Continuing with the trend of discussing pending free agents, Mike Sauer’s one-year, $500,000 contract has expired, his second with the Rangers, and is headed towards restricted free agency this summer. Sauer played on a one-year, two-way contract last season, spending the entire year in the NHL after three years in the AHL on his entry-level deal. Despite having just one season under his belt, Sauer quickly climbed his way up the Rangers depth chart, moving from training camp question mark to integral member of the blue line in just 82 games. While his play this season earned him a great deal more money, his lack of experience is going to prevent him from getting a true payday.
What is certain is that the Rangers will give Sauer a qualifying offer. As Sauer made less than $660,000 last season, a qualifying offer means he is due a 10% raise to be qualified. This means that Sauer’s qualifying offer will be for $550,000, a no-brainer for the Rangers. Determining what he will get in terms of realistic offers –$550k is too low– is a bit tougher to judge.
Defensive defensemen like Sauer are very difficult to judge, as their worth is not met in points, but in the ability to shut down the opposition. Thus, we have to revert to GVT and DGVT to really gain a measure on what Sauer’s comparable contracts are. Sauer’s GVT for this season was 3.7, relatively modest, but solid for a rookie. His DGVT was slightly better at 3.9, which makes him an effective defensive defenseman, as we’ve seen. He almost directly compares to Mike Weber of Buffalo, who is also entering restricted free agency after his second contract. Weber made $550,000 last season.
With overall GVT a tough barometer to measure, I switched to DGVT, which is a more accurate way to really assess Sauer’s worth. An interesting player came to my attention, and that was Kevin Klein of Nashville. He ahs a 3.5 GVT, and a 3.7 DGVT, so his GVT numbers are right there with Sauer. Then, looking at his raw stats, I saw that Sauer’s are again slightly better, as Sauer produced more offense in his rookie year than Klein did in his first two seasons. Sauer’s +/- (+20) was also way higher than Klein’s (-2) in their rookie years.
Taking the comparison further, you look at Klein’s second year, his contract year, which he finished with a line of 1-10-11, a -13 rating, 27 PIMs, 101 hits and 147 blocked shots. Sauer finished this season, the same contract year, with a line of 2-13-15, a +20 rating, 75 PIMs, 78 hits, and 96 blocked shots. Klein also averages 17 minutes per game, less than Sauer’s 20 minutes per game. After that contract year, Klein worked that into a three-year deal worth $1.35 million per year. The timing and statistical comparisons are almost identical, with Sauer’s overall numbers beating out Klein’s by a slight margin.
Noting Klein’s contract, it’s tough to really say that Sauer will be getting anything less than $1 million, and will likely be in the $1.25 million. It’s almost assured that Sauer’s agent knows about Klein’s contract, and is using that as a starting point in the negotiations. Considering how much Sauer plays, getting him for $1.25 million is a bargain, and Sauer will take his 150% increase in salary all the way to the bank. If I had to guess, I would guess that Sauer gets a two or three year deal, worth anywhere between $1.1 million and $1.4 million. The number varies,
as Sauer is 26 and unrestricted free agency awaits for him next season as the more arbitration-eligible years the Rangers buy out, the more the average annual salary will be. The more UFA years the Rangers buy out, the more the average annual salary will be. Sauer won’t be expensive, and his contract is going to be a huge bargain for the Rangers, but it will be a little bit more than most initially planned.