I think we're over-simplfying the debate around Scott Hartnell's contract extension. Several points have been made so far in analyzing this contract, mostly that the Flyers got a great deal on this contract and that Hartnell took less money in exchange for long-term job security.
- "The Flyers got off cheaply." -- Sam Carchidi of the Inquirer.
- "Everyone is asking what the fuck he just did." -- an anonymous NHL player agent (via CSN Philly), frustrated because Hartnell left more money per year on the table than he could have received on a shorter-term deal.
- "Any team in the league would gladly welcome Hartnell aboard at that cap hit." -- Justin Bourne at Backhand Shelf.
- "[Hartnell] got a mini-bump to $4.75 million." -- Tim Panaccio of CSN Philly.
These comments seem to subscribe to the theory that the Flyers got a great deal and that we should be happy to have Hartnell around for six years at $4.75 million. That they underpaid for him. And yeah, the facts are pretty simple: Hartnell could have received more money per season if the contract was a shorter deal, and the compromise between the two sides certainly hinged on less money per year but longer term.
But is this really a great deal for the Flyers, all things considered? The answer is both yes and no.
We'll start with the "no" part. For starters, we have to look at the structure of the deal and not just the cap hit. Yes, Hartnell got a "mini-bump" when it comes to his cap hit, but look at the salary jump. In 2013-14, he'll be paid just shy of double what he'll earn this coming season. Numbers via the Canadian Press:
|Current Deal||NHL Salary||Cap Hit|
|Extension||NHL Salary||Cap Hit|
Slight raise in cap hit? Yes. Slight raise in salary? Nah.
The cap hit is manageable, but is Hartnell worth $4.75 million? The question hinges not on if he'll be worth $4.75 million against the cap in 2013-14 and 2014-15 (he likely will be), but if he'll be worth that money towards the end of the deal. When Hartnell is 36 or 37, is he really going to be worth $4.75 million?
Eric T. did a lot of the leg work on this one Monday by looking at players who put up similar numbers to Hartnell in their late 20s. He then looked at production through their mid-30s. What did he find?
We'll assume that a player getting paid $4.75 million per year, regardless of age or other contributions they bring to the table, should be scoring at least somewhere around 15 goals per season. (The Flyers weren't willing to pay Jaromir Jagr for one season at $4.5 million and he scored 19 goals at age 39, so we're even being a bit generous here.)
Players below in red put up production that wouldn't live up to Hartnell's deal. Players in green put up production that would make Hartnell's deal look good -- still worth $4.5 million at age 36 -- and it's too early to tell for players in yellow.
|Player||Goals at age 31||G at 32||G at 33||G at 34||G at 35||G at 36|
|Marc Savard||25||10||2||injured, likely retired|
|Richard Zednik||7||15||17||out of NHL|
|J.P. Dumont||17||10||out of NHL|
Hartnell would have to turn into Jason Arnott, Shane Doan or Brian Rolston to make his contract worth it to the Flyers. That's totally possible, but given recent precedent, it's highly unlikely likely that Hartnell will be worth this in 2016 or beyond.
If this is the ultimate case, the Flyers will not "get off cheaply." Everybody will be asking the Flyers "what the fuck they did" back in 2012 when they gave out this deal. That "mini-bump" will seem like a fortune, and the rest of the league will not be laughing, happy they didn't "gladly welcome Hartnell aboard on that cap hit."
But onto that "yes" part. While Hartnell is unlikely to be worth this contract in four, five, six or seven years, it's also true that the deal will likely be a good one for the first few years. The Flyers could very well be getting Hartnell at a discount this coming season and the following season, and that'll be just swell.
After that, the Flyers might not hurt too badly by any overpayment.
If he gets hurt, the Flyers can LTIR him and call it a day. He can also retire -- this isn't a 35-plus contract so they won't get into messy Chris Pronger-like territory.
If the likely scenario plays out and Hartnell becomes an overpaid, over-the-hill player in the final three-ish years of the deal, the Flyers will have options.
Unfortunately, Paul Holmgren decided to give Hartnell a no-movement clause, and the exact terms of that NMC are vitally important. If they're able to store him in the AHL should he fail to be worth the money later in the deal, this isn't so bad for anybody but ... well, Ed Snider's wallet. If the NMC -- or the next CBA, for that matter -- prevents that, the Flyers will have to look at other options.
Luckily, since the contract is front-loaded, it should be easier to ditch Hartnell off to a team near the salary floor in the likely event that he's not worth $4.5 million in four years. After all, those intangibles he has are indeed valuable to a certain extent when you're trying to push off an over-the-hill, overpaid player on another team. Of course, that he's only earning $3 million in that last year helps as well. Hartsy finishing his career with the Carolina Hurricanes wouldn't be the worst thing in the world. They treated Brindy well.
Saying the Flyers got a steal here is over-simplifying the issue. Did they get a good deal in the next couple of years? Yes, probably, considering we expect Hartnell to contribute similarly over the next few seasons.
But as precedent has shown us, it's seriously unlikely that the Flyers will get production worth his contract from Hartnell in the latter half of this contract. That's a big risk to take, especially considering how much money guys like Claude Giroux, Sean Couturier and Brayden Schenn will likely be hauling in during those years.
That risk is mitigated a little bit by the chance the Flyers could trade him to a non-cap spending team in those later years, but this deal would be a whole lot easier to swallow if we knew the exact terms of the no-movement clause. How we view this deal is dependent on the options available to the Flyers in its later years, and considering Homer's generosity in handing out NTC and NMC's -- Ruslan Fedotenko has one -- let's pray he didn't tie himself down a 36 year old Scott Hartnell.