Saturday, March 24, 2012

The State Of Contracts In The NHL Today, Part 2

In Part 1, I examined how the top contracts in the league have essentially stagnated in the last 4 years, which means that relative to the salary cap, they've gone down. We know that entry level contracts have a cap on them which essentially limits how much they can pay out, and cursory examination of will show that the NHL essentially has a slotting system for entry-level deals.

However, one place that contracts could be exploding is for RFA forwards. Perhaps teams, wary of other teams offer sheeting their own players, or fearful of being taken to arbitration, are being more generous with their RFA players. A closer study shows that this isn't the case - once again, RFA salaries have stagnated despite the expanding cap.

To study this properly, I first sorted for RFA-age forwards who played more than 40 games with at least .4 Points Per Game (numbers courtesy of I then looked at all the eligible forwards who signed new contracts in the summer of 2008 versus the summer of 2011. However, one cannot just sort contracts willy-nilly - I examined whether or not an RFA player was eligible for arbitration, how many years of UFA eligibility the contract he signed gave up, and how long his contract was signed for. This didn't leave me with too many contracts to directly compare, but I think it makes my point just as well. If one looks at the entire list of contracts signed, they would see that there is simply not much difference between then and now despite the nearly 15% increase in the salary cap between the two summers.

Without further ado, here's our first table; we're comparing forwards who signed 2 year contracts, who were not arbitration eligible, and who gave up none of their UFA years:

YearsTotal ContractsPPG AverageAvg. ContractAvg. % Of Cap

(Salary numbers courtesy of and

If we remember that 2008 was a higher scoring year than 2011, we can basically call the points per game even, and yet the players are making less money, and far less money against the cap. Perhaps that's a fluke - we are after all only looking at 8 contracts, and points per game isn't a scientific way to examine a contract's value.

Here's players who sign 5 year contracts with 1 year of UFA included who aren't eligible for arbitration:

YearsTotal ContractsPPG AverageAvg. ContractAvg. % Of Cap

Again, we find a similar pattern. If we look at the percentage of the cap these contracts take up, it's higher in 2008.

Here we're looking at contracts that go for 2 years, don't have any UFA years, and are for players who are arbitration-eligible:

YearsTotal ContractsPPG AverageAvg. ContractAvg. % Of Cap

Once again, players who signed in 2011 got less money than players who signed in 2008. It's hard to imagine that agents aren't aware of these sorts of numbers - teams must be able to sell the fact that they don't have the same kind of money to sign these players.

In Part 3, I'll be examining possible reasons why contract amounts are stagnating and contracts are going down relative to the salary cap.

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