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:

Cole (per 82 games)
Goals: 24.3
Assists: 27.2

Points: 51.5

Dubinsky (per 82 games)
Goals: 18.4
Assists: 28.0

Points: 46.4

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.

Cole (per 82 games - last two seasons)
Goals: 24.9
Assists: 20.8

Points: 45.7

Dubi (per 82 games - last two seasons)
Goals: 24.7
Assists: 30.3

Points: 55.0

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.  



George Prax's picture

First of all, I don't know where you're getting your information from in terms of everyone "panning" the Cole signing. Cole addresses many of the Canadiens needs in terms of a scoring winger, he's produced a lot in this building and he's a leader. It's completely unfair for you to compare him to a 25 year old, not to mention considering most players up here get a premium because of the higher tax rate. I'm not sure what the rates are in New York, but in Quebec, federal + provincial rates could mean well upwards of 40%. So he's definitely getting more here than we would other places, and that's just something Habs fans have come to accept. If you're going to compare production, compare it to years where they were the same age. When Cole was Dubinsky's age he was averaging 60 points per 82 games, whereas the last two years he was coming off a broken neck...

Glen Miller's picture

I didn't say everyone was panning the signing. I said it was widely-panned and that's because most of the opinions I read and heard of the signing all said the same thing; it was overpayment. I never said I didn't like Cole. In fact this is what I did say about the signing: "Cole is exactly what Montreal needed. He brings size to a small forward group and can still pot 20 goals."

Cole certainly wasn't the only guy overpaid. He wasn't even the most egregiously overpaid this summer. That doesn't change the fact that he got more money than many of us would have predicted.

The reason I compared Dubinsky with Cole is that some commenter on another sight did it. I said that in the piece. I wasn't attacking Cole or the Candiens. I even said it wasn't a good idea to compare the two players statistically without some context.

As far as NYC goes, it's noted for being among the most expensive places to live and yes, I'm sure they (the Rangers) have to overpay in many cases because of that.

And why shouldn't I compare Dubi and Cole. They both signed contracts this summer of equal length and similar salaries. Yes, Cole had the additional leverage of being a free agent but at the end of the day would you rather have Dubi or Cole at their present price tags? I never argued that Dubi was a better player. In fact, you could infer from this that I don't think Cole was really that overpaid by virtue of the similarities in production with Dubi and my statement that I thought Dubi's contract was fair.

George Prax's picture

I understand what you were trying to do, but I still don't see why you compared the two lol. Other than what someone said on another site. Like I said, if you are going to compare them (because admittedly they are similar size and role) at least do it when they were around the same age. It becomes unfair not only when you consider Cole is several years older and looking to cash in one last time, but also when you have to consider Cole played the last two years recovering from a broken neck. Not to mention Dubinsky was a restricted free agent, which even further changes the game. Other than their similar size, the two cases aren't the same AT ALL. I'd definitely rather have Dubinsky, all other things equal or even not, but the reasons for that are beyond just salary. It's age, injury history, contract status, etc.

For the record I don't think Dubinsky was overpaid either, in fact it's a very fair deal for a top two center / top six forward at his age. I just really think that this comparison shouldn't be made lol. In fact, I know it's how they decide arbitration cases and all that but I never liked comparing players at all for the most part. And frankly, I don't even think a comparison needed to be made here because like I said and I'm sure you agree, the Dubinsky deal was fair and Montreal got what they wanted even if they overpaid a bit.