Andrew MacDonald contract: What will the Flyers new defenseman get paid?

Elsa

The Flyers want to sign the newly acquired MacDonald to a new contract. MacDonald previously turned down a four-year $16 million offer from the Islanders; so what could the extension cost them?

When the Flyers traded for Andrew MacDonald, I don't think many people thought that the pending free agent would simply be a rental defenseman.

The Flyers have already expressed interest in retaining the 27 year old but MacDonald reportedly turned down a four-year, $16 million offer from the Islanders already, after logging major minutes as their de facto No. 1 defenseman this season. And there's the rub.

MacDonald isn't going to be playing 25 minutes a night against top competition as a Flyer. He found himself on the third pairing in his first game and played 18 minutes. So something has to give. With the Islanders he was able to play the "I play the most minutes" card, and he ultimately turned down a sizeable offer. That won't be the case in Philadelphia.

Is MacDonald going to suddenly accept third-pairing money based on his new role? Unlikely. Will the Flyers pay him based on his role on the Island? If they have to, would that even be something worth doing?

Let's speculate just what it might cost to sign MacDonald, given the extension he previously turned down.

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?

In MacDonald's case he will be unrestricted, which makes things a bit more straightforward. Additionally, I've only pulled contracts signed no earlier than September 2013, which should give us as realistic an indication of the market as is possible. There's no real need to adjust cap hits based on percentage of cap ceiling.

It's worth noting here that these players aren't "comparables" in the sense that they are similar players (some are and some aren't). They are "comparables" in the sense that they are defenseman and they are the most recent contracts. It's a starting point.

Player Team(s) Age Years Cap Hit GP G A P TOI/60 Zone Starts ES Time PP Time SH Time Opponent Rating Teammate Rating
Jonathan Ericsson DET 30 6 $4.25m 41 1 8 9 21 52.30% 36.20% 9.00% 50.70% 29.60% 28.90%
Kris Russell CGY 26 2 $2.6m 48 4 17 21 22.9 55.10% 37.70% 60.50% 19.00% 28.90% 29.10%
Jared Cowen OTT 23 4 $3.1m 57 3 9 12 20.4 50.80% 36.20% 2.90% 45.20% 28.70% 28.40%
Alexei Emelin MTL 27 4 $4.1m 42 2 7 9 18 38.80% 33.80% 4.80% 20.80% 29.00% 28.60%
Chris Phillips OTT 35 2 $2.5m 53 1 12 13 19.4 46.80% 30.10% 29.20% 52.00% 28.30% 25.80%
Niklas Hjalmarsson CHI 26 5 $4.1m 63 4 20 24 20.9 49.90% 35.90% 2.70% 56.10% 29.90% 27.40%
Mark Stuart WPG 29 4 $2.625m 50 2 7 9 17.7 47.40% 30.10% 0.50% 53.10% 28.30% 27.40%
Dan Girardi NYR 29 6 $5.5m 63 4 13 17 22.5 46.70% 36.50% 25.40% 58.70% 29.60% 28.80%
Dennis Seidenberg BOS 32 4 $4m 34 1 9 10 21.7 48.50% 37.50% 11.10% 42.50% 28.50% 27.00%
Andrew MacDonald NYI, PHI 27 ??? ??? 64 4 20 24 24.9 46.60% 38.20% 55.60% 53.30% 29.10% 28.20%

I purposely left out shot attempt differential numbers because, while I like them, I'm not so sure that factors into the Flyers' decision making. So I only pulled the more basic information including: games played, point totals, time on ice, and special teams time on ice.

I also did include zone start and opponent/teammate rating metrics. While I doubt that those specifically come up in negotiation, I do believe a player's "role" (such as a "shut down" defenseman) plays a large part and those metrics can shed some light on how players are being used, and therefore their role.

Unfortunately, looking at these peripheral numbers makes guys like Dan Girardi and Niklas Hjalmarsson stand out as decent comparables for MacDonald. Not to mention that all three are pretty prolific shot blockers as well. The lowest any of those three have ranked in blocked shots over the past two years was 22nd in the entire league. We know the Flyers seem to think highly of MacDonald, and we already know MacDonald turned down $4 million a year.

I don't think many people would disagree that Girardi and Hjalmarsson are widely considered to be superior players. They also have been playing at a high level for many years at this point. Girardi just signed his contract at the beginning of March, when the supposed $71 million salary cap ceiling for 2014-15 (or perhaps lower now) was known. Hjalmarsson, on the other hand, signed in September when the ceiling was not yet known, or even speculated.

The verdict

All things considered, five years and $4.25 million per year keeps coming to mind for me. We know the Flyers like MacDonald, and we know he's already turned down four years and $16 million. Yes, his role has likely changed from a top-pairing to a bottom-pairing guy, but you can be sure MacDonald and his agent aren't going to accept that justification.

Despite the fact that Girardi and Hjalmarsson are probably universally accepted as superior players, they are the type of comparables that MacDonald's agent is going to point to. All signs are pointing to somewhere around $4.25 million to me.

The Flyers are pretty accustomed to having copious amounts of salary on their bottom-pairing. It's starting to look like that trend will continue; for better or worse.

Statistics Key
Zone Starts = O/DSt% (Zone start ratio)
ES Time = EVTm% (Percentage of team's even strength ice time)
PP Time = PPTm% (Percentage of team's power play ice time)
SH Time = SHTm% (Percentage of team's short handed ice time)
Opponent Rating = TotTm% QoC (Average (time-weighted) TotTm% of 5-on-5 on-ice opponents)
Teammate Rating = TotTm% QoT (Average (time-weighted) TotTm% of 5-on-5 on-ice teammates)
All statistics pulled from Extra Skater
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