Crunching free agent values

24Oct07

What does $1,000,000 buy you? In the case of Scott Gomez, not a hell of a lot. In the case of Jeremy Roenick, quite a bit. Free agency’s always a gamble, and there’s always that mix of busts and jackpots. Here’s a look at a wide spectrum of this year’s big-name free-agent signings. I’ve taken their paid salary (not cap hit) and their point totals and calculated a value based on points-per-game per million dollars.

For you fellow number crunchers out there, I used this formula:

(Total Points / Games Played) / Paid 2007 Salary

The result for the first month of the NHL season? Any way you cut it, Scott Gomez sure ain’t pulling his weight.

Scott Gomez ($10 million): 8 GP, 2G 1A = 3 P
0.0375 points-per-game per million dollars

Daniel Briere ($10 million): 7 GP, 4G 7A = 11 P
0.157 points-per-game per million dollars

Ryan Smyth ($7.5 million): 9 GP, 3G 3A = 6 P
0.088 points-per-game per million dollars

Chris Drury ($7.1 million): 8 GP, 1G 5A = 6 P
0.105 points-per-game per million dollars

Scott Hartnell ($5.2 million): 7 GP, 0G 2A = 2 P
0.055 points-per-game per million dollars

Bill Guerin ($4.5 million): 8 GP, 4G 6A = 10 P
0.277 points-per-game per million dollars

Dustin Penner ($4.25 million): 9 GP, 2G 2A = 4 P
0.105 points-per-game per million dollars

Michal Handzus ($4 million): 10 GP, 1G 1A = 2 P
0.050 points-per-game per million dollars

Mike Comrie ($3.375 million): 8 GP, 5G 5A = 10 P
0.370 points-per-game per million dollars

Petr Sykora ($2.5 million): 8 GP, 4G 3A = 7 P
0.350 points-per-game per million dollars

Jeremy Roenick ($0.5 million): 7 GP, 3G 2A = 5P
1.428 points-per-game per million dollars

Looking at the pure numbers here based on these early statistics, Jeremy Roenick’s provided the most value while Scott Gomez has been the biggest bust by far (as predicted by myself and many other hockey pundits). However, the salary structure here is a bit skewed; if you’re basing player salary strictly on point totals, Chris Drury and Ryan Smyth are overvalued while Dustin Penner really hasn’t done anything to warrant such a gigantic payday. Drury and Smyth get extra compensation for intangible qualities and Penner gets extra compensation because, well, Kevin Lowe’s had a not-so-momentary lapse of reason.

With that in mind, Drury and Smyth’s point totals are falling in line with what seemed to be reasonable considering career expectations to this point. Mike Comrie’s great point total isn’t necessarily a surprise given his inherent talent; his downfall has always been lack of consistency and questionable work ethic. If Ryan Smyth’s heart was transplanted into Comrie’s body, we probably would have seen a consistent 80-point output from him; however, the constant questions surrounding his work ethic dictates his career fluctuations and relatively low salary. Comrie could easily have just a few points on the season and no one would really be surprised.

Gomez has started off his New York Ranger career disastrously and is danger of receiving Bronx Cheers whenever he touches the puck. This signing, though, wasn’t necessarily made with a short-term perspective. When Jaromir Jagr finally returns to the Czech Republic for good, the Blueshirts will belong to Gomez and Drury; at that point, we’ll know what Gomez’s true value is. His averaged cap hit of just over $7 million may look like a bargain at that point — but whether that’s because of salary inflation or because of Gomez’s performance is still to be determined.

Keep in mind too that there’s not exactly a linear correlation between what you earn and what you produce. In theory, the average NHLer pots in about 30 points and makes about $1.5 million for a 0.244 point-per-game per million dollars. Someone who averages about 60 points usually makes around $4.5 million for a 0.162 points-per-game per million dollars while someone who’s clicking at a point-per-game or above is making anywhere from $6.5 million to $10 million.

So, in keeping that context in mind, along with factoring in age, track record of consistency, and intangibles, most of these free agent signings are falling into what was reasonably expected of them. The biggest busts so far (and it is still early) really have to be Gomez, Penner, Hartnell, and Handzus, while the gem has been Roenick, whose performance makes a 15 goal/40 point season a reasonable projection.

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2 Responses to “Crunching free agent values”

  1. 1 Scott

    Mike, I actually did my independent research paper in college about the cost of MLB players in terms of on and off the field value. For playing time, I found the sabermetric stat “Win Shares” to be indispendable in my calculations. Is there such a metric in hockey? Something that incorporates +/-, points, or anything else into a measure of how much a player’s performance contributes to their team’s actual victories. Just curious!

  2. 2 Mike Chen

    Scott, there’s no realy “Moneyball” type thing in hockey just yet, though I suggest you check out The Forechecker’s blog at forechecker.blogspot.com — he crunches numbers in ways I can’t possibly imagine.


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