• Canucks sign Kesler

    by Tyler Dellow • March 20, 2010 • Uncategorized • 31 Comments

    “If we’re going to win the Cup, we need guys to take pay cuts. The way the salary cap is now, you really can’t get what you’re worth now if you want to win. Everybody in this locker room knows that, and for us to be a great team going forward, we’re going to have to take a pay cut.”

    -Ryan Kesler, March, 2009

    -Ryan Kesler, March, 2010

    Driving to hockey with a friend who is a Canucks fan last night, we got to talking about Ryan Kesler signing with the Canucks for six years and $30MM. He was pretty happy with the deal, although there was something of an awkward silence when I muttered something about Kesler looking sort of like Shawn Horcoff and that Horcoff hadn’t worked out particularly well this season.

    I didn’t realize quite how apt the comparison was when I made it. Here are their numbers since the lockout and then, their numbers between ages 22-25.

    kesler1

    kesler2

    At evens, there’s just zero difference between them. I suspect a lot of people who aren’t familiar with the Oilers might be inclined to credit Ales Hemsky for Horcoff’s ES offence, but Horcoff and Hemsky weren’t playing together a lot pre-lockout and Hemsky’s far more of a dominant PP player than he is an ES player.

    I took a look through some of the numbers Desjardins has compiled over the past few years and they cast Kessler in a pretty favourable light. Like Horcoff, he seems to be the Canucks go-to guy with respect to playing tough minutes. His Corsi (just eyeballing things) has surpassed Horcoff’s over the past few years though. He’s a larger guy than Horcoff and more physical to boot.

    The PP thing is interesting to me – Kesler’s numbers over the past two seasons, albeit in a fairly small sample (just under 400 minutes) suggest that he’s a legitimate goal scorer on the PP, something that Horcoff, who’s been respectable but no more, can’t say. If I had to pick between the two, I’d certainly take Kesler at this stage in his career – fewer miles on the odometer, consistently better Corsi and (possibly) some real PP ability. All in all, I’d say that this is a deal that I’d sign but, for those who have trashed Lowe for the Horcoff contract, these players are more than a little bit similar in terms of what they provide to the team, Horcoff had UFA rights that Kesler didn’t and Kesler managed to come pretty close to Horcoff’s number.

    As always, the contract stuff intrigues me. After Kesler made his comments last year about people needing to take less to build a contender (Roberto Luongo and the Sedins were ll in line for new deals in the summer), he supposedly got a phone call from Glenn Healy chastising him. While I don’t quite understand why the PA cares about this, Kesler seems to me like he did pretty well in terms of dollars. I took a look a few weeks ago at how salaries have increased since the lockout. Here’s a chart that summarizes that information – the blue line is 2003-04, the pink line is 2009-10.

    kesler3

    I’m using the USA Today database for the 2003-04 numbers and nhlnumbers.com for this year. I’m hesitant to go beyond 400 players because of some data quality problems with USA Today. It’s clear though, that the distribution of money has altered – the middle class player is actually doing better now than he was in 2003-04, while the guys at the upper end of the salary scale still haven’t recovered to anywhere near the point that they were in 2003-04. The lower class, I suspect, has been stagnant.

    In that context, the contracts that players like Horcoff and Kesler got can, to a certain extent, be seen as part of the changing salary structure in hockey that’s been occasioned by the salary cap. They’re both players who are part of the middle class and that group is getting a bigger share of the money than they once did. I’ve got my criticisms of Horcoff’s contract – the timing was kind of stupid – but, as I’ve talked about before, in the context of the market, it was a deal that you could understand when it was signed. The Kesler contract is similar, if better. He’s not going to be the steal that he has been in the past but I can see him being worth this deal and, if the PP goal scoring is real, exceeding it.

    I know that I go on about him but I really like how Mike Gillis structures his team. He hasn’t tied up a lot of money outside of players who are legitimately stars. He hasn’t locked up a lot of long term money in older players. The Canucks have both short and long term flexibility. As an Oilers fan, it’s a little depressing cheering for a team that’s run about 60% as well. The Oilers are about a year away from having the same sort of financial flexibility; I have little in terms of expectations that they’ll do anywhere near as well with it.

