When Alex Killorn settled outside of arbitration for a seven-year contract that has an annual average value of $4.45 million, he made comments about taking a discount to stay in Tampa. Prior to his signing, I really thought that he was more likely to fall into the $4-$4.25 million range with up to $4.5 million possible and that was considering it a “fair market deal.” I also thought that the deal would either be a two-year deal, or if the front office was really in love with him, a five-year deal. Instead, he got seven years and I was a bit flabbergasted.
Not only did he sign for more than I thought he would have, he signed a deal longer than I thought he should have been given. And since then, several other restricted free agents of similar, or perhaps a little better, caliber as Killorn have signed new contracts in the same neighborhood, but for shorter term.
Before I get to these other players to start comparing them, let’s just highlight Killorn’s career numbers and output since entering the NHL. In 272 regular season games, he has 53 goals and 85 assists for 138 points, good for a 0.51 point per game scoring pace. In the playoffs, he has 47 games played with 15 goals and 18 assists for 33 points and a 0.70 point per game scoring pace. His career highs in the counting stats are 17 for goals, 26 for assists, and 41 for points. His best point per game season was 0.54 points per game. Killorn turns 27 in September and will be 33 when his contract is finished.
You already had Vincent Trocheck of the Florida Panthers who is younger, has posted career highs of 25 goals and 53 points this past season signed to his new deal. While he doesn’t have the playoff experience and only has 146 career NHL games, he was given a six-year deal that pays $4.75 million per year. He will turn 29 the summer after his contract is finished.
Trocheck is already showing more potential than Killorn as a younger player and is being paid $300,000 more than Killorn. That’s just enough to pay the salary for half a year of a player making the league minimum.
Then there’s Sean Couturier of the Philadelphia Flyers. He is 23 years old and signed a six-year deal with the Flyers for $4,333,333 per season. Couturier has 350 NHL games with 157 points for 0.45 points per game. His career highs are 15 goals, 28 assists, and 39 points. The Flyers haven’t been very good and he dealt with an injury that kept him out of all but one playoff game this past season and he does not have much of a playoff record to look at.
Like Killorn though, he’s been right around the 40 point mark the past three seasons. It’s his first two seasons in the NHL as an 18 and 19 year old that brings his overall point per game mark down. He’s younger and has very similar production to Killorn. Like Trocheck, he’ll be 29 when he’s a free agent and the Flyers are buying out several free agent years. He also had 39 points in only 63 games in 2015-16 marking the possibility of him taking the next step to better production as he enters his prime years.
With Couturier having similar production and showing signs of further growth, Killorn is earning slightly more than him with only his playoff experience and performance to really set him apart from Couturier.
After getting a one-year show me deal from the Toronto Maple Leafs for $4.1 million in 2014-15, Kadri did exactly that. He put up 45 points for a very, very, very bad Leafs team and was rewarded with a six-year contract for $4.5 million per year. Kadri is a year younger than Killorn and will be 31 when his contract is finished.
In 326 games, he has 197 points for a 0.60 point per game scoring pace. His career highs are 20 goals, 30 assists and 50 points which all came in 2013-14. His best overall year though was the lockout year of 2012-13 when he had 18 goals, 26 assists for 44 points in only 48 games. He also had 4 points in 7 playoff games, his only NHL playoff experience. That Toronto Maple Leafs team was fairly good with Phil Kessel, Kadri, James van Riemsdyk, and Cody Franson leading the way in scoring. Dion Phaneuf was also still on top of his game.
That 2012-13 performance shows that he has the potential to provide more offense than he has the last couple of years, especially as some of the Maple Leafs’ top forward offensive talent starts to join him in Toronto. And yet he’s only making $50,000 more per year than Killorn.
Victor Rask of the Carolina Hurricanes has only been in the NHL for two full seasons after a full year in the AHL following his juniors career. He signed a six-year deal for $4 million per year, $450,000 per year less than Killorn. He has 160 NHL games with 81 points good for 0.51 points per game, the same rate as Killorn. However, Rask has shown growth from his first year to his second as he posted career highs in goals (21), assists (28) and points (49). He’s still young as a 23 year old and will be 29 when his contract is complete.
Rask is also a center which gives him a bump in value. He’s already surpassed Killorn’s career highs in goals and points. However, he does lack playoff experience though as Carolina is still a rebuilding team. It feels like it’s a good bet to pick Rask over Killorn for production over the course of both deals.
Not long after Killorn signed his deal, the Washington Capitals signed Marcus Johansson to a three-year deal for $4,583,333 per year. In 419 NHL games, Johansson has 154 points for a scoring pace of 0.55 points per game. Unlike most of the previous examples, he does have playoff experience. In 56 games he has scored only 22 points, a significant drop from his regular season scoring pace.
Over the past three seasons, Johansson has put up slightly better point totals than Killorn with 44, 47, and 46 points. He had 22 points in 36 games during the lockout and the season prior had 46 points. Johansson has been remarkably consistent and for a longer time than Killorn. He is also a year younger than Killorn.
While his playoff production doesn’t match up to Killorn’s, he is on a shorter deal that is only buying a couple of unrestricted free agent years. His regular season production is very similar and even slightly better than Killorn’s. And like Killorn he is on a team that has Stanley Cup winning potential. The Capitals have taken on less risk of Johansson falling off late in a contract against the risk of having to pay more to retain him after his deal is finished.
The most recent signing was Chris Kreider of the New York Rangers. A year and a half younger than Killorn, Kreider also went the NCAA route going to Boston College for three years and winning the NCAA championship twice as well as a Bronze and Gold Medal in the World Junior Championships.
Since entering the league, Kreider has steadily grown into a complete second line player much like Killorn. In 248 games, he has 129 points for 0.52 points per game. He has career highs of 21 goals (which he’s done twice), 25 assists, and 46 points. Over the past three seasons in the NHL, he has 37, 46, and 43 points. He has also scored 33 points in 65 playoff games.
While not quite as good of a playmaker as Killorn, Kreider has shown more scoring touch as evidenced by hitting the 20 goal plateau twice which Killorn has thus far been unable to reach. His performance earned him a four-year contract paying him $4.625 million per year. That’s $175,000 more per year than Killorn.
So, where does the discount come from? Frankly, there isn’t much of one. Most of the possible discount comes from the last 3-4 years of the contract IF (and only if) Killorn maintains or improves his production through the life of the contract. A deal in the two to four year range would have put Killorn as an unrestricted free agent at 28 to 30 years old. And it’s very possible that as a free agent he would command a deal like David Backes’ five-year deal for $6 million per year. That is the risk you take with a shorter term deal. But with a longer term deal, especially one that will reach several years past a players’ 30th birthday, there is a certain amount of risk that his play will suffer as he gets older.
But it’s still hard to look at these other contracts that very similar players have gotten and see exactly where the discount is or to even quantify how much of a discount he took. With Stamkos, is much clearer what kind of discount he took to stay in Tampa. The same with Victor Hedman.
Maybe the discount just means that Killorn was asking for a lot more money than he was worth, but came down in price to meet Steve Yzerman’s offer. That’s about the only way that I can come up with to firmly say that Killorn took a discount to stay in Tampa. Because really, this just looks like a market deal that’s right in the same range that a lot of players in similar positions received from their teams.