“Bettman has only a marginal interest in the weaker teams. He only wants the NHL to make a bigger profit as a whole.” -- Dominik Hasek

May 7, 2007

The Real MVPs

Last week, Canadian Business Online released their Hockey's Most And Least Valuable Players list, in which they ranked 449 NHL players according to their salaries divided by their overall performance in various offensive aspects of the game. CBO chose six players as Most Valuable and six players as Least Valuable.

Of the six Most Valuable players in the entire NHL, three were Avalanche teammates:

Best Value: Center = Paul Stastny
Best Value: Left Wing = Andrew Brunette
Best Value: Goaltender = Peter Budaj

Of the six Least Valuable players, only one was an Avalanche team member, and guess who it was...

Worst Value: Goaltender = Jose Theodore

Big surprise there, right? After being paid over five million dollars just to ride the bench, it's not hard to imagine how ridiculously worthless Theodore proved to be, from a financial perspective, of course. I'm sure he's a nice guy.

But back to the Best Value players. Paul Stastny, with a salary $741 thousand, scored 78 points, which means his "price per point" was only $9,509. That ranks him fourth overall in the league, just behind Milan Michalek, Team USA teammate Lee Stempniak and Calgary defenseman Dion Phaneuf---none of whom made over $500 thousand this past season. Andrew Brunette ranked sixth overall with a comparable "price per point" total of $9,639. Compared to Joe Sakic, who scored 100 points at a price of $57,000 per point, these guys were a total bargain.

The list also ranks according to "price per minute on ice", in which salary is divided by total ice time for the season. Stastny was paid only $498 per minute and Brunette only $557 while Sakic earned a whopping $3,474 per minute of ice time---his overall salary was $5.75 million. To be honest, I'd be perfectly happy to settle for "just" $500 per minute of work.

Below is the ranking of all Avalanche players that made the list:

The cheapest NHL player per minute of ice time overall was Dion Phaneuf, who made only $232. The most expensive was Patrik Elias at $5,372 per minute.

As for goalies, Avalanche starter Peter Budaj was by far the best value in the league. At $600 thousand total salary for the season, Budaj had a price per minute of $188---a total bargain for a netminder who won over 30 games. In fact, Budaj led in all categories (price per save, price per shot against, price per minute and save percentage value) except one, which was price per goal against, won by Cam Ward.

Jose Theodore wasn't just the worst value in one or two categories. Among 40 NHL netminders, he finished dead last in every category. His price per minute of ice time was $3,146 and his price per save was $7,097, far and above all others. Not one aspect of his performance justified his outrageous salary of $5.5 million.

In sum, this all bodes very well for the Avalanche. Stastny and Brunette's contracts have not yet expired, and their salaries won't increase significantly for a little while longer. Peter Budaj is also not yet an unrestricted free agent, so he won't be making any more next year either. Assuming they all perform similarly to this past season, the Avalanche should still be getting a lot of bang for their buck. Moreso if they buy out what remains of Jose Theodore's bloated contract and send him packing. There's a short-term salary cap loss, but it's much better for the team (financially and otherwise) in the long run. The team has a lot of cap space at any rate, and a lot of extremely valuable current players who make less than what they're probably worth. That's bad for them, but really good if the team uses the saved money to improve and make a serious playoff run next year. Everyone's bargaining position improves when that happens.

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