• Steve ATMBellini.

    by  • February 14, 2012 • Hockey • 45 Comments

    If Tambo’s contracts were somehow involved in Pulp Fiction, Samuel L. Jackson would kick in a door, scream “DOES STEVE TAMBELLINI LOOK LIKE AN ATM TO YOU?” at Pat Morris, Morris would answer “Yes”, Jackson would be forced to concede the point and everyone would go on their way. The Oilers have just announced that they’ve signed Andy Sutton to an extension, one year at $1.75MM for his age 37 season. Sutton played about 14:45 a game in Anaheim during the 2010-11 season before he was swapped to Edmonton in an exchange of mistakes for Kurtis Foster. Here, he’s played 16:59 per game.

    The 16:59 figure is a bit misleading – Sutton tends to play more when the really, really bad/one legged defencemen are playing. Colten Teubert and Theo Peckham and Taylor Chorney, for example. Still though, let’s call him a 14-17 minute guy. What do they get when they become UFA? Well, I peaked through data from last two years and gathered all D who became UFA after a season with TOI between 14 and 17 minutes and at least 40 GP. I then added their contractual terms and age at the time. Here it is:

    So the average, excluding the guys who retired and got zero, is $1.033MM. Sutton’s guaranteed $500K more, with an additional $250K in bonuses. The median’s $825K. The average age of these guys is 30.4; Sutton’s 6.5 years older. The median age is 30. Of the six guys older than 30, Sutton’s $750K over the next highest cap hit. So, uh, why are the Oilers going to carry a $1.75MM cap hit for Sutton? I can’t imagine a sensible answer to this question.

    It’s as if there’s not a soul in the Oilers’ front office who thinks about these things in terms of leverage. Andy Sutton is a 6/7 defenceman on the second worst team in the NHL. He was ditched by his last team, for whom he couldn’t crack 15 minutes a night, in exchange for a bad contract because they didn’t want him around any more. His agent has to know what the market usually looks like for guys like him – $1MM is a great payday. We KNOW that the Oilers are aware of CapGeek; do they not have a guy who tries to figure out what guys like this get paid? It’s baffling.

    Stuff like this, like all of the other bad contracts, speaks to the judgment of the front office. It speaks to their ability to assess their position and negotiate. It does not say good things about it. It’s another piece of evidence that they have no idea what they’re doing when it comes to getting players at market price. In the bigger picture, it looks to me like the Oilers are intending to go with an awfully similar defence next year – Tom Gilbert, Ladislav Smid, Ryan Whitney, Corey Potter and Sutton are now signed, with Petry, Peckham and Barker being RFAs. Lowetide’s convinced that this means that there’s a trade coming; outside of Hemsky, I’m not sure what the Oilers have to trade that will bring back anything of value. I assume that the 2012 first round pick, RNH, Hall and, unfortunately, Eberle, are untouchables. That doesn’t leave a lot that’s going to bring you back something for the defence.

    Regardless of that, you don’t sign guys for $1.75MM if that’s now what the market bears for them, regardless of whether or not you intend to make some sort of three for one trade in the future. What’s the point? What possible upside is there? What was Sutton going to do, turn down $1MM and play out his contract for the uncertainties of the market? It would have been an awfully risky thing to do.

    Jonathan Willis has all of the quotes over at OilersNation and, of course, this is a typical case in which Tambellini is beaming afterwards about adding another guy who praises the work that they’re doing here and really wants to be part of it. Huh. Amazing all of these guys who want to be part of Tambellini’s grand experiment, just so long as they get 150-175% of fair market value or get a third year that nobody gives players like them. We’re a lucky group of fans, I guess, to have management that has created such an environment. I’m happy that he looks to be bringing back a pretty similar team next year, given that they “…have a much better team than what the results and standings show,” as Tambo believes. Absent significant additions and minus Hemsky, I’d bet on them to be worse next year.

