Speculating about Brayden Schenn's next contract

Elsa

The Flyers signed three of their four young, pending 2014 free-agents this past summer in Claude Giroux, Sean Couturier, and Matt Read. That leaves just Brayden Schenn remaining. What's it going to cost?

For a couple years now, Flyers fans have feared the summer of 2014: Claude Giroux, Sean Couturier, Matt Read, and Brayden Schenn would all hit free agency in the same summer, and that's a nightmare.

But that's not a fear any longer. The new CBA allowed the Flyers to ship off Daniel Briere, Ilya Bryzgalov, and the high salary cap hits that came with them, then, last summer, three of those four pending free agents were locked up.

Claude Giroux signed an eight-year $66.2 million contractSean Couturier signed a two-year $3.5 million extensionMatt Read signed a four-year $14.5 million agreement.

That leaves just Brayden Schenn remaining of the young core that still requires a contract. So what's it going to cost?

Contract comparables

When speculating what a free-agent is going to cost, you always need to begin with contract comparables. There are two main points to consider when comparing two players and their contracts: 1) were/are they restricted or unrestricted free-agents, and 2) what was/is the salary cap ceiling when the contract was/will be signed.

Restricted free-agents typically get less than unrestricted free-agents because they're ... well ... restricted. It's about 40 percent less according to some calculations done a few seasons ago (I'd be very curious to see how this has held up over time, but nevertheless). So for that reason, you can't compare Schenn directly to someone who just signed a contract as an unrestricted free-agent.

I also mention the cap ceiling because signing for $3 million this past summer on a $64.3 million ceiling is not the same as signing for $3 million now on what is estimated to be a $71 million ceiling for next season. The former accounts for 4.66% of the cap ceiling, whereas the latter is only 4.22% of the $71 million ceiling. If we took 4.66% of the $71 million, you'd end up with $3.3 million. Simply put, the more recent the comp is the better. Frankly, it doesn't do much good to directly compare a contract today to a contract signed even two or three years ago.

It's all about making sure we're comparing apples to apples here, folks!

With that, I think we have two good in-house comparables in Couturier and Read, and two good external comparables in Matt Stajan and Andrew Cogliano, who both just signed contracts this month.

I looked at their point totals over the past three seasons, and I also pulled a few advanced metrics for the current season to get an idea as to their role with their respective clubs at the present time. I don't necessarily think using advanced metrics is the best method for speculating free-agent cost because I'm skeptical as to whether NHL front offices use those methods. It can still provide some insight as to their role on the team though.

Player Season Goals Assists Points TOI/60 GF% CF% O/DSt% TotTm% QoC
Sean Couturier 2013-2014 8 15 23 19 40.4 49.2 43.9 29.2
2 years $1.75 (RFA) 2012-2013 4 11 15
2.72% of cap when signed 2011-2012 13 14 27
Total 25 40 65
Matt Read 2013-2014 13 10 23 19 40.9 49.8 44.6 29.5
4 years $3.625 (UFA) 2012-2013 11 13 24
5.64% of cap when signed 2011-2012 24 23 47
Total 48 46 94
Matt Stajan 2013-2014 8 11 19 18.2 34 47.7 37.4 29.3
4 years $3.125 (UFA) 2012-2013 5 18 23
4.40% of cap when signed 2011-2012 8 10 18
Total 21 39 60
Andrew Cogliano 2013-2014 17 13 30 15.2 55.6 48.3 50.9 29.4
4 years $3.00 (UFA) 2012-2013 6 18 24
4.22% of cap when signed 2011-2012 13 13 26
Total 36 44 80
Brayden Schenn 2013-2014 14 17 31 15.7 53.6 48.6 53.4 27.9
2012-2013 8 18 26
2011-2012 12 6 18
Total 34 41 75

Schenn bests Couturier and Stajan with respect to point totals over the past three seasons, but trails Read and Cogliano. However, based on this season alone (and this is very much a "what have you done for me lately" league), he is the best of the bunch from an offensive perspective.

If we compare him to his fellow teammates, he has the superior offensive numbers to Couturier and Read but their roles are drastically different. Couturier and Read play quite a bit more minutes, against tougher competition, and start in the offensive zone less frequently.

Schenn dwarfs Stajan's numbers, but Stajan is also playing a highly defensive role.

Cogliano actually looks like a very good comp for Brayden Schenn. They have nearly identical numbers, with nearly identical ice time, playing similar roles.

The verdict

It's important to note that Brayden Schenn is currently four years away from unrestricted free agency (he's completing his third year, and unrestricted free agency hits at seven years or age 27). Therefore I think it is likely that we see one of two scenarios with Schenn: a two-year "prove it" deal much like Couturier's, or a three-year "bridge" deal much like Giroux's second contract.

The key takeaways here are that in both cases Schenn would still remain a restricted free agent at the conclusion of the deal, and that we're dealing strictly with restricted free-agent seasons -- no unrestricted seasons to "buy".

I think it's a safe bet to say Schenn comes in above Couturier's number because of the sexier numbers but below Read's, because Read's new contract consists of four unrestricted free-agent years. However, those contracts were signed on a $64.3 million cap ceiling. If we adjust for the estimated $71 million ceiling, Couturier moves to $1.93 million and Read to $4 million. I also do think Cogliano is a very fair comparison for Schenn. I think these three players should give us a pretty fair picture of the market.

If we conclude the that restricted free-agents do tend to get about 40 percent less than unrestricted free agents, we can adjust Read and Cogliano's contracts to better match Schenn's circumstances. Read's $3.625 cap hit (or $4 million adjusted cap hit from above) would reduce to $2.175 (or $2.4 adjusted cap hit), and Coglaino's would go to $1.8 million.

After all of those various adjustments, you're looking at ~$1.9 for Couturier, ~$2.4 for Read, and ~$1.8 for Cogliano. I would suspect a two or three year extension in the $2 to $2.5 million ballpark. However, with a cap that is rising ~$7 million after the first full, post-new CBA season, agents and players might see dollar signs on the horizon.

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