With Koivu just signing a 7-year deal worth $47.25 million, it brings up yet another 1C contract to compare to Front-to-the-Backstrom's new deal. And after looking at a few numbers (below the jump), one thing is clear: George McPhee makes our happy little world go 'round.
I can not honestly say that I have watched sufficient film on Koivu to know his game or get a sense of his true value game to game. But from the reactions I have seen, I think Koivu is viewed as a good 1C and a franchise player. He did, after all, get the biggest contract in Wild history.
I have, however, watched a tremendous amount of Backstrom, and I see him as a Top 3-in-the-NHL center. I think most people on this site would agree. Which would explain my delerium when he signed for under $7M per season.
The analysis is not advanced, but in this case I specifically feel that it does not need to be; the indications are obvious.
AAV Koivu 6.75, Backstrom 6.7
Contract Length: Koivu 7 years, Backstrom 10 years
Age at End of Contract: Koivu 34, Backtrom 32
2009-2010 Scoring Statistics: Koivu 22G / 49A / 71P, Backstrom 33G / 68A / 101P
Just after Backstrom signed, I noticed an article over on BtN evaluating the quality of the contract. It was a pretty fair assessment of statistics, and a comparison of players with comparable age and contracts. However, being the rabid fanboy that I tend to be, I made a rather combative, argument-from-nothing comment lamenting how anyone could possibly question Backstrom's long-term value. I worship Tom Awad and the other statistics nuts over there for giving me something challenging to do at work. Needless to say, I feel a little sheepish about starting stupid arguments over nothing, especially with people that know considerably more than I do.
However, it seems now the Koivu signing has at least justified the kernel of wisdom at the center of my rant: Backstrom's contract is ridiculously awesome. Why?
1. 69-88-101 point progression in his first 3 seasons. There just have not been many players that increase point totals like that [If you are a Pens fan, you will chalk this up to playing in the Southeast division. I can link more than one analysis that shows this would have little to no effect on Backstrom's (or OV's, for that matter) production].
2. 10 years seems bad because... its a double-digit number? (I don't understand the logic of the detractors, so this is an assumption). But consider the fact that Backstrom will be 32 when the deal runs out. His playing style is not predicated on massive hitting or speed, but on thoughtful play and puck skill, which will age well. Reducing the cap hit is so worth it in this case I feel redundant for even justifying it.
3. The BtN Fanpost compares Backstrom's contract to peers with similar position, age, and AAV, but not to players commensurate with his point production. He was the number 4 scorer in the league last year, 5th in PPG. The closest comparison given is Kane's 88 points (9th in NHL, but 14th in PPG) on his 6.3M cap hit. But perhaps we should be looking at Backstrom's contract compared to the players around him (besides Stamkos, who is on his rookie deal) in PPG: Sedins, OV, Crosby. The Sedins are a unique mutant hybrid two-headed Swedish scoring machine, and they signed their deals before this year's 1.35 PPG breakthrough season. OV and Crosby obviously get paid much more than Backstrom. While I love advanced metrics as much as anyone, it seems to me that the most elite NHL scorers are judged and paid considering raw point production as the primary factor (though Backstrom's GVT totally whoops serious ass). Hence, I do not consider Towes, as good as he is, to be a fair comparison because his point totals do not justify more than he gets paid. Backstrom's point totals justify top salary, at least in comparison to the players around him in PPG. This is why I feared that since we did not sign Backstrom before last season, we might have to pay exorbitantly if he did well.
4. Koivu has a higher cap hit than Backstrom: This was the missing link in my campaign to justify Backstrom's contract as officially "the dope-est". Koivu is 5 years older, and came of his highest-ever 71 point season. While surely Backstrom has superior offensive teammates, does this account for a 30 point discrepancy? Look back up at the numbers, and tell me it doesn't make you feel warm and fuzzy inside. Koivu is a good player. I haven't heard enough reaction to know how his contract is viewed around the league & interweb, but I tend to think it seems reasonable. Franchise 1C with close to 1.0 PPG potential. Now go back at look at Lars's numbers again. Yeah.
5. Dude plays defense: Backstrom, by almost any measure, has developed into a good defender. Elite scorers do not have to have this quality to get paid. He has it anyway. Sweeeeede.
GMGM did extremely well to get this deal done as it is, considering it was after a 100 point season for a 22-year old. Not only did we not overpay, but Backstrom's ceiling makes it look like the future value we could be getting is borderline absurd (to his credit, the poster did say: "By year 4 or 5 of the deal, it could be considered an amazing value if salaries continue to rise").
Am I deranged? Or I am I preaching to the choir?
The Backstrom Contract's warm-fuzzy generation capability within you is a:
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