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Should Scott Hartnell get a contract extension?

Why wouldn't you want five more years of this?
Why wouldn't you want five more years of this?

A post by Bill Meltzer on what Scott Hartnell's next contract should look like led to a discussion in the comments on today's Fly-By of what he is worth. I decided to take a look at what we should expect from him going forwards.

Was his production this year really an outlier?

A lot of people have proposed that Hartnell made a big jump forwards this year because he was on Claude Giroux's wing, and that this sort of production is what we should expect of him when paired with a superstar playmaker. Yet his even strength production doesn't seem to have changed much:

Year Goals/60 Primary assists/60 Points/60
2008-09 1.26 0.66 2.47
2009-10 0.36 0.89 1.79
2010-11 1.13 0.54 2.16
2011-12 1.04 0.52 2.13

Take away an unlucky dip in his shooting percentage in '09-10 and this is a reasonably modest but steady decline. It's about what you'd expect from a player in the post-prime years from age 26-29, right before scoring starts to really crash in the early 30's.

But why such a strong bump this year? Take a look at Hartnell's power play production:

Year 5v4 TOI/G 5v4 goals 5v4 shots on goal 5v4 shooting percentage
2008-09 2.32 6 21 28.6%
2009-10 2.67 8 32 25.0%
2010-11 2.75 4 19 21.1%
2011-12 3.06 15 57 26.3%

He's always been a phenomenal power play shooter. He got a little more power play time this year with the Flyers drawing a ton of penalties, but the difference wasn't huge. What does seem to be a huge difference is how often the team got him the puck when he was ready to shoot from his favorite spot.

When I started this analysis, I expected the punchline to be something like "he shot 14% on the power play each of the last three years and jumped to 32% this year, no way should the team pay up hoping that continues." Now that I see that the boost actually came from his shot rate, I'm much more encouraged; that might plausibly be a reproducible result of Giroux's passing and/or Laviolette's scheme.

We've seen players like Dany Heatley suffer declines at even strength as they age but continue to produce extremely well on the power play. It's always scary to pony up a big contract after a single stand-out season, but if that power play shot rate continues early this year, I wouldn't be against the idea of extending his contract for a few more years.

Something in the $5M per year range is pretty good for a 30-goal scorer. Given how deadly his power play shot is, if they continue to get him those power play shots (and this is the big "if" -- I want to see evidence that it's reproducible before I'm signing him), he should be able to stay in the 30-goal range over the next few years.