While many teams have wrapped up prospect camps, wrapped up training camps,
and are preparing for the start of the season, there was an interesting contract handed out this past month that got lost in the mix. The New York Rangers locked up their young shutdown defenseman, Marc Staal, in a 5-year deal worth just under $4 million per year.
Much like we did with the Plekanec and Kovalchuk deals, let’s take a look at how Staal’s
contract stacks up with some other defensemen that signed as free agents this summer.
First and foremost, it should be noted that Staal was a restricted free agent (RFA) and so
he didn’t have the same leverage as some of the unrestricted free agents (UFA) that signed
this summer. As Gabe Desjardins has shown here, an RFA will typically sign for ~40%
less than a UFA.
This offseason, GMs across the league spent more on defensemen than on any other
position. Through the first week of free agency this summer, the breakdown on spending
by position was as follows.
3 year GVT Cap Hit GVT per $M #
Average of all players 7.27 2.95 3.35 36
Forwards 7.87 2.70 4.12 15
Defense 7.13 3.40 2.75 16
Goalies 7.28 2.00 7.60 5
The GVT per $M for defense was the lowest total of any position, meaning that league-
wide spending was much more loose for defensemen than forwards or goalies.
So what does this mean for Staal’s deal? We need to evaluate his contract versus those
signed by other defensemen this summer to get a true view of whether the Rangers got a
good deal in the current market.
Here is a comparison of Staal and several defensemen who signed new deals this summer
with similar salary ranges or reputations.
09/10 Regular Season M. Staal D. Hamhuis A. Volchenkov P. Martin B. Coburn J. Schultz
Cap Hit 3.975 4.5 4.25 5 3.2 2.28
Age 23 27 28 29 25 24
GVT 11.2 7.2 5.1 4.8 4.5 9.6
Def GVT 6.9 4.6 4.5 3.2 4.3 6.5
Off GVT 4.4 2.6 0.6 1.6 0.2 3.1
Corsi / 60 -4.76 5.90 0.46 13.59 7.35 8.52
Corsi QoC 1.03 0.37 0.69 -0.13 -0.24 -0.73
Zone starts 44.7% 46.4% 46.9% 62.3% 51.0% 53.4%
GVT per $ (in M) 2.82 1.60 1.20 0.96 1.41 4.21
At age 23, Staal had the best defensive GVT of the bunch, despite having the most
difficult Zone Starts and playing against the hardest competition (Corsi QoC). Both
Hamhuis and Volchenkov were used in similar defensive roles, but neither to the
extent that Staal was. Having a defenseman who is capable of matching up with
the opposition’s best, and who can consistently move the puck from his own end to the
opposition’s end is of great value to any team. For the Rangers, the defensive value they’ve
received from Staal’s deal is better than that from Hamhuis or Volchenkov’s and he is at
least 4 years younger than both. Given that blueliners frequently peak in their late 20’s,
Staal is much more likely to outperform this contract than these two.
Offensively, the picture is a little different. While Staal had the worst raw Corsi of the
group, he had the best Offensive GVT. Corsi is highly dependent on Zone Starts and
the level of competition, so Staal is at a disadvantage here considering how he’s used.
However, his offensive GVT and the fact he recorded 8 goals and 27 points last season,
show that Staal has some offensive upside.
Both offensively and defensively, Staal was the best player in our list of comparables
for the 2009-10 season. When considering “value’, the only player that Staal trailed
in GVT per $M was Jeff Schultz of the Washington Capitals. The prevailing wisdom,
however, is that Schultz’ stats were inflated by the quality of teammates he has the luxury
of playing with. Regardless, he is a fantastic player for just over two million per year.
Even if Staal’s contract were signed for the extra 40% UFA premium mentioned above,
his GVT per $M would still be 2.01 which is favorable value to every deal except
The bottom line is most teams wish they had a player with Marc Staal’s combination of
youth, talent and ability to match up with the opposition’s best. That the Rangers were
able to lock up such a player with a deal that not only seems market comparable, but
favorable is reason to pop some champagne.
Ryan Popilchak is a contributor to Puck Prospectus and writes for Sports Opinionated. You can contact Ryan at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Ryan Popilchak is an author of Hockey Prospectus.
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