    Maybe that’ll be enough to get some people who have some sense of how markets for hockey talent work in the front office. The stuff they’ve been screwing up to date has been insignificant. Botching the contracts for Hall and Eberle could have a serious negative impact. There’s no reason to suspect the current crew is up to it.


    45 Responses to Steve ATMBellini.

    1. Komatiite
      February 14, 2012 at

      ” I assume that the 2012 first round pick, RNH, Hall and, unfortunately, Eberle, are untouchables. ”

      Why do you say Eberle is “unfortunately” untouchable?

      • Quain
        February 14, 2012 at

        I’d assume because Eberle is batting well above his head and could be worth a lot more than his actual value on the trade market. We’re increasingly heading towards a future where we overpay the guy on a hot year and trade the guy with no value on his down year.

        (Not to say Eberle isn’t awesome, but if someone’s true value is X and his market value is X + Y, correct management dictates that you trade him for X + Y or you take a tire iron to his knee and sign his recovering corpse for X – Z.)

        • Tyler Dellow
          February 14, 2012 at

          Exactly. If some other GM goes “Ooooh, 21 year old 70+ point forward” and is willing to turn over a 24 year old 1/2 dman type, I think you have to think about it.

          • Hawerchuk
            February 14, 2012 at

            But Tambo is that GM. X+Y can only be obtained by dealing with himself.

            • Quain
              February 14, 2012 at

              My kingdom for a GM who could at least trade Forward at X + Y for Defenseman at X. Or one who doesn’t sign players worth X – Z to X + Y because they like the direction of the club and the cut of Steve’s jib.

          • FastOil
            February 14, 2012 at

            Really only Hall for me at this point should be considered untouchable, and perhaps Gilbert. Anyone other deal that could bring that D man should be seriously considered. But on the other hand with these mooks running the show, it’s probably safer to keep everyone and hope 3 D prospects can swim head above water in a few years, and run a balanced defense core as opposed to a 30 min. stud at the top and weaker guys at the bottom.

            • OilFever
              February 15, 2012 at

              Hall is overrated. Eberle has shown time and time again that next to RNH, he is the best player on the team. The Oils big problem is the oft-injured Hemsky and that 7 mil plug of the century Horcoff.

    2. Slopitch
      February 14, 2012 at

      I dont think its a great contract but ..,

      I think TOI is a good indicator of ability but when I look at the list to me Sutton seems like a better player then most (just my opinion).

      They also got the term right. It’s no Khabby contract.

      • Doogie2K
        February 14, 2012 at

        Just because he may be better than most of those guys (debatable but plausible), doesn’t mean he’s worth close to double.

    3. February 14, 2012 at

      And there’s Anton Babchuk skewing the average ever so much upwards. Speaking of paying replaceable pieces entirely too much…

      That dude also has a NTC to boot.

    4. TrentonL
      February 14, 2012 at

      I like how Tambellini manages to identify Staios as someone who they had to get rid of as not fitting with the team, but then he goes and signs an identical player in Sutton for the same cap hit that Staios signed for in New York…..except even the Islanders managed to make half the contract guaranteed only.

    5. freeze
      February 14, 2012 at

      You’d have to think that the only answer here is that Tambo was convinced Sutton is only 27, not 37. Ricky O’s work much be riddled with typos.

    6. Jonathan Willis
      February 14, 2012 at

      What are the odds that the Oilers know this information when they negotiate a contract?

      What are the odds that Sutton’s agent knows this information when he negotiates a contract?

      I’m betting low on the former, high on the latter. An agent’s (almost) entire job is to maximize his client’s income over that client’s career. The Oilers, on the other hand, don’t need to understand how the marketplace works – they’re just building a hockey team.

