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What Kind Of Contract Is Viktor Arvidsson Headed For?

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NHL: Vancouver Canucks at Nashville Predators Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports

Viktor Arvidsson has been sensational this year.

In every minute of ice time, he brings a level of intensity, competitiveness, and determination that no one else on the team seems to be able to match. Add to that his surprising increase in skilled play and his incredible consistency, and you have a true breakout season. That he also has the runaway winner for goal of the year is merely icing on the cake.

Early on, it looked like Arvidsson was just going to be fun to watch, but he slowly became arguably the most valuable member of the team. An offensive machine, he ranks 5th in the league among regular starters in even strength shot attempts per 60 minutes and 3rd in the league in even strength shots on goal. And he’s getting results to back up his play: he currently leads the team in goals with 18 and is second behind Ryan Johansen in points with 39. No Preds fan saw that coming and yet here we are.

So, it’s time to talk about what kind of contract he is building for himself.

Arvidsson is a restricted free agent at the end of this season, when his entry-level contract runs out. When the season is over, the Preds have until late June to send him a qualifying offer, otherwise he becomes an unrestricted free agent. He could also file for arbitration if he so chooses, though players actually going to arbitration hearings is exceedingly rare in today’s NHL. If everything works out as it should, David Poile should have plenty of opportunities to get a deal with Arvidsson done before arbitration or offer sheets (also rare) or bare-minimum qualifying offers come forth.

But what might this contract look like?

For the purpose of this analysis, let’s take the expansion draft obstacle out of the way. There are some scenarios in which Viktor Arvidsson is playing in Vegas next year, some of which we go into here, but let’s just assume that doesn’t happen. Let’s assume that either Arvidsson is protected outright or that Poile offers George McPhee the Fontanel Mansion and the Jack Daniel’s Distillery in exchange for not selecting him.

Arvidsson’s Comparables (as if that’s possible)

When looking at the value of a player like Arvidsson, we must play the role of the arbitrator. As an ostensibly neutral party, we separate our emotions from the player and we go out and find comparables.

This is difficult to do, because, as Preds fans, we are notably biased when it comes to Arvidsson. It’s also difficult because he’s such a unique player. You really can’t find an Arvidsson anywhere else in the league. The best we can do is to find guys who get similar results and who play a similar game.

To find comparables, I first looked for forwards (mostly wingers) who signed contracts within the last three years after having just played out their entry-level contracts. I then filtered out forwards who are, more or less, similar to Arvidsson in playing style, usage, size, and skill-set. Sorry, but Arvy is not Vladimir Tarasenko, so he isn’t getting $7.5 million per year.

I eventually narrowed the list down to Anders Lee, Brendan Gallagher, Charlie Coyle, Matt Beleskey, Ondrej Palat, Reilly Smith, and Tomas Hertl.

These forwards are your faster, more disruptive forwards rather than pure skill forwards. They have plenty of skill, no doubt, but their offensive skills go beyond a wicked wrist shot or puck-handling skills. These guys play all over the offensive zone. They forecheck well. They energize the offense, while antagonizing the opposing defense. Their passing and shooting are above average and, most importantly, they read the game extremely well.

You know, they Arvy.

So let’s take a look at a how these seven players performed in the final two seasons of their entry level contracts before going on to a well deserved raise. We’ll just look at a few stats: points per 60 minutes, shot attempts for per 60 minutes, and shot attempts allowed per 60 minutes.

Seasons Player Points P/60 CF CF/60 CA CA/60 Overall TOI ES TOI
Seasons Player Points P/60 CF CF/60 CA CA/60 Overall TOI ES TOI
2013-14, 2014-15 Matt Beleskey 56 2.07 1382 59.36 1290 55.41 1625 1396.9
2014-15, 2015-16 Tomas Hertl 77 1.86 2377 64.35 1944 52.63 2487 2216.3
2012-13, 2013-14 Ondrej Palat 64 2.36 1209 55.38 1176 53.87 1625 1309.8
2013-14, 2014-15 Brendan Gallagher 88 1.99 2431 64.94 2146 57.33 2653 2246
2013-14, 2014-15 Charlie Coyle 65 1.63 1854 53.05 1884 53.91 2389 2096.7
2014-15, 2015-16 Reilly Smith 90 1.95 2145 57.98 1831 49.50 2773 2219.6
2013-14, 2014-15 Anders Lee 55 2.29 1340 66.71 1109 55.21 1440 1205.3
2015-16, 2016-17 Viktor Arvidsson 55 2.06 1542 65.16 1266 53.50 1603 1419.8
This table has sorting enabled, so feel free to play around. All stats pulled from Hockey-Reference.com

Arvidsson’s rates compare very favorably to the likes of all these guys. His points per 60 minutes ranks 4th among these players, though Lee and Palat shot well over 12% in their final two ELC seasons and are generally seen as more pure shooters than the rest of this group. Arvy’s shot attempts for per 60 minutes ranks 2nd behind Lee and ahead of the most notorious Corsi master of this group, Gallagher. Arvy’s work at the other end of the ice, his shot attempts allowed per 60 minutes, ranks 3rd best behind Smith and Hertl.

