Who are Alexei Emelin's true salary comparables?

Richard Wolowicz

There's a temptation to compare Emelin's new deal with other players making about $4.1M, but that's unfair. He should be compared to players whose deals took up the same percentage of cap space at the time of their signing.

During the summer I did some math to figure out a speculative projection of the NHL's salary cap over the next few years in order to examine P.K. Subban's contract situation, and although there was criticism at first, after the NHL came out with how much they made during the lockout shortened 2013 season, most critics went back on their initial concerns. In fact, may NHL writers did their own projections that more or less aligned with mine Because of this, I believe that's a solid framework to begin with once again.

From that work, I found that we should expect the salary cap next season to rise to approximately $70.2M, up from this season's $64.3M. That significant change has a large impact on the lens through which we should be viewing Alexei Emelin's new contract with the Montreal Canadiens.

Emelin's extension pays him $16.4M over four years, meaning an average cap hit of $4.1M per year. $4.1M accounts for 5.84% of the available cap space, so I think looking for defensemen eligible for unrestricted free agency with cap hits between 5.5% and 6% of their team's cap in the first year of their deals would be a fair standard to create comparables. Using those parameters, here is the list:

07-08 08-09 09-10 10-11 11-12 12-13
Steve Staios Nick Schultz Rob Scuderi Dennis Seidenberg Roman Hamrlik Josh Gorges
Bryan Allen - - Henrik Tallinder Eric Brewer John-Michael Liles
Tom Preissing - - Willie Mitchell - Kyle Quincey
Andy Sutton - - - - Filip Kuba
- - - - - Tim Gleason

Outside of a couple of exceptions, this isn't a list of world beaters. Seven of the sixteen defensemen are what I would consider top-4 guys, but let's not go with my opinion. Let's actually compare them to Alexei Emelin in a simplistic, quick format. We'll use Fenwick and zone starts to measure each player's two previous years of performance (if available), role, and competition level. Staios, Allen, Preissing, and Sutton don't have statistics available for this time frame, but I think we're very safe in saying those guys aren't on the same level as Emelin. Nick Schultz only has one year, which we can settle for. When using zone starts here, we'll be including neutral zone starts in the calculations, so we'll have offensive and defensive zone start percentages.

Player % cap hit Fenwick % Offensive ZS % Defensive ZS % Fenwick % QoC Fenwick % QoT
Schultz 5.64 46.8 20.7 35.7 50.5 49.0
Scuderi 5.99 46.7 25.1 31.4 50.1 48.3
Seidenberg 5.47 49.5 28.1 33.3 49.8 49.1
Tallinder 5.68 49.6 30.4 30.0 50.2 49.9
Mitchell 5.99 49.9 27.8 34.6 50.2 50.6
Hamrlik 5.44 50.4 28.6 30.1 50.2 49.7
Brewer 6.03 50.1 30.2 32.4 50.2 51.3
Gorges 5.56 49.8 27.7 31.7 50.1 49.8
Liles 5.52 49.5 32.6 29.4 50.0 47.9
Quincey 5.38 52.0 35.3 26.9 50.0 50.2
Kuba 5.70 51.0 34.6 26.4 50.0 50.5
Gleason 5.70 46.1 26.5 34.2 50.2 49.1
Emelin 5.84 51.2 30.9 29.3 50.0 53.6
Average 5.69 49.3 29.1 31.2 50.1 49.9

So how does Emelin compare to his peers? Well he's more expensive than average, but considering that he's playing in Montreal and the tax situation there, that's to be expected. He also has put up significantly better performance than average, though that comes with a caveat or two.

In order to put up a better Fenwick percentage, Emelin was given more offensive zone starts than average, fewer defensive zone starts than average, average competition, and way better teammates to support him.

What's important to note here is that Emelin isn't abnormally sheltered like Quincey, Kuba, or even Liles from a zone start perspective, he has just played with very good teammates. That is going to greatly impact the way his performance looks though, even if he's facing mid-level tough competition in other areas.

Again, this is a simplistic analysis that doesn't cover every base, but considering the relative strength of the Montreal Canadiens, I can't say that I'm too worried about Emelin relying on good teammates. Emelin compares relatively well to this group, even if he is the 4th most expensive of 13 players.

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