Monday, August 06, 2007


Paul Martin and His Worth

Well, Paul Martin remains as the only restricted free agent left for the Devils to sign. In the comments in a prior post, someone took exception to my thinking that Paul Martin can command a $4 million/year salary. Since nothing else of importance is going on with the Devils, let's take a closer look at who Paul Martin is and what kind of money he can command.

Paul Martin is a 26 year old two-way defenseman who has just completed his third season with the New Jersey Devils. Let's look at some of his more meaningful stats at He was second on the team in average time on the ice with 25:13 a night, 16 seconds below Brian Rafalski's average and 16th highest in the NHL last season. He did lead the team in average shifts per game last season (yes, I have finally taken notice of that stat) with 29.6 (20th most in the NHL). He has seen time on both the power play and penalty killing units and it's fair to say that while he may not have been technically on the top defensive pairing, he plays top pairing minutes. His point totals from this past season (3-23-26) dipped from the season prior (5-32-37) by 11; but it's clear his responsibilities on defense has increased as his career progresses in New Jersey. He's well-disciplined (only 18 penalty minutes last year) and despite a slow start last season; I believe he has definitely blossomed into being a defenseman who can play solid defense for 24-26 minutes a night. With Rafalski now in Detroit, Martin is pretty much the de facto #1 defenseman in New Jersey due to his time on the ice and the number of shifts he (already) gets.

Now, you may disagree that Martin is not a true #1; and I would agree that he is not to a point due to his lack of experience and production. That's not to say he never will become one, it's just that he is not a #1 defenseman right now. He'll likely play in that role with the Devils in the coming season, so we'll have a better understanding of whether he can thrive in that role or show that he is really a #2/#3 defenseman. However, because he'll likely be on the first defensive pairing and be a #1, I think we should accept that he is a #1 for the sake of the argument. That argument being how much is a #1 defenseman worth in today's market. (Note: I am using for all salary information.)

In general, there are three kinds of defensemen that most people would recognize as classifications for the position: offensive (e.g. Sheldon Souray), defensive (e.g. Adam Foote), and two-way (e.g. Nicklas Lidstrom, Scott Neidermayer). If you take a look at the league leaders in average time on ice from last season, you'll get an idea of which defensemen are considered to be the #1 defensemen on their team. Not necessarily their best (though they should be and they usually are), but the ones who play the most minutes and generally lead the unit. Notice that most of them not only are on the ice, but also have a good level of point production. Since they are the #1 defensemen, you usually will find them on the power play at the point and contribute on offense in even-strength situations. To me, this makes sense - why have a guy play upwards of 25 minutes a night to give you nothing on offense or defense unless he's exceptional at either. Therefore, for comparison purposes, it's important that we compare the proper defensemen types - two-ways versus two-ways, since Martin plays like and is a two-way defenseman.

Let's look at the salaries of some of these two-way defensemen (some are better than others) who are #1 defensemen on their own team and see what they will earn next season:

Nicklas Lidstrom - $7.6 million
Scott Niedermayer - $6.75 million (should he play next year)
Bryan McCabe - $7.15 million (yeah, that's not a typo)
Jay Bouwmeester - $2.25 million
Sergei Zubov - $4 million
Dion Phaneuf - $942,000 (still on his rookie deal, I believe)
Brian Rafalski - $6 million (now with Detroit, former #1 on NJ)
Mattias Ohlund - $3.5 million
Eric Brewer - $3.5 million
Robert Blake - $6 million
Wade Redden - $6.5 million

These aren't completely perfect comparisons (some are young, some are legendary, some are living on prior successes in their careers), but they play similar styles and a lot of minutes for their team. Notice that most of the people on that list are veterans and have averaged more ice time than Martin last season (Ohlund, Brewer, Blake, Redden are the exceptions). This makes comparisons tough since most of the high-minute players are older than Martin and are either in the primes of their careers or near the end of them - exceptions being Phaneuf and Bouwmeester who are both younger than Martin (and play more minutes and have got more points). But my point is that being a #1 defenseman who plays a lot of minutes on average for a team generally leads to some high-paying contracts - Bouwmeester and Phaneuf will likely get some sweet contracts after this season.

To bring some sort of conclusion to all of this, if I'm in Paul Martin's shoes, I would look at this list and note that - the younger Bouwmeester and Phaneuf - these guys get paid at least $3.5 million with the elite defensemen (McCabe aside, seriously, how does he deserve that much??) earning at least $6 million. I'd shoot pretty high in terms of a salary with the fact that only 15 people have played more on average than me and almost all of them are making at least Colin White-level money. If I were on management's side - Lou's side - I'd note that all of these players were more productive on offense, and since point-earning defensemen are at a premium in this league, that is why most of them get paid so much in addition to the amount of ice time they are called upon to play. Therefore, the team would likely negotiate with Martin to a range around $3.5 million to $4 million. Because Martin has yet to assert himself as a productive player on offense, he won't make elite-level money (after all, he's not an elite defenseman). The amount of defensive responsiblities he has and his average ice time, however, compared to similar players who play similar roles for their teams should have him get that much.

Hence, my conclusion that Paul Martin can command about $4 million in salary - which is no problem as the Devils clearly have the salary cap space. A long-term deal for that much will become a bargain should Martin continue to improve in that #1 role. If Lou can get Martin to agree to less, that would be fantastic. Nevertheless, I just wanted to point out that I didn't pull that figure from out of nowhere.


Nice post so far, but I haven't finished reading it, but I wanted to nitpick:

It's N_i_e_dermayer. I before E, just like the rule says (i before e, except after c...)

Back to your regular programming...
Thank you for that nit, the name has been changed. This is what I get for writing a post late in the evening, I suppose - interestingly, I made a point of it to check on Phaneuf and Bouwmeester.
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