The Free Agency period is almost upon us in the NHL and one area seems to be more in focus this offseason: goal scoring. It is very difficult to determine what kind of return a club gets on its financial investment in a hockey player. There are many factors to take into account when looking at the worth and value of NHL players—other than goal scoring.
This article will do none of that. We are only talking about goals, goals, and goals. Got it? Good.
What is a player who scores 50 goals per season worth per year?
At $5 million a year, a player who scores 50 goals gets $100,000 per goal scored. That seems like a huge number, yet a 50 goal player should easily get paid more than $5 million.
At $10 million a year, that's $200,000. Seem ridiculous?
Here is a chart of the most prolific goal scorers of the last three years:
This chart is sorted by average goals scored over the past three years. These are the only players to average 30 goals or more within this time. Steven Stamkos and Bobby Ryan are included even though the 2008-2009 season was their first.
The red numbers indicate that the year this total was reached occurred on a previous contract.
I highlighted a few players. Parise, Ryan, and Stamkos are the best bargains of this group. Lecavalier is the highest paid player per goal scored of this group. It sounds cool, but I don't really think anyone wants to be labeled as such.
Also, it is interesting to see that Ovechkin, who is currently the highest paid player in the NHL (based on yearly Cap Hit) is also leading in average goals scored over the past three years. What's more interesting is that he is right in the middle of the pack in this group, in terms of his cost per goal scored per season. Observe:
Actually, Ovechkin is ninth out of 21. Pretty impressive really, considering he is the highest paid player in the league.
Next, let's look at the UFA class of 2010. This is a much more wide ranging chart than the previous one. Of course, that group was qualified by the achievement of success in the category we are measuring; the next group is not.
Not by a long shot.
Ponikarovski is the bargain based on these figures, and appears to be up for a decent raise. Conversely, Paul Kariya will likely be seeing quite a pay cut.
I am very surprised to see Alexander Frolov ranked so favorably with these qualifiers. Ranked third in cost per goal-average of the 2010 UFA's, he could actually be up for a raise as well, which is astounding to me. The other factor in his favor this summer is his age.
Looking at the ages of the players in this chart, there are only five under the age of 30. This will definitely drive the prices up on each of these players.
Imploring the principles of basic statistics, the median wage per goal-scored of the top 21 goal scorers in the first group is $179,487. Coincidentally, Alexander Ovechkin was paid exactly $180,000 per goal scored in 2009-2010. These numbers are too close to each other to ignore.
For the sake of argument, let's say that players who are deemed as the go-to-goal scoring wingers of a franchise should be paid roughly $180,000 per goal scored.
I don't know that there is a mathematical way of determining what Kovalchuk might score for the next five to ten years, but his career numbers are as follows:
29, 38, 41, 52, 42, 52, 43, 41
This is an average of 42.25 goals per season during his career. Using these figures:
180,000 x 42.25 = $7,605,000 per season.
That is a fairly conservative approach, and if we take into account the age factor, combine it with his consistency—that is not only unmatched by the rest of this year's UFA class, but is only matched by an elite few in the entire league—and the $10 million per season number really does not seem that farfetched. Combine that with some of the bonehead moves (like trading away Jaroslav Halak for two prospects) that today's GMs are willing to make and you can all but guarantee Ilya will be seeing eight figures next season.
This link will take you to my entire chart, which allows you to change sort categories by clicking on VIEW and then LIST VIEW.
Sources: NHL.com, nhlnumbers.com
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