    About Tyler Dellow

    31 Responses to Canucks sign Kesler

    1. March 20, 2010 at

      Nice article Tyler and regarding both the Canucks and Oilers futures you certainly speak the truth. Its depressing for us for sure.

      Its a nice deal for Kesler but I have few doubts that he will cover the bet, the guy is a legitimate PP threat from what I have seen and I think we haven’t seen the best from him yet.

    2. Vic Ferrari
      March 20, 2010 at

      Kesler is a flat out good hockey player, has been for a while. He will probably get a lot of flack from Canuck fans at a couple of points during this contract because he won’t always deliver the counting numbers, but he’ll always be worth it.

      Guys like this, that help you win hockey games more than they help you win hockey pools, they will always eventually end up on a Mirtle “worst contracts” list (quotation marks “intentionally” included, btw), but that’s not cricket, these are good players.

      Guys who bring a lot of things to the game that go unnoticed by radio talk show callers and hosts (in terms of centres in the west; Legwand, Langkow, Horcoff, Richards, Koivu, Hanzal, Zetterberg, Pavelski … probably a few others. To me they always seemed like guys that the Oilers should target, they should be good bargains, because the counting numbers don’t match the value. But they always end up getting paid handsomely, always.

      Of course the Oilers managed to sign Horcoff at the worst possible time. He had a long run of playing relatively soft icetime (behind Stoll, Reasoner, Torres and Thoresen, all of whom were sent down the road) and had the blessing of the gods in terms of the percentages, to boot. And the idea of letting it roll out until later in the season, or the next summer … the Smyth fiasco precluded that, I suppose.

      Jesus, if Oiler management had been in charge of the space program in the 1960s, Elvis and Rock Hudson would have been designated as the first men to walk on the moon. It wouldn’t have happened though, the cost to sign them would have meant deep cuts in he retro-rocket budget which would probably have lead to a catastrophic explosion in lower space. This would, have course, lead NASA to re-evaluate the whole program … then put the same managers in charge of tearing down the moon landing project and building it up again from scratch.

      Lain is going to be old by the time humanity gets a man on the moon. OLD!

    3. lowetide
      March 20, 2010 at

      Vic: I KNOW! :-)

    4. PDO
      March 21, 2010 at

      Great signing by the Canucks.

      Fuck.

      I like all of their long-term pacts (Sedin1, Sedin2, Luongo and Kesler).

      That said, are they good as a group? Honest question. We know you have $56,000,000 to spend for the time being, and next year they’re spending $23,950,000 on those 4.

      I certainly think you could do a lot worse than that, but is $33,000,000 enough for 9 forwards, 6 D and the backup tender + extra’s?

      If you figure they’ll have 3 minimum wage guys for backup goalie + the two extra skaters, and spend about $5,000,000 on their 4th line and bottom pairing D, that leaves them with $26,500,000 for six top 9 forwards and the top 4 D… for a cost of only $2,650,000 each.

      Not an easy job by any stretch of the imagination.

    5. R O
      March 21, 2010 at

      PDO:

      Unfortunately the Canucks got Luongo under contract for $5.333M. So it’s more like $22.533M for next season.

      For now it’s a nice number but what do we know about hockey players in general, and goalies specifically? Big risks involved, the best players now could easily be mediocre tomorrow due to specific injuries or general toll on the body. Terribly risky contract and the Canooks don’t have much in the way of outs.

      Oh yeah, Kesler. Terrible person, and it would be hard to cheer for someone like this. But, good hockey player.

      Funny how the Canucks are filled with terrible people, players that are hard to cheer for, who just happen to be good at hockey

    6. R O
      March 21, 2010 at

      That said, are they good as a group? Honest question. We know you have $56,000,000 to spend for the time being, and next year they’re spending $23,950,000 on those 4.

      Yeah, I think that top 4, today, are excellent players and filling out the roster with reasonably priced quality is certainly doable.

      That said, Gillis has done a terrifically awful job of it. I mean, look up and down that lineup at forward, just overpriced everywhere. I mean, Samuelsson at 2.5M? Burrows at 2M?

