Sometimes it's not about if you're good, but when you're good.
Timing and perception can be everything when it comes to landing a huge contract in sports, and Brandon Dubinsky seems to epitomize that right now. On Friday, the Columbus Blue Jackets signed him to a six-year, $35.1 million contract that contains a no-trade clause for the first three years and a limited no-trade clause over the final three years, according to Aaron Portzline of The Columbus Dispatch.
That's a $5.85 million cap hit for a player who had 50 points in 76 regular-season games and six points in six postseason games last year. The contract begins in 2015-16, so this is a proactive transaction by the Blue Jackets that prevents one of their centers from reaching unrestricted free agency next summer.
Dubinsky: "I could have played (this year) and gone to UFA, but we're headed in the right direction. Our interests were aligned here." #CBJ— Rob Mixer (@RobMixer) July 11, 2014
The Blue Jackets, however, might have been better off waiting a season to re-sign Dubinsky or letting him walk to free agency if this was the price they had to pay.
As of now, Dubinsky's $5.85 million cap hit is the 37th-largest among forwards who are signed for the 2015-16 season. There are only a couple players up for new contracts next year who are likely to exceed that cap hit—David Krejci and Jason Spezza are the obvious ones—so Dubinsky is being paid like one of the top forwards in the game despite him not being anything close to that.
Despite the second-best offensive season of his career, Dubinsky finished 97th among forwards in points per 60 minutes. He produced that in somewhat tough minutes and his 52.2 percent Corsi and plus-2.6 percent Corsi relative are nice, but it's not as though he is used exclusively against top competition.
Perhaps the biggest myth that will emerge from the 2014 playoffs over the years is Dubinsky was responsible for shutting down Pittsburgh Penguins star and Hart Trophy winner Sidney Crosby in the first round of the playoffs. It's one general manager Jarmo Kekalainen talked about during Friday's press conference and said factored into this contract.
|Brandon Dubinsky career statistics|
"When you see a performance like he had in the playoffs, where he was night after night one of the best players on the ice against an elite team in the league, and against some of the best players in the world, he was able to eliminate the production of Sidney Crosby and play well both sides of the puck, defensively and offensive in that series, obviously that had something to do with it too," Kekalainen said.
Dubinsky certainly eliminated the production of Crosby as long as the definitions of "eliminate" and "production" have completely different meanings to Kekalainen.
Crosby was "held" to zero goals and six assists (four on the power play) in six games, which means all he produced was a point per game in the series. In terms of possession, Crosby throttled the Blue Jackets, delivering a Corsi percentage of 61.3 percent, which is off-the-charts excellent; Dubinsky finished the series in which he was able to "eliminate" Crosby at 48.5 percent.
Dubinsky is a fine $4M player. Is the extra $2M for each time he made Crosby swear?— Section 328 (@Section_328) July 11, 2014
Now that it has been reported that Crosby was playing in the postseason with an injured right wrist that may require surgery, exactly how much did Dubinsky do to eliminate Crosby and how much did a banged-up wrist do to eliminate Crosby?
The fact that Crosby was on the ice for more than 60 percent of the shot attempts but was unable to finish them sounds more like he was dealing with a wrist problem than a Dubinsky problem.
Timing is everything, and the perception of Dubinsky shutting down Crosby and the Blue Jackets not having to play another round that could have hurt Dubinsky's value (see: Thomas Vanek) did wonders for this payday.
How did Dubinsky handle it the last time he received a big contract? Not very well, actually.
After a 20-goal, 54-point season in 77 games in 2010-11, Dubinsky hit a four-year, $16.8 million jackpot with the New York Rangers. Over his next two seasons, Dubinsky had 54 points in 106 games between the Rangers and Blue Jackets. During the 2011-12 season, Rangers coach John Tortorella said he would have made Dubinsky a healthy scratch if not for the team dealing with injuries at the time in March.
Dubinsky wasn't necessarily playing for a contract last season, but the Blue Jackets wanted to cut him off at the free-agent pass a year in advance. With the 2015 UFA crop looking thin, the team decided it was in their best interest to sign him now as opposed to letting him to get to market, where, despite his middling production, he probably would have earned an even bigger contract.
Just because someone else would have made the mistake of overpaying Dubinsky doesn't mean the Blue Jackets had to do it first.
This move smells a lot like the one the Chicago Blackhawks made with Corey Crawford after the lockout-shortened 2013 season. Despite being a year away from unrestricted free agency, the Blackhawks felt the need to give Crawford a six-year, $36 million extension after he led the team to a 48-game Stanley Cup.
Now the Blackhawks have five years and $25 million invested in a goaltender with a career .914 save percentage, one who imploded so badly during the Western Conference Final last year that they may still be picking up his equipment strewn about United Center.
The Blue Jackets rushed to pay a third-line center the money that should be going to a second-line center, something Dubinsky simply won't be during his career. It's not that he isn't a useful hockey player who can help a team win; it's that he received nearly $6 million per year based on one well-timed season and a misconception that he shut down the sport's best player over a six-game span.