With a contract set to expire after the 2013 season, Evgeni Malkin, the Pittsburgh Penguins "other elite" center is most certainly expected to find himself at the negotiating table this offseason.
With a team salary cap projected to drop from $70.2M to $64.3M in 2013-14, teams will be scrambling in the immediate and for the future to shift their allocated expenses. While the Penguins could conceivably wait a year to work out new terms for Malkin (as his 2013 cap hit will remain $8.7 million regardless), a quick look at their 2014 breakdown spells out a troubling free agent list.
We've focused on elite, multi-facted centers who have signed maximum deals at or around the age of 27. Our premium team analyzes these recent signings, comparing financially and statistically just how Malkin holds up - in order to forecast the terms of what his new deal may be.
• He's been Top 10 in Power Player Goals 5 out of his 7 seasons.
• Hockey-Reference classifies Malkin's Similarity Score with Guy Lafluer, Teemu Selanne, and Jaromir Jagr.
|Player||Length||Value||Avg. Salary||Age When Signed|
Note: A linear regression is a formula that plots the provided points of data for Length and Value of the contracts, and then generates the best-fit line for those points, resulting in a "slope" value that translates to an average annual salary.
View the list of Top Average Paid Players in NHL
In order to account for the fact that Crosby, Staal and Spezza were younger than 27, we'll adjust the lengths of their above contracts to match his age. Once a linear regression is performed on these new numbers we're given the following terms to begin with:
|Length||Value||Avg. Salary (slope)|
|Getzlaf (2010-11, ANA)||.915||1.5||.205||.71||46.5|
|Crosby (2010-11, PIT)||1.635||17.5||.57||1.075||52.9|
|Staal (2007-08, CAR)||.955||6.5||.475||.485||45.1|
|Spezza (2006-07, OTT)||1.255||22.5||.48||.775||51.7|
|Malkin (2011-12, PIT)||1.255||11.5||.48||.78||47.35|
|Overall Prime %||2.26%|
We'll factor his slight Prime Percentage of 2.26%, into our previously determined base numbers.
Length of the Contract
At 27 and with an excellent track record of durability, and the stats to back it up, there's no reason to assume this contract won't be of career-ending length for Malkin. While Crosby was able to sign a 12 year deal at age 24, the newest CBA limits contracts to 7 years with a new team, and 8 years with the current. our numbers indicate an 8.5 year average, so we'll give Malkin the full 8 years.
Value of the Contract
Our initial age-adjusted regression provided an average annual salary north of $8.2M, a figure that would place him 7th highest in the NHL, and the 6th highest avg/year paid center. By factoring in our 2.26% Prime Percentage figure to our original base value we're able to increase the terms to the following forecast:
• Average annual salary: $8,465,039
This forecast becomes the first where the player's new annual average is actually LOWER than his current ($8.7M/yr) - a scenario that seems rudely unfair to last year's league MVP, and arguably the best all-around player in the game right now. The use of Sidney Crosby in this evaluation had a two-fold meaning: the first being that Malkin certainly proved to belong statistically with Crosby, and the second to compare the two head-to-head in an effort to show which Penguin deserves the longer end of the stick. Crosby's numbers were better across the board - a fact that single-handedly drove Malkin's numbers down in terms of this forecast.
Impact on the Penguins
Looking ahead to 2014, Sidney Crosby's $8.7M cap figure + our projected $8.465M figure for Malkin starts the Penguins off with $17.1M in used cap, 26.7% of the projected $64.3M team salary cap. With expiring contracts for Pascal Dupuis this season, and Chris Kunitz, Kris Letang after 2013-14 the core of the Penguins (minus Crosby) will need to be extended in the next 12 months. It's unlikley a Crosby, Malkin, Neal, Dupuis, Kunitz, and Letang lineup can all live under one $64 million salary cap in 2014.
The best chance to keep this core together lies with the use of the Signing Bonus - a figure that offers cash in hand to the player, but does not count against an NHL team's salary cap. While Malkin's annual salary cap hit may not place him in a Top 3 (deserved) position, handing him cash up-front can be used to balance this scenario. The same may be done with Kunitz & Letang, two defenseman who should fall into similar next-deal values, but can be treated differently in terms of the cap.