      • The Other John
        February 14, 2012 at

        Current NHL manager needs to:
        1) set up a system to draft amatuer players well;
        2) set up a system to develop the players you draft*;
        3) identify and acquire other teams players and free agents;
        4) manage your salary in a methodical and deliberative manner in a Cap world;and
        5) staff the entire hockey operations staff with the best possible people

        * having a winning record in OKC(with a new arena) is not developing your minor league taklent. They may actually be developing but winning with prospects playing minimal minutes and a new arena are not determinative

        So by the above standard how is Lowebellini doing 3/10? 4/10?

    7. The Other John
      February 14, 2012 at


      You get that Sutton is in the bottom pairing on the 28-29th team in the league but is better than the dreck listed above. Age n/w/s. When you play poker do you argue that your very pretty pair of queens should not lose to your opponents three dueces? If so, let me know where you play poker

      • Slopitch
        February 14, 2012 at

        Not if I turn a 3rd Queen! ;) I play mostly at River Cree.

        He hasn’t played over 55 games since 2006. So Im not sure what his GP bonus number is but Id figure he gets 1.5 next year. Also he’s 6″6 245 pounds. I dont mind a bit of extra size.

        Sutton can be flipped for a pick next year in which case they bought a pick. His contract also lets Tuebert develop an extra year. I’m meh on the contract not overly negative like the rest.

        • The Other John
          February 14, 2012 at

          Sutton could be flipped for a pick this year and then, if you wanted him, signed as a UFA in summer

    8. Mike W
      February 14, 2012 at

      But… I… they…

      [Rolls up 2006 Oilers jersey sleeve and cuts his wrist length-wise with a bic pen, then jumps into the North Saskatchewan river]

    9. RossCreekNation
      February 14, 2012 at

      Just curious why Cam Barker isn’t on this list. He was a UFA last July, and played 16:24 in 52 games last year.

      • dawgbone
        February 14, 2012 at

        Technicality I assume… I think Tyler was only looking at 27+ UFA’s, not guys who weren’t qualified because they are terrible.

      • TrentonL
        February 14, 2012 at

        Do you honestly believe any other team in the league would have paid Barker $2.25mm? The guy was bought out for a reason and probably could have been had for south of $1mm.

        That contract is an ATMbellini special.

    10. JB
      February 14, 2012 at

      Given the Sutton extension, any idea what the Ryan Smyth negotiation is going to look like? And will Steve Tambellini use the same speaking notes?

    11. February 14, 2012 at

      It’s your last point that has me liking this deal. It’s the kind of thing teams will do when they’re concerned more about the present and near-term future. That implies at least slightly higher expectations. If they’re actually going to set higher expectations next season, the Oilers a step closer to getting better (possibly by Tambellini doing well, much more likely by him failing and getting turfed).

      Also, love the ATMbellini moniker.

    12. Greg Saint
      February 14, 2012 at

      I’m sure there’s a league wide consensus among players that, if you’re going to play in shitty-ass Edmonton, you best gets paid. The Oilers premium.

    13. TG
      February 14, 2012 at

      Maybe my math is wrong, but (using this list) the average contract in 09/10 was 780k per year for an average term of 1.5 years (total contract value of about 1.2 million). In 10/11 it was 1.28 million for an average term of 1.75 years (total contract value of 2.25 million).

      Since Sutton’s is the first of the 11/12 cohort, can you judge his contract by looking at 09/10 and 10/11? In one year the average yearly amount increased about 500k, the average total contract value by about 1 million…I have no idea if the same increase will be there from 10/11 to 11/12, but if it does you could expect contracts in the range of Suttons for yearly amount, with total contract values greatly exceeding his.

    14. 442
      February 14, 2012 at

      While at the risk of Debasing the idea that this is a poor transaction TG is right and it would be nice to build in the CAP inflation factor in this type of model. I am also curious why we wouldn’t look at a population where Sutton’s time is used closer to the mean instead of at the Max.

    15. Tyler Dellow
      February 14, 2012 at

      The problem I have with saying the price is going up is using the Babchuk contract in there. He’s a complete outlier and he had a big year offensively – something your usual 14-17 minute guy doesn’t.

