Category: Business of Hockey

#fancystats: Where do we go from here?



I want to preface this article with the fact that I am not a mathematician or statistician. I’m a lawyer. In fact, they lied to us in law school and told us we wouldn’t have to do math once we were out practicing. So even if you love my ideas, I have no real skill set to design or implement them. This is purely for conceptual discussion purposes.

Ok, with that out of the way, I wanted to talk about #fancystats for a minute. It’s becoming clear that organizations around the league are starting to recognize the usefulness and momentum that these types of statistics have, evidenced by more and more front offices disclosing their emphasis on integrating them into their management processes.

However, I think we can all agree that the concepts and statistical methodologies are rudimentary at best at this point. It’s also completely understandable. Baseball has led the way in the revolution of statistical analyses, but it has a massive advantage on all other sports: each play happens in a vacuum, and at most there are 2-4 players involved in any given play. This level of isolation makes it incredibly convenient to look at individual performance within that play and assign value to it. The causal relationship between each player on the field is limited, and unlike hockey, plays happening minutes prior have very little bearing on what you are measuring.

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Priorities for free agency

Not getting poached.

After a week in Aruba (side note: awesome trip), I have noticed that the Rangers have not signed their RFAs yet (three filed for arbitration), and there appears to be a bit of a panic about this. It’s not a huge panic, the way there was over Derek Stepan a few years back, but there is still a sense of unease that the Rangers will have one of their RFAs poached, and that the priorities of management should be to get the kids under contract.

Unless there is a legitimate concern that an offer sheet could come (i.e.: Ryan McDonagh last year), then RFAs are never high on the priority list in the beginning of July (or end of June). The reason here is that offer sheets are incredibly rare (due to multiple reasons), so teams focus on filling the holes they can’t fill internally via the UFA market. Time is of the essence in the UFA market. Time is on their side for RFAs.

So why the wait now, that UFA signings are pretty much over?

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Ranger RFA qualifying offers

The Rangers have a whopping five guys headed to restricted free agency, and qualifying offers are going to be handed out relatively soon. A QO is a one-year deal, and does not need to be offered or accepted. Automatic raises are given to players making less than $1 million. Players making less than $660,000 get an automatic 10% raise in their offer, and players making between $660,000 and $1 million get a 5% raise.

It’s safe to assume that all at the NHL level except Falk will receive qualifying offers. At the AHL level, I’d expect Kristo and possibly Bourque to get QOs. Stajcer, Wilson, and Missiaen will likely be let go. Beach is a wild card, I don’t think he gets one, but it wouldn’t shock me.

Just a reminder: Just because a player doesn’t receive a qualifying offer doesn’t mean the Rangers are parting ways. It just means the NHL portion of the salary is too high.

Is the Pouliot news evidence of Sather’s change in approach?

Is Sather learning?

Is Sather learning?

Can old dogs learn new tricks? Everyone will agree that Glen Sather’s approach to the Lundqvist, Girardi and especially Callahan contract situations over the last year adversely impacted the Rangers this season. It almost certainly cost the Rangers their captain (even if Callahan’s demands were excessive).

News of Pouliot and the Rangers having a ‘mutual interest’ in extending the talented winger’s stay in New York may be premature to draw any conclusions from, but alternatively it may be a sign that the Rangers – Sather in particular – may be learning from the trials and tribulations of the past twelve months.

The Rangers have a few major contract situations creeping up on them that could really impact the competitiveness of their roster, long term. The major contract situation is of course Marc Staal’s, who is close to being back to his best and who gives the Rangers an elite defenseman on their second pair – a rare luxury in a cap driven league. With Staal’s situation likely to be a complicated one, getting the contract situations of the likes of Pouliot, Mats Zuccarello and other core roster players resolved early will allow the Rangers to know exactly what they can or can’t afford with regard to Staal.

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Projecting the Rangers’ 2014-2015 payroll, part two

Lots of questions this offseason for Slats.

Lots of questions this offseason for Slats.

Part One

One of the major concerns for next year is the payroll. The Rangers have a lot of money tied into a few players, and about half of the roster will be hitting some form of free agency. Dan Girardi’s contract is done, so that hits the payroll. Martin St. Louis is on the payroll instead of Ryan Callahan, which actually saves a few dollars. But no matter which way you look at it, the Rangers have $54 million tied into 13 players. That gives the Rangers $17 million to get the other eight or nine guys under contract, assuming a $71 million cap*.

*-The cap may drop to $68 million due to the declining value of the Canadian dollar. For the sake of this exercise, we are going to stick to $71 million, as that’s what has been reported.

There are three types of players heading into the offseason: Those that are signed, those that are RFAs, and those that are UFAs. Let’s break them down.

