Wednesday, October 26, 2011

A Contract I Actually Like: Martin Hanzal

Two days before the Phoenix Coyotes were set to open the 2011-2012 regular season, they announced the signing of Martin Hanzal to a brand-new 5 year, $15.5 million contract extension. Though it wasn’t earth-shattering news and most likely ignored by the majority of NHL fans, there are a few things that stand out making this deal very good for the Coyotes.

1. Term

Hanzal was scheduled to become a restricted free agent after this season. Under the current terms of the CBA, he would have been eligible for unrestricted free agency status after the 2013-14 season, his 7th in the league. Rather than risk the (slim) possibility of another GM firing an offer sheet his way, Phoenix was able to buy the rest of his RFA eligibility and an additional three seasons of UFA status.

2. Salary

Hanzal’s extension will earn him an average annual salary of $3.1 million, his number against the cap. Because he was set to become a restricted free agent, Phoenix had the luxury of exclusive control over Hanzal and did a good job not to overpay for his services. Regardless of how the cap is drawn up in the next CBA, Hanzal's cap hit will not tie up a significant portion of Phoenix's money, always a plus for teams operating with an internal budget.

3. On-Ice Production

Speaking of said services, let’s take a look at exactly what Hanzal brings to the table. Per NHL.com, here are Hanzal's ice time numbers from his first four seasons:

YearAgeGPES TOI/GamePP TOI/GamePK TOI/GameTOT TOI/Game
07-08207212:492:431:1116:44
08-09217412:480:482:4416:21
09-10228114:162:052:0618:28
10-11236114:223:002:0719:30

As we can see, Hanzal is playing in every possible situation for Phoenix, the very definition of versatility. What is more, Hanzal entered the league garnering top-6 minutes and steadily increased his ice time to become the team's leader last season. How has Hanzal handled these assignments? Upon first glance, his point totals don't seem to be passing the test of a top-6 forward:

YearAgeGPES G (Team Rank)ES A (Team Rank)ES Pts (Team Rank)PP G (Team Rank)PP A (Team Rank)PP Pts (Team Rank)
07-0820726 (7)16 (5)22 (6)1 (9)11 (3)12 (T-5)
08-0921749 (6)17 (T-4)26 (T-5)0 (T-14)2 (T-8)2 (T-10)
09-1022819 (T-8)18 (5)27 (T-7)2 (T-7)4 (7)6 (T-7)
10-1123619 (T-7)10 (10)19 (T-9)7 (3)0 (T-11)7 (4)

However, Hanzal is yet another case where applying proper context is vital to determine his value. If we take a look at some key numbers thanks to Behind The Net, Time on Ice and Eric T., we find an entirely different story:

YearAgeGPCorsiRelQoC (League Rank - Min 20 GP)Balanced CorsiBalanced Corsi RelZone Start %Zone Finish %Corsi/60ZS Adjusted CorsiScore-Tied Fenwick %
07-0820720.873 (37)4.564.6647.149.1-1.52-0.99852.8
08-0921741.177 (7)3.2911.2938.445.5-5.76-3.67245.5
09-1022811.006 (11)7.613.0746.650.94.95.51254.3
10-1123610.837 (21)9.28.346.549.17.17.7352.8

During his rookie year, Hanzal was thrown to the wolves at even strength, facing the 37th toughest CorsiRelQoC score in the entire league. He hasn't slowed down since, routinely showing up on the list of players who face the league's elite night-in and night-out. His Balanced Corsi scores show that he is performing well above his expectation pushing the play forward in these situations, handling extremely tough assignments with relative ease. Though his Power Play stats have been less than impressive, Phoenix has never ranked above 19th in SF/60 on the PP during Hanzal's time in the desert. Regardless, his excellent play at even strength means that Phoenix will have a young and versatile tough-minutes forward locked up no matter where the franchise finds itself at the expiration of the contract.

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