      I ask myself what these guys bring to the ice in terms of hardness on the puck and driving of results and I’m convinced that Vancouver could have acquired Glencross types and shaved about a mill and half of their current payroll, without loss of performance. And spent that elsewhere, maybe on the FA market either last offseason or this one or next one, or in a trade for a Hagman type, a replacement for the broken Demitra.

      And their fourth line just flat out can’t play hockey.

      I’m not as impressed as Tyler at Gillis’ work and as long as he is heading that ship I’m not as concerned as some about the Canucks having sustained long-term success.

    7. PDO
      March 21, 2010 at

      RO:

      My bad… looked at his current cap hit, not his new one.

      I don’t think the Burrows contract is bad, but would generally agree with your sentiment.

    8. March 21, 2010 at

      how in the world can anyone say that the burrows contract is bad? where is there anyone on a second contract who has a better goals to dollars ratio? is burrows getting lucky and does he play with great linemates – sure. criticizing the burrows and samulesson contracts just looks absurd in the face of the 95% of contracts that are worse than these.

    9. March 21, 2010 at

      I would bet that the absolute lowest end has improved, just because the NHL minimum salary went up from something like $175K before the lockout to $450K after (and now is something like $550K or $575K).

    10. R O
      March 21, 2010 at

      how in the world can anyone say that the burrows contract is bad? where is there anyone on a second contract who has a better goals to dollars ratio? is burrows getting lucky and does he play with great linemates – sure. criticizing the burrows and samulesson contracts just looks absurd in the face of the 95% of contracts that are worse than these.

      Goals to dollars? Man, what is the term that Vic uses for this type of thinking, the video game model, right?

      Let’s ask ourselves this, who drives results whenever Burrows is on the ice? It surely isn’t Burrows, that doesn’t pass the sniff test.

      It sets a pretty bad benchmark for future contracts for this type of player (responsible and hard on the puck, won’t hurt you, but not quite a results driver) as evidenced by the terrible Samuelsson contract.

      I don’t see how anyone could see it as a value contract.

    11. David Staples
      March 21, 2010 at

      Is it not the crucial difference in the two contracts that Kesler is 25, and will be 26 when contract kicks in, while Horcoff’s contract kicked in this year at age 31?

      So Kesler’s heading into his peak years, right?

      While Horcoff is heading out of them, at least if he follows history of 30-something players getting banged up and a bit slower.

      There’d be little issue with Horcoff if he could continue to play like he did from ages 25-30. I figured he might well be able to do so, given his physical fitness fanaticism, but the early returns aren’t encouraging, as we all know. . .

    12. PDO
      March 21, 2010 at

      I don’t think Burrows is a value contract, but I think $2,000,000 is fine for him too. He’s not driving the results, but he does compliment them nicely, and I don’t think it’s in the best interests of a team to constantly be flying in a new, cheap utility player to be thrown on a line with Sedin1 and Sedin2. They’re clearly the guys driving the bus, but you may as well keep them happy with a guy they’re comfortable with.

      http://www.behindthenet.ca/2009/new_4_on_5.php?sort=23&section=goals&mingp=&mintoi=0.5&team=VAN&pos=F

      He’s also one of the best PK’ers on the team.

      That Toskala trade was a gooder.

    13. mc79hockey
      March 21, 2010 at

      David – yes, I think that the age thing is a big difference between the two pacts. Of course, you could also argue, given that the numbers are so close and Horcoff was selling UFA years while Kesler wasn’t, that the age might have been reflectd in the numbers they got.

    14. mc79hockey
      March 21, 2010 at

      I’m hardpressed to get too worked up about the Burrows deal for the reasons that PDO cites. $2MM for a guy who plays on your first line isn’t a ton of money. Should the Sedins be getting a piece of that action? Arguably, yes. Could Gillis have done better if he’d renewed Burrows cheaply on a short term? I suppose.

      $2MM is so little when you’re talking about a guy who can play on your first line and score 30+ goals that it’s hard to get really upset about it.

      As far as the perception that Gillis hasn’t done well filling out the rest of his lineup…boy, I’m not sure that I buy that. The hockey gods have looked on them with some favour this year to be sure, but they’re second in the league with goals. They’ve got a ton of guys who can score on the PP. Most importantly, they aren’t tied down with bad contracts in the long term.

