RALEIGH, NC - JANUARY 14: Jiri Tlusty provided the Hurricanes with the most value for their money this season. (Photo by Grant Halverson/Getty Images)
Last week, I looked at the Goals Versus Threshold (GVS) values for each of the Hurricanes’ players this past season to see who was contributing and preventing the most goals compared to a replacement level player. In that article, I mentioned that I had some issues with the GVT formula (specifically for calculating defensive value) but I do see this as a useful way to evaluate some players when context is added. Hockey is too complex of a game to have one end-be-all statistic for a player, but metrics like GVT are a good start to judging a player’s value and we can use a player’s GVT value to determine many other things.
One of those is finding out how much a certain player is producing relative to his contract’s value. To do that, you would use a stat called "Goals Versus Salary" which compares a player’s GVT with what is expected from a player who is making the same amount of money. For instance, a player making $6 mil. per year is expected to produce more than someone who is making half that so judging a player’s performance compared to their salary makes sense for a team who is on a budget, like the Hurricanes.
The method to determine a player’s GVS value is actually pretty simple. What you do is you subtract the cost of a replacement level player (about $500k) from a player’s salary, multiply it by 2.2 and then subtract that from the player’s GVT value during that year. In the original formula, you would multiply it by three because GVS works by judging how a player should perform above replacement value. A team with 20 replacement level players would cost about $10 million, which would leave you with about $54.3 left in cap space under the current arrangement. The salary cap was lower when this formula was invented, so I decided to adjust it to reflect the current salary cap. Anyway, with the league average GVT being 120, each player is expected to contribute at least 2.2 goals per every $1 mil. they make under the current salary cap. This means that you would expect players making more money to produce more than someone making near the league minimum.
Jim Rutherford has done a pretty good job in his tenure of finding good bargains for his money, so understanding GVS is something that can really help out a team working with a budget like the Hurricanes. After the jump, we will look at which players gave the Hurricanes the most bang for their buck.
GVT = Goals Versus Threshold, GVS = Goals Versus Salary
Jiri Tlusty made near the league minimum last season and he gave the Hurricanes a lot for very little money. He played top-six minutes, scored 17 goals and produced nearly 7 more goals than what you would get from a replacement level player. Rutherford always seems to find players like this. He was regarded as a "failed prospect" from the Toronto Maple Leafs but Rutherford saw something in him that he liked and the team’s patience with Tlusty managed to pay off this season. Tlusty was rewarded with a two-year contract worth $3.2 mil. and he will need to produce at least 2.4-3.3 goals above replacement level (depending on what the salary cap is) to give the Hurricanes good value for their money. Considering that most players in the 2-3 GVT range are third liners, defensive specialists or players who produce 10-20 points, Tlusty living up to his next contract shouldn’t be too hard.
Brandon Sutter also gave the Hurricanes a good amount of production for the $1.5 mil. he was making this year but his contract gets increasingly expensive with each season. He will make $2 mi. next year and $2.7 mil. the year after. Can he live up to his contract’s value in those years? Most likely. Sutter’s GVT is still very young and has a good chance of becoming more effective offensively later in his career, so there is a good chance that he can outperform his contract’s value over the next few seasons. The only way I see him looking bad through GVS is if he is used in even more of a restricted defensive role than he is now. GVT tends to be harsh on players who are regarded as heavy-lifters because they are on ice for more shots and goals against due to the situations they play in and Sutter’s point total might take a hit if he’s used in those situations, as well. Regardless, I think Sutter will give the Canes great value for the rest of his contract. He’s only going to get better and is only making $1.5-$2.7 mil. for the rest of his contract. If he turns into an even better two-way player, then he could be one of the best values in the league. That might be just wishful thinking on my part, though.
A couple of the other bargains on this list are players who are on their entry-level deals, namely Jeff Skinner and Drayson Bowman. The idea with entry level contracts is that you want to get the best value out of a player while he is in his cheaper years and the Canes are getting that with Skinner right now. The only thing I would worry about is that he is going to become a free agent after next season and will become more expensive at a younger age, which could be a problem. I trust that Rutherford will have him re-signed to a reasonable contract but a lot of it could depend on what Skinner does next season.
Both Anthony Stewart and Tim Brent also gave the Hurricanes a good amount of value for under $1 mil. while Chad LaRose and Jussi Jokinen gave the Hurricanes about the kind of value you would expect for the money they are making. Although, I thought LaRose would have much more value because 19 goals for $1.5 is a good bargain, but GVT really punished LaRose for his defensive problems.
