The Prospectus Perspective
Using Tom Awad's VUKOTA projection system and Rob Vollman's comparable contract data, we can examine what each free agent is worth and what production should be expected from each. Player contributions are measured in goals versus threshold (GVT), a stat that compiles a variety of metrics to calculate a player's value.
Recent comparable contract: Miikka Kiprusoff (6 years, $35 million)
What he should make in 2010-11: $4.0M
The Sharks goaltender might have had a career season after being the definition of mediocrity, but keep in mind that it was his contract season. Kiprusoff is a decent, but not spectacular goaltender by any means, and Nabokov fits that description as well.
2010-11 VUKOTA projection: 10.6 GVT
Someone will pay Nabby a decent-sized contract, perhaps even one as long as six years. While a 10.6 GVT is solid, it's far from elite, ranking him just ninth among goalies. GMs should try to ignore the amount of success the team had as a whole with him minding the net. In our view, the Sharks succeeded despite having Nabokov in net, not because of his presence there.
For ESPN Rumor Central's Tim Kavanagh's take on Evgeni Nabokov, click here.
For ESPN The Magazine's E.J. Hradek's take on Evgeni Nabokov, click here.
Recent comparable contract: Marian Gaborik (5 years, $37.5 million)
What he should make in 2010-11: $6.1M
Here's the thing, Gaborik is making $7.5 million per season with the Rangers after inking a deal last summer. Kovalchuk (41 goals, 85 points) and Gaborik (42 goals, 86 points) had virtually identical seasons, and despite rumors of Kovalchuk seeking $10 million per season, the fact of the matter is you shouldn't cough up that kind of money for a forward who contributes nothing defensively. Will a desperate team up the ante? Possibly. Will that team be overpaying him? Absolutely.
2010-11 VUKOTA projection: 78 GP, 35 G, 46 A, 81 PTS, 16.8 GVT
Our projections see Kovalchuk maintaining a steady production level for next season. So steady, in fact, that his projection of 16.8 GVT is just 1/10 different than his 2009-10 mark of 16.7. Teams shouldn't worry about him settling into cruise control on offense after he cashes in this summer. But defensively he's never been able to find the gas and teams shouldn't expect him to search for it now.
For ESPN Rumor Central's Tim Kavanagh's take on Ilya Kovalchuk, click here.
For ESPN The Magazine's E.J. Hradek's take on Ilya Kovalchuk, click here.
Recent comparable contract: Dany Heatley (6 years, $45 million)
What he should make in 2010-11: $5.5M
You don't have to look far to find Marleau's top comparable player's contract. In fact, you don't have to look past San Jose's first line, where the Sharks center should be rewarded with a salary similar to Heatley's, perhaps with a discount due to age.
2010-11 VUKOTA projection: 75 GP, 35 G, 72 PTS, 15.1 GVT
Turning 31 on the first day of the 2010-11 season, Marleau is in for a much anticipated decline that VUKOTA believes will start this year. A dynamic offensive weapon who led the team's skaters with a 19.4 GVT, it's hard to see Marleau go anywhere but down. Teams should be cautious about giving the forward a long term deal.
For ESPN Rumor Central's Tim Kavanagh's take on Patrick Marleau, click here.
For ESPN The Magazine's E.J. Hradek's take on Patrick Marleau, click here.
Recent comparable contract: Chris Pronger (7 years, $34.9 million), Dan Boyle (6 years, $40 million)
What he should make in 2010-11: $4.2M
Both of Gonchar's comparable player contracts are lengthy deals, and that's what the Penguin is likely in for. Both have also lived up to their contracts, so this could be a sign that Gonch could continue to age gracefully well into his late 30s. That is, if the injury bug stays away.
2010-11 VUKOTA projection: 59 GP, 9 G, 41 PTS, 11.0 GVT
VUKOTA predicts a similar line to last season and no drop in GVT. If a team feels the need to add a blue line veteran who can quarterback the power play, Gonchar is head of the class. Of course, there's the injury concern with missing 20 games in 2009-10 after playing in only 25 contests a season earlier.
For ESPN Rumor Central's Alvin Chang's take on Sergei Gonchar, click here.
For ESPN The Magazine's E.J. Hradek's take on Sergei Gonchar, click here.
Recent comparable contract: Greg Zanon (3 years, $5.8 million)
What he should make in 2010-11: $1.6M
Zanon, a decent defenseman for the Minnesota Wild, is the top comparable player contract for the Ottawa blueliner, but expect his contract to far exceed that bargain deal. Volchenkov has the ability to hit hard and also possesses great shot-blocking skills, which would be an asset to any team in need of defense. Market forces, particularly teams with black holes on the blue line, should drive it way up.
2010-11 VUKOTA projection: 62 GP, 3 G, 15 PTS, 3.4 GVT
The A-Train's point production is a little low and the projected injury time (20 games) is troublesome, but we still feel he's worth it (though the output may not match the $5 million per season figure that's been batted around). If a team is looking to shore up its defense and is looking for an additional piece to gear up for a Stanley Cup run, they should seriously consider signing the lefty shooter to a short-term deal. But they'd be wise to refrain from making too large a financial commitment.
For ESPN Rumor Central's Alvin Chang's take on Anton Volchenkov, click here.
For ESPN The Magazine's E.J. Hradek's take on Anton Volchenkov, click here.
A version of this story originally appeared on ESPN Insider .
Andrew Rothstein is an author of Hockey Prospectus.
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