    15. R O
      March 21, 2010 at

      That Toskala trade was a gooder.

      Don’t remind me. I don’t know how the guy has stayed in the league so long, surely the saw-him-good guys would have booted him after one game of watching him completely leave his far post exposed.

    16. The other John
      March 21, 2010 at

      I think the comparison is accurate on the numbers but the numbers do not adequately measure the intangibles that Kesler brings to the table: he is big, strong, an excellent skater, miserable to play against and is very good in the faceoff dot all at age 25.

      He was also one of the centerpieces of the US Olympic team that JUST missed out on a gold medal. Arguably their 2nd or 3rd best forward.

      I think playing behind the Sedins, Kesler knows his role as a 2nd line scorer, readily accepts and flourishes in it.

      Their contracts are not even remotely close in terms of being comparable. Sorry Tyler. Kesler will be paid $5 million at age 31 when his contract ends. That will be a very reasonable for an 18+ minute forward in the prime of his career. Horcoff will be paid, for salary cap purposes, $5.5 million at 36 years of age. Absent a HUGE increase in the salary cap (which will not happen over the next 5 years) that will be one of the worst contracts in hockey.

      A very bad contract for the performance received. It might be merely a bad contract if the Oilers had a cheap #1 center who was out producing his contract

    17. Hawerchuk
      March 21, 2010 at

      It’s hard not to be impressed with the four contracts going out to the Sedins, Kesler and Luongo. We’re still not very good at this valuation stuff, but I have to imagine Luongo’s a reliable 4 WAR and the others combine for 8-9 WAR, which essentially puts Vancouver up $5-8M.

      It stands to reason that Vancouver is something like a 77-point team if you get take these four guys and get your bottom 20 players off the scrap heap.

      I don’t think you can put yourself in a better position for the future unless you finish last for a few years like Chicago or Pittsburgh. Vancouver’s highest draft pick in a decade was Luc Bourdon.

    18. R O
      March 21, 2010 at

      Anson Carter scored 33 goals on year playing next to the Sedins.

      I don’t know the context involved, it’s very possible they were playing ultra-soft minutes like the Sedins have been doing for most of this season. Also highly possible they were getting a ton of puck luck, like the Sedins have have been doing for most of this season. Or maybe Anson Carter really earned a lot of that offence, but that would be a strange thing and the number of strange things that occur in hockey is less than we all expect.

      I don’t know much about the player Anson Carter, you guys would know more about that having seen him play in Edmonton. His boxcars imply a lot of offence for the Oil but again context is everything. I do notice he’s not much of a part of the early-2000s Oilers folklore with the likes of Smyth, Grier, Reasoner, Dvorak, Pisani, Laraque, etc. Nobody here ever talks about Anson Carter with the same fondness.

      Maybe you pay this player $2M to play with Hemsky and Horcoff and given what you know about those players and what they do, no way in hell would Burrows score 30 goals. Because he’d be busy playing tough minutes and it’s an entirely different thing to be playing with H&H against the best than playing with Sedin*2 against weaklings with Horcoff-clone-Kesler paving your way to the offensive zone and a ton of puck luck to boot. At least when it comes to counting up Goals and Assists, not as much when it comes to helping you win.

      I don’t mean to centre this discussion on Carter or Burrows. Just on the thinking that it’s a good or even neutral idea to overpay by 500k for an RW to play with an LW-C pair who we unequivocally know are the guys who actually drive results and have produced offence at a high level with a variety of less talented players.

      AND it sets a bad precedent. In isolation that wasted 0.5-1M doesn’t seem like a big deal, but it snowballs. They’re paying 2M for Bernier and 2.5M for Samuelsson and these both seem like Moreau/Pisani type overpays. Not saying they’re liabilities, more like they’re taking up money that could be used on a player who can drive results more.

      And it doesn’t matter now, not when the Sedins, Kesler and Luongo are good enough to cover up their depth weakness. They might not always be good enough. If the Sedins take a step back in two years then the Burrows will look silly and his contract will look silly. Overpaying one player for perceived performance that is ultimately attributable to another player or players… that’s a bad contract.