      Barker was excluded because I just went 27 and over.

      As for the TOI – I drew the 14-17 minute group because Sutton’s time in 2010-11 was sub-15 minutes.

      • 442
        February 14, 2012 at

        I know its ironic because of attrition but shouldn’t we be paying him on his output this year and not last years? (Ideally we would be paying him on next years which, is where we are overpaying.)

        Out of curiosity, what is the list of comparables Sutton’s agent was working from?

        • dawgbone
          February 14, 2012 at

          Based on the comments after the Khabi and Smid signings, I don’t think Sutton’s agent needed comparables.

    16. Dennis
      February 14, 2012 at

      I’m not saying 83′s gonna sign her on a two year overpay contract but let’s just say he Is open to it: the extra 500K we paid Sutton behind the usual pricepoint is money that could have went to Hemksy.

    17. HeartBreakKid19
      February 14, 2012 at

      I agree that Tambo isn’t the greatest gm but there’s nothing wrong with the Sutton contract. Instead of looking at statistics which only tell half the story, look at how the player performs. Andy Sutton is worth the 1.5 mil here because he is better then half our defencemen

      • Doogie2K
        February 14, 2012 at

        Instead of looking at statistics which only tell half the story, look at how the player performs.

        Oh my God. I don’t even.

        I’m going to assume this is brilliant parody, because the alternative is…yeah.

      • February 14, 2012 at

        Of course, this is evidence of how great Sutton is, not how bad the rest of the Oilers are, right?

        Also worth pointing out – if you pay Sutton the 1M he’s maybe worth, you could use the savings on buying, you know, a real defenseman.

    18. Dennis
      February 14, 2012 at

      heartbreak: that is a conclusion you can easily come to around mid july when the market’s settled. no need to jump now. this isn’t jan hejda we are talking about

    19. TrentonL
      February 14, 2012 at

      Here are the point per game totals for two players since the lockout. One is defined by the media as a superstar and makes $7.8 million. the other is said to have no heart and defined as a top 6 winger and currently being paid $4.1 million cap hit.

      0.571 - 0.696
      0.894 - 0.880
      1.000 - 0.882
      0.917 - 1.013
      0.959 - 0.863
      0.828 - 0.760
      0.951 - 1.000

      Pretty much any team in the league probably wants Nash but ATMbellini is looking to dump the other guy, who will make ~$5-5.5mm and actually wants to stay in Edmonton long term. In return the Oilers will likely get a late first rounder and a suspect pick who may crack the top 6 dmen on the worst team in hockey one day……
      Good thing the Oilers choose to spend their money overpaying 6/7th d-men……

    20. TG
      February 14, 2012 at

      I agree that the Babchuk deal pulls the numbers up for 10/11, but that contract is about 45% higher than the second highest (for one less year) – that’s about the same amount the Lebda deal was above the next highest the year before. The median contracts from the two years are about 0.7 and 1.1, so up about 400k with the majority being multi-year deals.

      I think you can argue Sutton’s not worth the average, but I don’t think the signing is outside the market rate. With the way defenseman are being signed before reaching UFA, summer contracts for Sutton’s calibre of defenseman could be interesting

      • February 15, 2012 at

        The medians go down a bunch if you include the guys who are listed as retired (though some of them played but didn’t play in the NHL). The inflation is still there, but the totals drop to $700,000 and $825,000. In that most of them probably didn’t play because they couldn’t find a contract, I think it’s probably reasonable to include them since not getting a contract at all would have been the really big risk for Sutton this summer. Most of those guys probably have been happy with almost any one-way contract by the time August rolled around.

        • Tyler Dellow
          February 15, 2012 at

          Yeah, I’m pretty comfortable with how I looked at the price. You’d think a 37 year old D on worst team in league would be worried about not getting a deal.

