Dubi, Dubi, Done
The New York Rangers took care of what looked to be their most challenging item of business this summer; signing F Brandon Dubinsky to a long-term deal ahead of his arbitration hearing. Well, mission accomplished as the Blueshirts and Dubinsky agreed to a four-year deal worth a total of $16.8 million. In actuality, the arbitration hearing scheduled for 9:00 AM Thursday was postponed because both parties felt they were close to an agreement. It was imperative the deal get done without an arbitration hearing being held and that's exactly what happened.
Why is arbitration such a bad thing, anyway? In order to convince the arbitrator the player is only worth the salary figure the team submitted, the club needs to point out the flaws in the players game. Sometimes that can create some animosity between management and the player.
Remember the arbitration hearing between Sean Avery and the Rangers several years back? The team argued that Avery could be a detriment to his team with his undisciplined play and untimely penalties. Of course that statement was true but saying it publicly led to some bitterness on the part of Avery towards Ranger management.
This situation had all of the earmarks of another potentially bitter battle. Two summers ago Dubinsky held out during camp because he was unhappy with the contract proposal Glen Sather had submitted. This holdout drew the ire of Tortorella who felt Dubinsky was harming his development by missing time. There was a sense among Rangers followers that Dubi might still hold hard feelings about that negotiation. Arbitration would serve to only exacerbate those feelings.
All of our fears went unrealized though when both parties agreed to the extension. Now the question is whether or not this was a good deal for the parties or another of Glen Sather's infamous overpayments.
For purposes of arbitration, contracts signed by UFA's cannot be used as comparables. The closest comparable I found this summer was Andrew Ladd. Ladd netted 29 markers and 59 points this year as captain of the Atlanta Thrashers. Dubi of course potted career highs in goals (24), assists (30) and obviously points (54).
Ladd played in all situations seeing nearly two minutes per contest of short-handed ice time and more than three of PP ice time per. Dubi saw 3:04 per on the PP and 2:05 on the PK.
To me using Ladd as a comparable to Dubi is reasonable and fair. Ladd received a five-year deal averaging $4.4 million per. That's slightly more than what Dubi got from the Rangers. I think Rangers fans, myself included, can be happy with the result of this negotiation.
Naturally I made the mistake of going to other hockey websites to see what the prevailing opinion was on the deal. One of the first stops I made was to TSN.CA. I happened to see one commenter make light of the AAV of Dubi's deal by stating it made the Erik Cole signing by Montreal look good.
Of course Montreal was widely panned for guaranteeing the veteran Cole four seasons with an annual cap charge of $4.5 million. Naturally, my first reaction was to mutter to myself about this particular commenter being an idiot or something to that effect. That's not really fair though so I decided to check the numbers to see what they suggested about the two players and their respective contracts.
I decided to analyze Dubi and Cole on a per 82 game scoring rate for their careers. Here's what I found:
Give the slight edge to Cole for career scoring production. However, it isn't necessarily a good idea to compare the career numbers of a 32 year-old player who has several seasons of prime hockey under his belt with that of a 25 year-old kid who is likely just entering his prime seasons.
Why don't we look at the same scoring rates but just for the last two years. That should lessen the impact Dubinsky's early years and lower scoring totals have on the previous comparison.
In this case Dubi scores higher than Cole. For Canadiens fans, it is worth noting that Cole's goal scoring rates are right in line with that of his career. That indicates he may continue to notch 20+ goals per for the next couple of years at least.
What it means for Dubinsky is that we should at least expect 55 - 60 point seasons with the very real possibility that he can even better that. At 25 it isn't entirely unlikely he hasn't quite reached his peak. It's important to note Dubinsky was on a better scoring pace prior to the All-Star break and before suffering a fracture in his left leg. He wasn't the same point-producer after the break.
If Dubi's scoring production hadn't tailed off, whether because of injury or not, and had he maintained his scoring rate, Dubinsky would have finished with nearly 30 goals and with 66 points.
This argument may not convince everyone but it certainly does suggest that Dubinsky signed a contract of reasonable value. He may never develop into a 35, 40 goal scorer but given he plays big minutes in all situations and can chip in at least 25 goals, $4.2 million isn't an overpayment for a player just reaching his prime.
Note: While I do think four years was too long and $4.5 million might be a little high, Cole is exactly what Montreal needed. He brings size to a small forward group and can still pot 20 goals.
Another concern I would have is how Cole played the only other time he suited up for someone other than Carolina. After a trade to Edmonton in 2008, Cole recorded just 27 points in 63 games as an Oiler before being dealt back to Carolina. Yes, it's only one season and not even a full one at that, but it should give one pause before offering the type of contract Montreal bestowed on Cole.