    19. Hawerchuk
      March 21, 2010 at

      I dunno. Kesler and the Sedins are very durable, and paying them through age 28 and 34, respectively seems like a pretty good risk.

      Vancouver essentially paid Luongo $94M for age 27 onwards. I think he has already been worth $50M+. It would be very surprising if the Canucks lose on this contract, though obviously if the present CBA is still in force in 2018, this will be a millstone for that season even with significant cap inflation. But even with unlimited funds, you always potentially screw yourself when you back-load a contract.

    20. March 21, 2010 at

      i don’t know what world i’ve entered here – can anyone explain how UFA age wingers making 2 million dollars a season are supposed to drive results?

      i’m aware that anson carter scored 33 goals next to the sedins. i am also aware that carter wasn’t a particularly good player at that point in his career. but that was 2005-06, when vancouver had 526 power play opportunities; if vancouver continues on its current pace of drawing penalties, they will have 328 power plays this season. i don’t think i need to explain how this would affect scoring.

      when you compare the burrows contract to the multitude of UFA wingers that get vastly overpaid, burrows is a relative steal. oh, and i guess he kills penalties too.

    21. pitseleh
      March 21, 2010 at

      Carter played almost 4 mins/game on the PP and went 18/15/0 at EV/PP/SH. Burrows has gone 38/4/7 in 104 games with the Sedins (30/3/6 per 82 games) while playing about 1 min/game on the PP over that stretch.

      Burrows played in a checking role with Kesler from October-January in 08/09 and for all of 07/08 – over that span playing tough minutes he was a plus player scoring at about 15 goals and 35 points per 82 games at EV/SH. He might not be a guy who can drive results but even away from the Sedins he’s someone who can handle himself playing tough minutes with Kesler.

    22. R O
      March 21, 2010 at

      i don’t know what world i’ve entered here – can anyone explain how UFA age wingers making 2 million dollars a season are supposed to drive results?

      They’re not, but maybe the extra 0.5 to 1.0 M spent on three of them could be used to pay another player to drive results. Maybe wingers who don’t drive results should be paid less money, because if a team’s entire group of depth wingers is paid 2-3M instead of 1-2 M then it would mean wasted dollars for little to no performance benefit.

      And if we’re talking about factors that affect scoring then perhaps we ought to talk about an even strength shooting % of more than 10%, which both Samuelsson and Burrows are enjoying this season. Now Samuelsson has no recent history of being that good a finisher and Burrows has only shown that in the two seasons he’s played with the Sedins.

      And beyond that every single relevant minute of Burrows’ performance in the last two seasons (his good seasons) has been with either the Sedins or Kesler and these are, by eye and number and common sense, the impact forwards on the Canucks. Canucks fans will deny or downplay the extent to which Burrows leaches off these good players and it’s their right, no skin off my back, but reality is what it is.

    23. March 21, 2010 at

      i am fully aware that both mikael samuelsson and alex burrows are enjoying some good fortune this year and that the canucks are probably only an average goal scoring team enjoying some puck luck this season.

      i am just not sure how a 2 million dollar contract to a winger of burrows’ caliber can be bad in a market where players like sean avery get 4 million and jay pandolfo gets 2.5 million. i’m also not sure how many results drivers make it to UFA every year, but i suspect it’s not very many, and i’m not even sure you would put players like kovalchuk and bouwmeester in that category, given the way the discussion is progressing here.

    24. David Staples
      March 21, 2010 at

      Kesler will be 26 when the contracts starts, 31 when it’s over, and I do believe that five of the six years of his deal covered years when he would have UFA status.

      Impressive work by Gillis. Just the kind of contract you want a young two-way ace to ink, not too short, not too long, not too much.

      Now if only he stays healthy, Gillis wins big.

    25. pitseleh
      March 22, 2010 at

      And beyond that every single relevant minute of Burrows’ performance in the last two seasons (his good seasons) has been with either the Sedins or Kesler and these are, by eye and number and common sense, the impact forwards on the Canucks. Canucks fans will deny or downplay the extent to which Burrows leaches off these good players and it’s their right, no skin off my back, but reality is what it is.

