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A nine million dollar cap hit is high but not unreasonable for Skinner

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“Life’s too short to worry about the Salary Cap in five years.” - Andrew Meyer - Ben Mathewson

NHL: Buffalo Sabres at Tampa Bay Lightning Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Multiple reports from the likes of Bob McKenzie of TSN and NBCSN, Jeremy White of WGR 550, and Die By The Blade’s own Chad DeDominicis suggest that the Buffalo Sabres and Jeff Skinner may be close to finalizing a deal in the eight-year $72 million ($9 million/year) range, give or take half a million dollars.

That’s a lot of money! But if we step back and look at standard operating procedure around the league for players with similar outputs as Jeff Skinner, I don’t think that cap hit is as outrageous as it initially sounds.

Since the 2010/2011 season, Skinner’s rookie campaign, Jeff is fifth in the NHL in even strength goal scoring with 191 goals, trailing only Alex Ovechkin, John Tavares, Patrick Kane, and Steven Stamkos.

Earlier today I laid out a mini thread on twitter showing the cap hit percentage, at the time of signing their contract, of the top 50 goal scorers (27+ Goals) in 2018/2019 on a Standard (non-ELC) contract. In this case, the average cap hit percentage for these 50 players is 9.07%.

Top 50 Goal Scorers on Standard Contracts

PLAYER CAP HIT % GOALS
PLAYER CAP HIT % GOALS
AVERAGE 9.07% 34.08
1. Alex Ovechkin 16.80% 51
2. Leon Draisaitl 11.30% 50
3. John Tavares 13.80% 47
4. Steven Stamkos 11.60% 45
5. Patrick Kane 15.20% 44
6. Nikita Kucherov 6.50% 41
7. Cam Atkinson 7.80% 41
8. Nathan MacKinnon 8.60% 41
9. Connor McDavid 16.70% 41
10. Jeff Skinner 9.50% 40
11. Joe Pavelski 9.30% 38
12. Mark Scheifele 8.40% 38
13. David Pastrnak 8.90% 38
14. Johnny Gaudreau 9.20% 36
15. Brad Marchand 8.40% 36
16. Mike Hoffman 7.10% 36
17. Tomas Hertl 7.10% 35
18. Jonathan Toews 15.20% 35
19. Sidney Crosby 14.50% 35
20. Aleksander Barkov 8.10% 35
21. Sean Monahan 8.70% 34
22. Gabriel Landeskog 8.70% 34
23. Viktor Arvidsson 5.70% 34
24. Tyler Seguin 9.60% 33
25. Vladimir Tarasenko 10.30% 33
26. Sean Couturier 6.10% 33
27. Mark Stone 9.20% 33
28. Brendan Gallagher 5.40% 33
29. Dylan Larkin 7.70% 32
30. Patrice Bergeron 10.70% 32
31. Matt Duchene 9.30% 31
32. Mika Zibanejad 7.10% 30
33. Andreas Athanasiou 3.80% 30
34. Jonathan Huberdeau 8.10% 30
35. Evander Kane 9.30% 30
36. Alexander Radulov 8.30% 29
37. Tyler Johnson 6.70% 29
38. Ryan Nugent-Hopkins 9.30% 28
39. Filip Forsberg 8.20% 28
40. Ryan O'Reilly 10.50% 28
41. Jack Eichel 13.30% 28
42. Evgeni Dadonov 5.30% 28
43. Chris Kreider 6.30% 28
44. Artemi Panarin 8.20% 28
45. Anders Lee 5.30% 28
46. Max Domi 4.20% 28
47. Zach Parise 12.60% 28
48. Kyle Palmieri 6.40% 27
49. Logan Couture 9.30% 27
50. Elias Lindholm 6.10% 27
https://www.capfriendly.com/browse/active/2019/goals&contract=standard&display=caphit-percent

One issue with this output is that many of the players in the top 50 signed their contracts as restricted free agents, meaning the team signing them had more leverage during negotiations, likely driving down their cap hit a bit on the average.

So I went back and compiled a list of every player who scored at least 25 goals and signed their current contract as an unrestricted free agent. 19 players fit this criteria and had an average cap hit of 10.58%

25+ Goal UFA Cap Hit%

PLAYER CAP HIT % GOALS
PLAYER CAP HIT % GOALS
AVERAGE 10.58% 33
1. John Tavares 13.80% 47
2. Steven Stamkos 11.60% 45
3. Patrick Kane 15.20% 44
4. Cam Atkinson 7.80% 41
5. Joe Pavelski 9.30% 38
6. Brad Marchand 8.40% 36
7. Jonathan Toews 15.20% 35
8. Sidney Crosby 14.50% 35
9. Patrice Bergeron 10.70% 32
10. Evander Kane 9.30% 30
11. Alexander Radulov 8.30% 29
12. Ryan O'Reilly 10.50% 28
13. Evgeni Dadonov 5.30% 28
14. Zach Parise 12.60% 28
15. James van Riemsdyk 8.80% 27
16. Phil Kessel 12.40% 27
17. Jamie Benn 13.00% 27
18. T.J. Oshie 7.70% 25
19. Jonathan Marchessault 6.70% 25
https://www.capfriendly.com/browse/active/2019/goals&signing-status=ufa&display=caphit-percent

Cap Hit percentage isn’t a perfect science, especially given the low sample size to work with and significant outliers like Brad Marchand signing for 8.4% of the cap despite coming off a 39 goal season is a massive, and fortunate, underpayment by the Bruins, but it helps give us a picture of an acceptable range for a player of Jeff Skinner’s talent level.

If Skinner does in fact sign for $9 million per year, based on an $83 million salary cap for the 19/20 season, he would come in at 10.8% of the cap. That is certainly slightly above average and it would be great if Jason Botterill were able to get that number a bit lower, but I think we can safely say it’s not a significant overpay and not worth fretting over.

Teams rarely regret signing actually good players to sizable contracts even if their cap hit looks big and scary. The big mistakes happen when you sign $3 million players to $5.5 million contracts because a player at that level is likely replaceable by a player on an ELC or a tertiary free agent looking for an opportunity to prove himself.

Skinner isn’t an easily replaceable player and is someone worth paying a touch extra for in order to make sure you have him on your team.

I suggest we all take Andy Meyer’s advice to heart.