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Why Jake Voracek's 8-year, $66 million contract might actually be a bargain

The Flyers just opened the checkbook for Jakub Voracek, rewarding him with an eight-year, $66 million contract. But was even that huge contract a bit of a bargain compared to his peers?

James Guillory-USA TODAY Sports

Jakub Voracek had a little over eleven months remaining before his contract with Philadelphia Flyers would expire. But his team had no intention of forcing their star winger to wait any longer for clarity regarding his future.

Late on Thursday afternoon, news broke that the Flyers had signed Voracek to a mammoth eight-year, $66 million dollar extension, cementing his place among the elite wingers in the National Hockey League. For Voracek, it was the culmination of seven years of steady improvement and stellar play.

For the Flyers, however, the deal can be viewed purely in business terms. Top-tier wingers rarely hit the open market, so Philadelphia knew that the chances of signing a replacement for Jakub Voracek were minuscule, and the chances of developing an equivalent talent internally were even slimmer.

So, they took the plunge, signing their star forward to a deal that puts him right in line with the other elite wingers who signed long term contracts in their mid-to-late 20s.

Player Age (at contract start) Contract Length Contract Value Average Annual Value (AAV)
Zach Parise 28 years old 13 years $98 million $7.358 million
Patrick Kane 27 years old 8 years $84 million $10.5 million
Corey Perry 28 years old 8 years $69 million $8.625 million
Jakub Voracek 27 years old 8 years $66 million $8.25 million
Phil Kessel 27 years old 8 years $64 million $8.0 million
Rick Nash 26 years old 8 years $62.4 million $7.8 million
Bobby Ryan 28 years old 7 years $50.4 million $7.25 million

All contract info via General Fanager.

In terms of raw contract value, Voracek fits right in with his peers. And they are undoubtedly his peers -- as BSH's Kurt R. detailed earlier this month, Jake's point per game total of 0.89 over the past three seasons compares favorably to Perry and Kessel, and ranks him eighth among all wingers over the same period, according to Hockey Reference.

Still, $66 million over eight seasons is quite a lot of money, and some fans understandably are concerned that the extension is an overpayment relative to the rest of the market. After all, Corey Perry has an MVP and a Stanley Cup championship in his resume. Phil Kessel has five 30-goal seasons. Rick Nash has three 40-goal seasons.

Does Jakub Voracek really deserve a contract in that neighborhood?

How Jake's contract impacts the salary cap

For a large-market, deep pocket team like the Philadelphia Flyers, actual monetary spend does not seem to matter. Just ask Ilya Bryzgalov, who will be earning $1.63 million dollars every year until 2027 to not play for Ed Snider's club. Instead, the yearly cap hit (AAV) of each contract matters most to the Flyers, as each dollar of a player's cap hit is a dollar that cannot go towards adding new players or retaining other existing ones.

But simply comparing raw cap hits of contracts is too simplistic. For teams that consistently reach the salary cap ceiling, the best way to view a player's AAV is as a percentage of the salary cap for that season. And while a player's cap hit is the same in year one and year four of a contract, the percentage of the salary cap ceiling that cap hit represents may be far different.

So what percentage of the salary cap will Jakub Voracek's deal take up on a yearly basis? Unfortunately, that's impossible to know with complete certainty, as the cap ceiling is announced prior to the start of each league year. But we can make a basic projection.

This past year, the ceiling grew by 3.47 percent, a particularly small increase primarily due to the weakness of the Canadian dollar. To be conservative, let's assume that the ceiling increases by the same low rate each year through the conclusion of Voracek's contract, in 2023-24.

2016/17 2017/18 2018/19 2019/20 2020/21 2021/22 2022/23 2023/24
Projected Cap Ceiling $73.90 million $76.50 million $79.20 million $81.90 million $84.70 million $87.60 million $90.60 million $93.74 million
Voracek Percentage of Cap 11.16% 10.78% 10.42% 10.07% 9.74% 9.42% 9.11% 8.80%

While the percentages do decrease over time as the cap ceiling grows, Voracek's share still seems high at first glance. That is, until Voracek's percentages are compared to those of his peers over the first eight seasons of their respective contracts.

Remember that many of these deals began years ago, when the salary cap ceiling was significantly lower than it will be in 2016-17.

Player Year 1 Year 2 Year 3 Year 4 Year 5 Year 6 Year 7 Year 8 Eight-Year Cap Percentage
Patrick Kane 14.71% 14.21% 13.73% 13.26% 12.82% 12.40% 11.99% 11.59% 13.00%
Corey Perry 13.42% 12.51% 12.09% 11.68% 11.28% 10.90% 10.54% 10.19% 11.49%
Rick Nash 13.13% 12.13% 11.11% 12.13% 11.30% 10.92% 10.55% 10.20% 11.37%
Zach Parise 10.74% 11.73% 10.93% 10.56% 10.20% 9.86% 9.52% 9.21% 10.29%
Phil Kessel 11.59% 11.20% 10.83% 10.46% 10.10% 9.77% 9.45% 9.13% 10.25%
Jakub Voracek 11.16% 10.78% 10.42% 10.07% 9.74% 9.42% 9.11% 8.80% 9.88%
Bobby Ryan 10.15% 9.81% 9.48% 9.15% 8.85% 8.85% 8.28% N/A 9.14%

Instead of Voracek's contract landing smack in the middle of his peers, he slides in closer to the bottom. Over the eight-year length of the contract, Voracek would project to take up a little less than 10 percent of his team's available cap space, assuming our modest cap growth estimate is accurate.

That puts his contract way behind Kane, Perry and Nash's deals, and measurably behind Parise and Kessel's contracts as well.

Suddenly, Voracek falls in between the aforementioned Kessel and Bobby Ryan, who received one less year on his recent extension. And for those second-guessing the Voracek extension, that probably makes a bit more sense. After all, Voracek does not have Kessel's long track record of elite point production, but the Czech winger's best seasons far exceed those of our illustrious Cherry Hill native.

Does the Voracek contract still come with risk? Of course. It does not kick in until 2016-17, so a serious injury or dramatic drop off in form next season could make this deal look less favorable to the team. Voracek will also be under contract until age 34, and even elite players see a decline in performance as they enter their 30s. There is also always the doomsday possibility of cap ceiling stagnation, either due to economic issues or future work stoppages.

But in terms of cap flexibility, Ron Hextall must be commended.

But in terms of cap flexibility, Ron Hextall must be commended. He was able to sign Voracek to a deal comparable to those recently signed by Corey Perry and Phil Kessel, without paying extra to account for salary cap ceiling inflation. It's likely that Hextall used the Claude Giroux extension as a line that Voracek's contract simply would not cross, and the player clearly accepted those terms.

As a result, the Flyers locked up Jakub Voracek to a deal that takes up less salary cap space than the contracts of almost all of his statistical peers. And if the salary cap ceiling starts to rise dramatically over the next few seasons? There's a chance that today's huge contract could be tomorrow's bargain.

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