      Burrows might not drive results like the Sedins or Kesler but he certainly has helped the Sedins achieve better results.

      Over the past two seasons (using Henrik as the Sedins to include the time Daniel missed):

      Sedins with Burrows: 71 GF/32 GA/1045 Corsi+/826 Corsi-
      Sedins without Burrows: 67 GF/41 GA/1062 Corsi+/945 Corsi-

      I don’t have the ice times that correspond with those numbers but given they were on the ice for roughly the same number of goals and shots it’s likely close to a wash. They’ve been much more effective with Burrows on their line than without him over the past two seasons. The other players they’ve played with include Mikael Samuelsson, Pavol Demitra, Steve Bernier, and Mason Raymond, so it’s not as though they’ve been sunk by playing with replacement level players in Burrows’s absence.

    26. R O
      March 22, 2010 at

      Burrows might not drive results like the Sedins or Kesler but he certainly has helped the Sedins achieve better results.

      Over the past two seasons (using Henrik as the Sedins to include the time Daniel missed):

      Sedins with Burrows: 71 GF/32 GA/1045 Corsi+/826 Corsi-
      Sedins without Burrows: 67 GF/41 GA/1062 Corsi+/945 Corsi-

      It’s an interesting point you bring up and unfortunately Vic’s TOI tool isn’t giving me results with two players on the ice so I can’t take the discussion much further.

      What I will say is that you know better than I whether Burrows spent more of his icetime this year or last with the Sedins (I suspect more this year since it was well publicized how Vigno shook up his lineup after the Canucks losing streak which happened only in mid-Jan if I recall). And I know as well as you do that the Sedins have been playing much softer icetime this year than last.

      Role and context of icetime, more than any real difference between Burrows or Samuelsson/Demitra/Bernier/Raymond, will be the dominant factor in determining how much time the Sedins spend in the offensive zone and how much offense they can generate.

    27. pitseleh
      March 22, 2010 at

      What I will say is that you know better than I whether Burrows spent more of his icetime this year or last with the Sedins (I suspect more this year since it was well publicized how Vigno shook up his lineup after the Canucks losing streak which happened only in mid-Jan if I recall). And I know as well as you do that the Sedins have been playing much softer icetime this year than last.

      Burrows spent more ice time with the Sedins this season. Last year he was with Kesler almost exclusively October-January and with the Sedins February-April. I don’t think their ice time has become substantial softer – last season they were 8th and 9th amongst regular forwards in terms of Corsi QoC and this season they are 5th and 9th. Last year they did get easier zone starts though.

      Even if you just isolate last season (and you’re getting into small sample size territory), there was a noticeable improvement in their results even though they took on tougher minutes once Burrows joined their line.

      08/09
      Separate – 37 GF/27 GA/722 Corsi+/671 Corsi-
      Together – 25 GF/10 GA/346 Corsi+/262 Corsi-

      Prior to putting Burrows with the Sedins, Kesler had been getting the tough minutes. Afterwards, he was babysitting Sundin at EV and the Sedins made up some of the difference.

      The Sedins also played softer minutes in 07/08 than they have either of the last two seasons and didn’t get anywhere near the results they have with Burrows the past two seasons.

    28. R O
      March 23, 2010 at

      The Sedins also played softer minutes in 07/08 than they have either of the last two seasons and didn’t get anywhere near the results they have with Burrows the past two seasons.

      GF/GA-wise? A bunch of that (nearly all, really) is driven by PDO. Common sense says Burrows doesn’t drive that.

      The other stuff is interesting though, the Corsi splits. When I have the time I’ll scrape all the 08/09 gamesheets and take a look.

      But again, common sense dictates that a guy of Burrows’ history isn’t going to drive the Sedins’ Corsi percentages from 52% to 57%, that’s an incredible shift. Just incredible, only the very best in the league could shift territorial advantage that much without a change in role to go along with it.

    29. R O
      March 23, 2010 at

      Also, I’m pretty sure what is said in this post (and comments too) is ominous. There are few surprises in hockey.

      http://vhockey.blogspot.com/2008/09/identical-part-ii-linemates.html

    30. June 27, 2011 at

      canucks proivd of Kesler in 2011

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