This won’t come as a surprise to many but Eric Staal didn’t live up to his contract’s value and the truth is that he never will unless he has a 40-goal/90+ point season. He is being paid as if he is an elite forward and while Staal led the team in almost every category this season, he still wasn’t giving the Hurricanes enough for the $7.75 mil. he was making this season. Staal’s contract also gets more expensive over the next few years (he makes over $9 mil. in the last three years) so it’s very unlikely that he will ever look good compared to how much he is making unless he has a 100+ point season out of the blue. While I don’t fault Rutherford for giving Staal a big contract, this deal shows how dangerous long-term deals can be, especially ones that have a cap hit as high as Staal’s. I think Staal’s is one of those players where you have to separate him from his contract, because there’s little to no chance that he will live up to that value no matter how good he is.
Tuomo Ruutu was the other forward who gave the Hurricanes negative value and that’s probably going to get worse when his new contract kicks in. Injuries and a rough start made this a down year for Ruutu and I think he was better than his GVT value suggests. Ruutu is going to be held to a higher standard the next few years because he’s being paid more, so hopefully he can rebound and produce more next season.
Like Tlusty with the forwards, Jay Harrison gave the Hurricanes the best value among their defense corps. He played top four minutes, scored the most goals among defensemen and played on both special teams units. That’s a big workload for someone who made less than $1 mil. and GVS rewards him for that. Oddly enough, this is another player from the Leafs system who the Hurricanes ended up getting great value from.
Jamie McBain and Justin Faulk also gave the Hurricanes good value on their entry level-contracts and McBain should continue to give the Hurricanes value in his new contract, too. A player making $1.7-1.9 mil. is expected to produce 2.64-4.2 goals above replacement level and McBain is more than capable of doing that. The only way he doesn’t give the Hurricanes good value is if his play completely falls off a cliff over the next two years. That can happen with any player, though.
Joni Pitkanen is at the bottom here and that’s mostly because he missed over half of the season. GVT also says that he was a liability defensively, which I do not completely agree with. However, I do think it’s fair to say that Pitkanen needs to do more if he is going to be paid $4.5 mil. per year but I’d like to see a full season out of him before I make any final judgments. So much of the "defensive value" of GVT is based on luck, so how Pitkanen will look by this statistic next year is a mystery if he doesn’t have a good offensive season.
How this system rates defensemen is where I draw most of my issues. It lists here that Tim Gleason and Bryan Allen gave the Hurricanes negative value when they were arguably the team’s best tough-minute players this season. They don’t score a lot so they are never going to have much offensive value, but their defensive value is based on how many shots they give up and how many goals they "prevent." A duo that starts so often in the defensive zone is going to be on ice for a lot of shots and goals against regardless, so there’s a good chance that they will be rated low by GVT, and that was the case with Allen. Gleason is still rated pretty high for a defensive defenseman, but it still says that he gave the team negative value and that will probably be the case next season when his four-year contract kicks in.
Seeing that makes you wonder how much a shutdown defenseman is worth in the open-market. My opinion is that $4 mil. is fair for someone who plays Gleason’s role, but should he provide more offense to justify that cost? Not necessarily. The amount of "defensive value" that a player has is very debatable and can change from year-to-year, so I think the $3-4 mil. price tag for a proven shutdown defenseman is fair. Plus, there might be some defensemen who might appear to be more valuable because of the role they play, like an offensive defenseman who accumulates most of his points on the powerplay
Much like Staal, Cam Ward is being paid top-dollar and he needs to play at top-tier level in order for the Hurricanes to get value out of it. Ward didn’t come close to that this season but he did last year when he had an even strength save percentage of .927 and was the Hurricanes’ best player. Goalie performance is extremely hard to predict because save percentage tends to jump around from year to year and Ward’s play over the last two years is a prime example of that. I think Rutherford made a mistake with Ward’s contract because of how volatile goaltenders are, but there’s actually still a chance that Ward might have another season where he lives up to his contract’s value. He is still in the "prime" of his career and you never know what you’ll get with goaltenders.
Take Justin Peters for example, he performed at a level that was way below replacement level last year and gave the Hurricanes the best value among goaltenders this season. That’s usually how small sample sizes work and who knows what the team will get out of Peters next season. Same goes for Brian Boucher, who performed very poorly in his nine game sample and might be fighting for a roster spot in training camp. Both goalies aren’t making much and probably won’t be asked to play many games next season.
Like all stats, this isn’t perfect and I’d like to change a few things up to determine what other ways a player might be valuable, but I think GVS can be a very useful tool for GMs to see which players will give them the most for their money. However, this shouldn’t be the only thing that a GM looks at when it comes to signing players because there are lots of things that GVT doesn’t account for.