Steve Yzerman Keeps Flexing Numbers

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The Tampa Bay Lightning decided to turn the page and sign a new Vice-President and General Manager in 2010, after they failed to make the playoffs for the third consecutive time. Their choice? Steve Yzerman, the Red Wings legend whose path to management in Detroit was blocked back in the day, forcing him to look at alternative options such as the Bolts’ one. Since the day he got the reins of Tampa Bay, the Lighting have won a respectable 58.9% percent of their games and averaged 89.5 points per season (including the shortened 2012/13 one) for a percentage of 57.0% points won of all of those available. During the past seven seasons the franchise has made the playoffs four times and reached the Stanley Cup Final once (only to lose it to a dynasty-esque Blackhawks team). But what has made Yzerman’s name stand out lately has been his masterful ability in negotiating contracts and keeping his team competitive while under the salary cap limit.

The last case of Yzerman’s victories in this department is that of Tyler Johnson, who has followed the path of Steven Stamkos (signed for 8 years and $68M last season), Andrei Vasilevskiy (3yrs, $10.5M), Victor Hedman (8yrs, $63M), Alex Killorn (7yrs, $31.15M) and Nikita Kucherov (3yrs, $14.3M). Everyone of those deals has everything to turn into a great win for Tampa Bay and Steve Yzerman given the quality of the players named in them and the yearly value of the contracts in relation with the production of the players being handed them.

Jonhson’s new contract with Tampa will keep him wearing blue (barring the waive of his NTC by the player) for the next seven years at an AAV of $5M. Given Tyler Jonshon’s production during his first five seasons in the league, the deal looks –how not– as another win for Yzerman. By Hockey-Reference.com calculations, Johnshon has provided 0.7, 6.5, 10.3, 4.2 and 4.8 extra points (Point Shares) to the Lightning. He has become a 40+ point player (he only fell short of that mark in his first year playing just 14 games and in 2015/16 getting 38) while not playing the full 82 games in all but one season.

Looking at his per-60 stats during the past four seasons, he’s averaging 0.82 goals (ranked 132nd out of 1380 players in the league during the time span), 1.18 assists (115th) and 2.0 points (88th). If we go further and look at players with a OZFO% (Offensive Zone Face Off Percentage) lower than 32.5% (Johnson’s number) his numbers look even better.

In order to put Tyler Jonhson’s new contract in perspective we can look at some comparable deals signed during the past few years and then compare the signed players’ abilities to those of Tyler. Per CapFriendly, the five most similar deals to that of Johnson are the following:

  • Alex Killorn (2016): 7yrs, $4.45M AAV
  • Nazem Kadri (2016): 6yrs, $4.5M AAV
  • Reilly Smith (2016): 5yrs, $5M AAV
  • Kyle Palmieri (2016): 5yrs, $4.65M AAV
  • Alex Galchenyuk (2017): 3yrs, $4.9M AAV
  • Sean Couturier (2015): 6yrs, $4.3M AAV

Only Reilly Smith got to Johnson’s AAV, while Alex Killorn (also a Bolt) was the one able to sign for seven years. Making use of the Skater Rating Charts (SRC) we can easily compare each player with Tyler Johnson in a few different playing categories. This way it will be easy to see if Yzerman won the negotiation and got great value at the right price or if he overpaid for Tyler’s production (based on what he has done up to this point in his career.)

The following SRCs include three-year weighted ranking values for both Tyler Johnson and each of his comparables, with the last season taken into account being that in which the player signed the extension. The same scale has been applied to all of them in order to make it easier not only to compare those players with Johnson but also between them.

Judging by the overall rating of all six comparables, only Reilly Smith ranks as a 1st-Line forward, while the rest of the field stays between the 2nd and 3rd lines. That is a good comparison to Johnson’s 3rd-Line ranking, given the drop in production he has experienced during the 2016/17 season which has make his rating drop quite a bit while applying seasonal weights. Even with that, there is not much difference between Johnson’s and the rest of the men abilities. If Tyler can improve his defensive game a little and contribute in his own zone a little more he will surely overcome every of those other fellow forwards’ values.

An interesting point to take into account while valuing this deal is –as has already been mentioned– how Tyler Jonhson’s production dropped during this past season in relation to his early ones. Going to back to 2011/12 season (which Jonhson didn’t take part of but is still accounted for in the weighting of his value, penalizing it) and up to this day in time, Tyler Johnson’s evolution can also be analyzed, as shown in the following chart.

First of all, Johnson has never dropped below the 70 rating reserved for 3rd-Line forwards. Already in his rookie season he posted a 72 overall rating, falling short of a 2nd-Line valued role by a nail. Once he established himself in the league from 2013 to 2016 his rating jumped all the way up to almost top-notch heights. If we run the most simple of projections and weight the past three seasons with values of 0.5, 0.35 and 0.15 (thus making the calculation 0,5*71+0,35*76+0,15*77), we arrive at an expected overall rating of 73.65 for the next season. Given that Johnson is entering his peak years of play, too, that rating could even get higher, which would put him back closer to a 1st-Line talent player.

All in all, it feels like Steve Yzerman acquired the best years of one of the most exciting and young players once again by signing Tyler Johnson to a seven year deal at a more than logical AAV value. In the near future, bridge deals such as those of Kucherov and Vasilevskiy will end and will force Yzerman to make his magic work again. The thing is, everything points to successful stories being written all over gain.

Tags: / Category: NHL

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