Jakub Voracek enters this offseason coming off of the best season of his seven-year NHL career.
He tallied a career-high 81 points and was just a single assist away from tying for the league lead in assists with Washington's Nicklas Backstrom ... which is to say he was the NHL leader among players who don't have the good fortune to neatly pass the puck to Alex Ovechkin on the power play 82 times a season.
While many have called 2014-15 a breakout year for Voracek, the reality is that he's been an elite player for a while now. Since the 2012-13 lockout ended, there have been exactly zero wingers in the NHL with more assists than Voracek, and only two wingers with more total points. In that same time (arbitrary endpoint warning), just six wingers have scored at a .95 point-per-game pace in multiple seasons -- and Voracek is one of them. And his possession numbers are routinely outstanding, and have only improved with each passing season.
Pick any criteria by which to rank NHL wingers, and chances are Jakub Voracek is going to be towards the top of that ranking. He is one of the best wingers in hockey. He is also officially less than one year away from unrestricted free agency, which is all to say that pretty soon he's going to be getting paid like one of the best wingers in hockey.
Yes, Voracek is entering the final year of the four-year, $17 million contract that Paul Holmgren signed him to after his first year with the Flyers. He thoroughly outperformed that contract and has set himself up to get a massive payday -- in line with the ones that elite players get nowadays. Exactly how much of a payday is that? Let's try and figure that out.
Which players are Jake's best comparables?
As an elite winger, it makes sense to compare Voracek to other elite wingers. As such, with the help of the outstanding Hockey-Reference.com Play Index, I went and looked for all of the players who, since the most recent lockout:
- ... have signed a new contract that covers mostly unrestricted free agency years,
- ... have played primarily at winger, and,
- ... have scored between 0.8 and 1 point per game in that time. (An arbitrary range, admittedly, but with Voracek himself at 0.89 points per game in that time frame, it seems like a fair one.)
The results of that search are below. (Note: the per-game stats given are on the whole from the 2012-13 season through the 2014-15 season.)
|Player||Goals/game||Assists/game||Points/game||First year of extension||Age (First year of extension)||Contract AAV||Contract Length|
Notes: * Blake Wheeler's contract was signed prior to his final restricted free agent year, with a length of six years and an AAV of $5.6 million. For this exercise, we will only include figures for the five years of his contract that cover unrestricted free agency. ... ** We didn't include Vladimir Tarasenko's new deal with the St. Louis Blues here because it includes a lot of RFA years, but he's 23 and will earn $7.5 million against the cap for eight years.
Voracek is an $8 million (or more) player
There are two things to notice with this chart:
- Jake Voracek is really, really good ... one of the best handful of wingers in hockey.
- Nearly everybody on this list is either considerably worse than Voracek (Kunitz, Sedin, Wheeler, Vanek) or at least several years older (Steen, Vanek, Sedin, Kunitz).
That leaves us with two realistic comparable players for Voracek, and neither of them will make the Flyers' wallet feel good. Phil Kessel and Corey Perry each make more than $8 million per year, and they each signed eight-year deals with their teams in the last two years. Those are mammoth contracts, and Voracek is right in line to get something similar.
Eight years, at least. $8 million per year, if not more. That is Jake Voracek's value.
If he hit the open free agency market next summer, he'd easily get it. Which puts him in a pretty great position, and the Flyers in a rough one: they can either give him that money, or he can walk and get it elsewhere.
Any chance he'd take a home town discount?
Well, before we even say that, there's probably no chance in hell Voracek takes a deal worth less than $7 million per year, or even $7.5 million per year. He's worth $8 million or more, and that's just the reality. He'd be silly to take considerably less.
But there's always the chance he could take a little bit less, although there's no way to know because we're not in the negotiations or inside Jake's head. But let's play the guessing game anyway.
There are a few things working in the Flyers' favor.
- It seems pretty clear that Voracek likes playing in Philadelphia. He's an integral part of the team and he gets to play next to Claude Giroux, one of the league's best centers. It's unlikely he'd get a chance to go to another team where he can form that kind of tag team.
- Giroux's contract is a thing. Claude is the captain and the face of the franchise, regardless of how good Jake is, and there's a hierarchy there. You can foresee a world where the Flyers would not want to pay Jake more than Claude, and that they would draw the line right there. Claude makes $8.275 million against the cap.
- Were Voracek to hit unrestricted free agency, he'd only be able to sign (at most) a seven-year deal. If the Flyers lock him up before July 1, 2016, he can sign for up to eight years. One additional year of security for Voracek -- a year which he would lock down while essentially at his peak value -- is certainly something he'd like to have.
There are things working against the Flyers though, too.
- The salary cap has gone up since Giroux signed his deal on Independence Day 2013, and likely will continue to go up. That means higher salaries. It's not hard to picture a world where Voracek gets more than Giroux.
- The Flyers would be insane to part with Voracek, and we all know it. So he has leverage there.
- Even if Voracek gets the exact same contract as Giroux -- $8.275 million against the cap over an eight-year term -- that's still a ton of cash.
There's no doubt about it: Jakub Voracek is going to get paiiiiiiiiiid. The best case scenario for the Flyers is anything that starts with a seven, and the worst case for them is something that starts with eight and follows with something other than zeroes.
But you know what? It might sting the Flyers' wallet a little bit, but locking up both Voracek and Giroux for the next eight years isn't really the worst thing in the world. Pretty great, actually, and totally worth the money.