It’s worth pointing out that Arvidsson is still in the final year of his ELC, so his numbers could go up or down. Assuming he doesn’t fall through the ice at any point, his numbers should remain somewhat constant.

Earned Money

So after looking at how these players compare to Arvidsson on the ice in the final two years of their entry-level contracts, here’s a rundown of the ensuing contracts these other players earned. Listed is their age at the beginning of their new contract, the beginning year of the new contract, the term length and total value, and the AAV (average annual value).

Tomas Hertl, RW

  • Age: 22
  • Contract Year: 2016
  • Term & Value: 2 years, $6 million
  • AAV: $3.0 million

Charlie Coyle, C/RW

  • Age: 22
  • Contract Year: 2015
  • Term & Value: 5 years, $16 million
  • AAV: $3.2 million

Ondrej Palat, LW

  • Age: 22
  • Contract Year: 2014
  • Term & Value: 3 years, $10 million
  • AAV: $3.3 million

Brendan Gallagher, RW

  • Age: 22
  • Contract Year: 2015
  • Term & Value: 6 years, $22.5 million
  • AAV: $3.75 million

Anders Lee, LW/C

  • Age: 24
  • Contract Year: 2015
  • Term & Value: 4 years, $15 million
  • AAV: $3.75 million

Matt Beleskey, LW

  • Age: 26
  • Contract Year: 2015
  • Term & Value: 5 years, $19 million
  • AAV: $3.8 million

Reilly Smith, RW

  • Age: 24
  • Contract Year: 2016*
  • Term & Value: 5 years, $25 million
  • AAV: $5 million

*Note: This was Smith’s 2nd contract after his entry level contract. He was given a two-year, $6.8 million bridge contract in 2015 that was extended in 2016 after a 25 goal, 25 assist campaign that year.

Looking at these contracts, there’s a few things that stick out. Outside of Smith, they are all fairly consistent on value, with an AAV between $3 and $4 million per year. Beleskey is overvalued, while Lee and Hertl are undervalued. Hertl’s contract is especially team friendly, as it seemed like he might be headed for something in the $4-5 million range when his contract ended last summer, instead opting for more of a bridge deal at $3 million per year.

I would bet his value is more along the lines of Smith’s when it runs out, though he has battled injuries this season. Palat’s contract is excellent (Steve Yzerman, duh) and Coyle’s contract is expansion draft friendly on a Wild team that might not have room to keep him.

The term lengths vary greatly, everything from two to six years, but most of them stretch out enough so that they expire around the time that the player’s RFA status runs out. Gallagher’s contract is the longest at six years and is arguably one of the best in the league.

In general, these are very team friendly contracts for very team oriented players. Which brings us to Arvidsson.

Arvidsson’s Payout

These are not perfect comparisons. As I mentioned earlier, no player in the league is quite like Arvy. Lee, for example, is quite a bit bigger than Arvy, has a better shot, and is really more of a center. Coyle is also a bit bigger and really more of a two-way forward. Palat is more of a true skilled winger, with a great shot. Beleskey is more of... well, I’m not sure what he is, and to be honest, neither are the Bruins.

The best comparison to Arvy I can see on this list is Gallagher. They play a similar game, are similar in size, can play almost anywhere in the lineup, and use their speed to make a difference in the game.

Given this, I would expect Arvidsson’s contract to have a longer term with a higher AAV relative to these players. My prediction is six years, $24 million, putting his average annual salary at $4 million. Since he will be 23-years-old at the time of the contract, a six-year deal would give the Preds plenty of peak mileage out of Arvy, while still leaving him a chance at another payout before turning 30-years-old.

Whatever the contract looks like, let’s hope Poile can get something worked out before too long. I hear they are running out of Arvidsson shirseys at the team store, which is a travesty. A long term contract would ensure that No. 38 gear lines the halls of Bridgestone for the foreseeable future.