          I think you can argue Sutton’s not worth the average, but I don’t think the signing is outside the market rate. With the way defenseman are being signed before reaching UFA, summer contracts for Sutton’s calibre of defenseman could be interesting

          Care to make a bet on this? What do you think the market price will be for guys meeting my definition this summer?

          • TG
            February 15, 2012 at

            No, I don’t care to bet on this. I’d guess somewhere around 1.5 though.

            I don’t think the average matters – fair to say that your point is that Sutton deserves the Strudwick-Weaver range and not the Lebda-Babchuk range? I’m not arguing that, just your math.

            • Tyler Dellow
              February 15, 2012 at

              Alright, I’ll keep an eye on this over the summer and do a follow-up. My bet would be somewhere around $1MM.

    21. Coach Pb
      February 14, 2012 at

      Jim Vandermeer signed with San Jose for $1,000,000 this summer. Is Andy Sutton really $750,000 better than Vandermeer?

    22. sandwdge99
      February 14, 2012 at

      locking up over paid players makes the bottom line look worse than it needs to be which supports the oilers need for a new arena and public funding cause they are losing money. last place , losing money and still offering too much for marginal players supports the push for the new arena.

      perhaps, not over paying paying horcoff, souray, boozin, etc too much would have improved the bottom line but ruins the push for an arena. The oilers are , as they say in retail, the loss leader to get the arena

    23. Daniel
      February 15, 2012 at

      From a hockey standpoint, I don’t hate the deal. I’d take Sutton on my team over 90% of the other guys on that list and keeping him around buys another year for the young D-men to grow and cap space isn’t a concern for next season.

      From a business standpoint, the Oilers overpaid by a few hundred thousand but it’s not THAT bad. The average cap hit for the guys signing in 2010-2011, even after treating Babchuk as an outlier and eliminating him, is $1.1M/season. Factoring in that I’d take Sutton over probably all but one of those guys, the argument could be made (although I won’t make it) that Sutton deserves to be paid at the high end of that list (again, excluding Babchuk). At the very least it seems fair that to pay him more than the mean of a bunch of less preferable players. How much more than the mean is a matter of opinion. Regardless, Tambellini should be using the mean as an anchoring point in his negotiations in order to reach an agreement somewhere between the mean and Stuart/Erskine territory. Calling $1.35M the midpoint between the mean and Stuart/Erskine territory, Sutton just got overpaid by $400,000. Lucky him.

      The person who should be the most pissed about this – unless you subscribe to Sandwdge99′s theory – is Darryl Katz. After all, he’s running a business and the goal is profits. Stanley Cups too, but I think we can all agree that that’s hardly in the cards for next season so – short term, at least – the goal is profits. Profits = revenue – expenses and his expenses for next year are now needlessly $400k (give or take, as that was hardly an exact science) higher than they need to be.

    24. Bdiddy18
      February 15, 2012 at

      Well that something else coming is the expensive salary vets that 1) don’t produce 2) don’t lead and 3) will be to old by the time the team is ready anyways

      so if guys like Sutton and Smyty can provide that leadership, not really be relied on for production and understand they are transitionary players and best of all CHEAP. Go for it.

      your real trade bait is:
      Whitney – get him off the books now and let someone else worry about his foot/health
      Peckham – good youth piece that seems to have plateaued and there are far more of his pedigree in the system anyways – Teubeurt, fedun, Potter
      Horcoff – hey! a guy can dream and you can tie him to any Hemsky deal
      Hemsky – but only if you can offload something else you don’t want anymore (cough cough horcoff)
      Khabibulin – why not – he has rebounded well but won’t be around in 2 years anyways

    25. Tach
      February 15, 2012 at

      It seems to me that another way of looking at this would be to look at all the upcoming UFA defencemen and see which one’s are around that cap hit and who might be going up or down. For example, Scott Hannan got $1 million last season, is unlikely to get much more. He is outside your range of TOI, but surely Scott Hannan +$750,000 in cap is >= Sutton?

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