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

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

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

1. Alex Ovechkin16.80%51
2. Leon Draisaitl11.30%50
3. John Tavares13.80%47
4. Steven Stamkos11.60%45
5. Patrick Kane15.20%44
6. Nikita Kucherov6.50%41
7. Cam Atkinson7.80%41
8. Nathan MacKinnon8.60%41
9. Connor McDavid16.70%41
10. Jeff Skinner9.50%40
11. Joe Pavelski9.30%38
12. Mark Scheifele8.40%38
13. David Pastrnak8.90%38
14. Johnny Gaudreau9.20%36
15. Brad Marchand8.40%36
16. Mike Hoffman7.10%36
17. Tomas Hertl7.10%35
18. Jonathan Toews15.20%35
19. Sidney Crosby14.50%35
20. Aleksander Barkov8.10%35
21. Sean Monahan8.70%34
22. Gabriel Landeskog8.70%34
23. Viktor Arvidsson5.70%34
24. Tyler Seguin9.60%33
25. Vladimir Tarasenko10.30%33
26. Sean Couturier6.10%33
27. Mark Stone9.20%33
28. Brendan Gallagher5.40%33
29. Dylan Larkin7.70%32
30. Patrice Bergeron10.70%32
31. Matt Duchene9.30%31
32. Mika Zibanejad7.10%30
33. Andreas Athanasiou3.80%30
34. Jonathan Huberdeau8.10%30
35. Evander Kane9.30%30
36. Alexander Radulov8.30%29
37. Tyler Johnson6.70%29
38. Ryan Nugent-Hopkins9.30%28
39. Filip Forsberg8.20%28
40. Ryan O'Reilly10.50%28
41. Jack Eichel13.30%28
42. Evgeni Dadonov5.30%28
43. Chris Kreider6.30%28
44. Artemi Panarin8.20%28
45. Anders Lee5.30%28
46. Max Domi4.20%28
47. Zach Parise12.60%28
48. Kyle Palmieri6.40%27
49. Logan Couture9.30%27
50. Elias Lindholm6.10%27

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%

1. John Tavares13.80%47
2. Steven Stamkos11.60%45
3. Patrick Kane15.20%44
4. Cam Atkinson7.80%41
5. Joe Pavelski9.30%38
6. Brad Marchand8.40%36
7. Jonathan Toews15.20%35
8. Sidney Crosby14.50%35
9. Patrice Bergeron10.70%32
10. Evander Kane9.30%30
11. Alexander Radulov8.30%29
12. Ryan O'Reilly10.50%28
13. Evgeni Dadonov5.30%28
14. Zach Parise12.60%28
15. James van Riemsdyk8.80%27
16. Phil Kessel12.40%27
17. Jamie Benn13.00%27
18. T.J. Oshie7.70%25
19. Jonathan Marchessault6.70%25

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.