It is a deal that popular opinion is strongly behind, but will Henrik and Daniel Sedin really be worth $28 million apiece from ages 34 to 37? The answer is only yes if either the Sedins are among the rare few whose scoring doesn't drop off at that age, or if continuing salary cap increases make tomorrow's $7.0 million players the equivalent of today's $6.0 million stars.
How was this conclusion reached? By looking at players who scored at similar levels when they were the same age as the Sedins and seeing what happened to them. This helped set reasonable expectations for the Sedins as they approach their late 30s, which was followed by a look at other people's contracts to determine what that expected level of scoring can cost.
But first let's see what everybody else thought about the deal.
What is the Popular Opinion?
There's no question that popular opinion is solidly behind the new contracts.
- Chris Peters of CBS Sports Eye on Hockey said that "It's an extremely reasonable deal for two players still going at a fairly high level."
- Cam Cole of the National Post went a step further, writing "Hometown discount? What else would you call it?"
- Locally there's Daniel Wagner of Vancouver Sun Sports, who wrote "$14 million on Daniel and Henrik doesn’t just seem reasonable, it seems like a steal."
The verdict seems to be that the extension was anything from "extremely reasonable" or a "hometown discount to an outright "steal." Even the fans agree, based on a poll on Nucks Misconduct, which found 77 percent in support and even a further 9 percent that felt it was too little.
To judge this for ourselves we'll first establish their current scoring levels, then see what happened to similar stars from the past when they turned 34, and finally look up the types of contracts these types of players are currently getting.
What is Their Current Rate of Scoring?
Establishing their rate of scoring for the past four years can help set expectations for the next four. Including this season, they each average around 1.05 points per game.
Henrik's 47 goals and 191 assists in 227 games work out to 17 goals and 69 assists for 86 points in an 82-game season. Daniel's 89 goals and 137 assists in 216 games work out to 34 goals and 52 assists for the same 86 points in an 82-game season.
Since 2000 there have been six players who scored at approximately the same level or higher in their ages 30 through 33 seasons (minimum 200 games): Joe Sakic (1.19 points per game), Jaromir Jagr (1.17), Daniel Alfredsson (1.13), Jarome Iginla (1.04), Pavel Datsyuk (1.04) and Martin St. Louis (1.02).
That's quite a group!
How Did Similar Players Score in Their Age 34-37 Seasons?
Of course we can't expect the Sedins to continue to score 1.05 points per game from ages 34 through 37. Or can we?
While we obviously don't have data on Iginla or Datsyuk, three of the other four continued to post similar numbers.
- Joe Sakic scored 274 points in 245 games, for 1.12 points per game
- Jaromir Jagr scored 167 points in 164 games, for 1.02 points per game
- Daniel Alfredsson scored 312 points in 296 games, for 1.08 points per game
- Martin St. Louis scored 327 points in 289 games, for 1.13 points per game.
All four stars continued to score at least a point a game. Sakic and Alfredsson had minor drop-offs of between four and six percent, while St. Louis actually scored at a far higher rate. The only significant slip was Alfredsson, who tailed off by 13 percent.
How Do High-Scoring Players Perform Through Ages 34-37 in General?
Even though they're unquestionably valid peers, it would still be risky to set expectations for the Sedins on the performance of truly exceptional superstars like Sakic, Jagr, Alfredsson and St. Louis. It would be safer to temper that with a more typical career scoring curve.
Overall there have been 25 forwards who averaged between 0.95 and 1.05 points per game over their ages 30-33 seasons while playing at least 200 games.
Of those 25 forwards, there was about a 40 percent reduction in games played, but that's not likely to happen to the Sedins. First of all, Henrik Sedin hasn't missed a game since 2003-04, and only 10 in his entire career. Daniel Sedin has been stung by injuries slightly more often, but has still played 95.4 percent of Vancouver's games throughout his career.
In many cases that 40 percent reduction in games played wasn't from injury, but retirement. In several cases the player's rate of scoring fell below the line of what was required for a top-six forward to keep his job. While we're dealing with the post-expansion era only, bear in mind that this invisible line was a lot higher in the years when there was an average of about eight goals per game.
The scoring rate of the Sedins would have to get chopped in half to get pushed out of the lineup. Within this group, goals per game dropped by 19 percent, assists per game by 14 percent and points per game by 16 percent.
What Will Be Their Scoring Rate From Ages 34-37?
There is ample precedent that the Sedins can continue to score at their current level, with perhaps a drop-off of just four to six percent (like Sakic and Jagr).
A more conservative projection based on a wider group of stars would predict a drop-off of about 16 percent instead, which would be a little worse than Alfredsson.
Using the more conservative estimate, Henrik Sedin would score 14 goals and 59 assists for 73 points over an 82-game schedule, while Daniel would contribute 27 goals and 45 assists for 72 points.
How Much Does That Rate of Scoring Cost?
Having figured out that the Sedins will be worth just under 0.9 points per game, it remains to find players whose scoring rates are within than range and compare salaries.
Over the past four seasons, eight players have had a scoring average in that range, regardless of age. The list includes Marian Hossa, Thomas Vanek, Brad Richards, Patrick Sharp, Ilya Kovalchuk, Mike Ribeiro, Jarome Iginla and Joe Thornton. All together, their average cap hit over the past four years has been $6.1 million per season.
With salary caps continuing to go up, $6.1 million won't get a team the same player over the next four seasons as it has gotten them over the past four seasons. An increase of about four percent per season, which is what the new deal represents, isn't inconsistent with expectations of upcoming salary cap increases.
Today's $7.0 million forwards include Alexander Semin, Joe Thornton and Jason Spezza, who are right behind Thomas Vanek and ahead of Patrick Marleau and Anze Kopitar. That's not exactly a group within which the Sedins would be out of place.
Are They Worth $28 Million?
Usually there is far more to a player's value than his scoring levels. That being said, the Sedins aren't exactly out there to kill penalties or to shut down top lines; they're there to score. Their value to the team is based almost exclusively on their ability to produce offense.
If a team wants players who can score at their level, this is roughly what it costs. The question of whether these prices are worth it really depends on the team in question, and how they're constructed. While some teams might have better uses for that cap space, it's hard to see anything that Vancouver is better served investing in.
While it probably shouldn't be characterized as a home team discount, and certainly not as a steal, these contracts are very unlikely to go sour for Vancouver. Only a freezing (or reduction) of the salary cap, or a far more significant age-related drop-off from the Sedins than has been historically typical could prevent the Canucks from getting the goals and assists they're paying for.
All advanced statistics are via writer's own original research unless otherwise noted.