury and health related issues in his short career. Unfortunately, Stamkos missed the end of the 2015/1016 season and all but one game in the playoffs because of a blood clot he had in his right collarbone.

    The NHL is better when Steven Stamkos is healthy. It is a pleasure to watch one the elite players in their prime, I think I speak for every hockey fan when I say we hope that his health issues are behind him.

    However, signing a player to the type of contract Stamkos demanded is a business decision. When committing to that type of contract, this type of injury and health problems are something that needs to be considered.

    3. Develop, Don’t Buy

    If we look at the Stanely Cup winners over the past decade, there is an obvious trend that many of the key pieces at the front of the lineup were drafted and developed by that organization.

    Pittsburgh – Crosby, Malkin
    Chicago – Toews, Kane
    Los Angeles – Kopitar
    Boston – Bergeron, Krejci
    Detroit – Datsyuk, Zetterberg
    Anaheim – Getzlaf, Perry

    Although there have been scenarios where picking up big free agents have worked in the team’s favour, it seems that teams who draft and develop their #1 centers and top forwards have more success than those who buy those pieces.

    Conclusion

    Despite all these reasons, the Leaf fan in me wanted Stamkos to come to Toronto. The prospect of a superstar, Toronto made player was too tasteful to pass up. However, Stamkos not signing in Toronto was not the end of the world, and maybe this is just the optimistic Leafs fan in me talking, but perhaps, this was the best results for the Maple Leafs in the long run.

     

     

    Resources:

    Pension Plan Puppets
    Copper & Blue
    General Fanager
    Cap Friendly
    The Hockey News
    Hockeydb
    Yahoo Sports
    NHL.com