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Cally’s “$7 million demands” are not that surprising

Photo: Hockey This Week

Photo: Hockey This Week

In case you missed it, Darren Dreger reported on TSN Insider yesterday that captain Ryan Callahan does not want seven years and $6 million, he wants $7 years at “between $6.5 million and $7 million.” Dreger is not one to really mess around when it comes to rumors either.


Now before I go into my spiel about negotiations, step one in the process, et cetera et cetera, let’s point out that this is just that: Step one in the process. Also, read this post.

All caught up? Relaxed a bit? Ok good. Let’s point out the specifics of this demand, and why it really shouldn’t be all that surprising to anyone. Remember, this is step one in the negotiations process.

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Projecting the Rangers’ 2014-2015 payroll

The two biggest UFAs

The two biggest UFAs

One of the concerns following the acquisition of Kevin Klein –and his $2.9 million cap hit for the next four seasons– is the payroll for next season. The Rangers are spending $2.9 million on what, at the moment is a bottom pairing defenseman. In the bang-for-your-buck era that is today’s NHL, that generally doesn’t bode well for a team. The issue is magnified for New York, as they have just 10 players under contract at $42 million. With the projected cap ceiling at $71 million, that leaves the Rangers with $24 million to dress a competitive roster.

There are three types of players heading into the offseason: Those that are signed, those that are RFAs, and those that are UFAs. Let’s break them down.

Signed (Cap Hit): Henrik Lundqvist ($8.5m), Rick Nash ($7.8m), Brad Richards ($6.67m), Ryan McDonagh ($4.7m), Marc Staal ($3.975m), Derek Stepan ($3.075m), Kevin Klein ($2.9m), Carl Hagelin ($2.25m), Derek Dorsett ($1.633m), Cam Talbot ($562k)

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Next stop: Yankee Stadium


With last night’s tough loss to St. Louis out of the way, the hockey world’s attention now turns to the much publicized “Stadium Series” games, starting this Saturday.  This weekend’s festivities will see the Ducks and Kings face-off on Saturday at Dodger Stadium (with some of the ugliest unis going, by the way) while the Rangers will battle the Devils on Sunday at Yankee Stadium.

When the NHL announced that there would be five outdoor games in addition to the Winter Classic played this year, much of the reaction centered around some variation of “overkill”.  This is a novelty concept that was charming with one game on New Year’s day, but would the concept be turned into a gimmick by playing this many games outside?  I have to admit,  I was skeptical.

The Rangers were the beneficiaries of two of the five Stadium Series games, against the Devils and Islanders, respectively.  Personally, I was hoping Yankee Stadium’s big hockey reveal would come during a Winter Classic, but alas, it was not meant to be.  The weirder part was that both of these games would feature the Rangers in road white.  Read more »

The NHL missed the mark on goalie fighting

Unless you’ve been living under the proverbial hockey rock, then you at least heard something about the Ray Emery/Braden Holtby incident from a few weeks back.  For those of you who didn’t, here’s the short version: during a 7-0 drubbing of the Flyers at the hands of Washington, a scrum ensued down in the Caps’ end.  Clearly frustrated, Ray Emery decided to skate the length of the ice and viciously pummel a clearly unwilling Braden Holtby.  It was disgusting and deserved supplemental discipline.  However, Brendan Shanahan was unable to cite authority in the rulebook granting him the right to impose further punishment on Sugar Ray.

Fast forward to last week, where it became known that the NHL powers-that-be were going to discuss the incident at the GM meetings in Toronto.  The only hitch, they were talking about banning goalie fights.  Wait, what?

Contrary to the title of this post, this piece actually has nothing to do with goalies.  The only thing that makes goalies relevant to this discussion is that it’s the position Emery and Holtby happen to play, and the league is taking this ridiculous stance to solve the problem.  So, let me get this straight: a willing combatant assaults a completely unwilling combatant, beats him senseless and the solution is, to ban goalie fighting? Read more »

Cap savings from the recent roster moves

Note: Sorry for no post this morning, there was a scheduling issue.

With both Arron Asham and Martin Biron assigned to the AHL yesterday, the Rangers cleared a total of $1.85 million in cap space ($925k a piece). Although their cap hits are higher (Asham – $1 million, Biron – $1.3 million), the “Redden Rule” means that they don’t get to bury the entire contract. Asham’s contract will remain with a $75k cap hit, and Biron’s with a $375k cap hit (unless he retires, then they get the full $1.3 million back).

With Talbot ($562,500) and Miller (approximately $894k) called up, the additional cap taken up is $1.45 million between the two. At the moment, the Rangers have saved about $400k in cap space. That could climb to $775k if Biron retires. Not exactly chump change.

There should be another roster move or two coming, as Carl Hagelin will need to come off LTIR. His $2.25 million will need to count towards the cap again when he returns.