Sunday, September 4, 2011

A transcript: What is Luke Schenn's value?

I would just like to take a moment as a longtime Leafs fan to wish my condolences to the Belak family. We all remember the courageous effort that Wade displayed every time he stepped on the ice. His dedication to his teammates was always truly remarkable, and he will be missed. Even though I never had the opportunity to speak with him, he was one of the players that I have always had the utmost respect for, and have only heard wonderful things from people that knew him better. The family should only know happiness in the future.

Don Meehan and Brian Burke negotiating Luke Schenn contract September 3, 2011:

BB: Sit down Don, let's get this over with, but I am going to let you know one thing, I will no longer be held hostage by Drew Doughty setting the market insanely high. This has gone on long enough. I would like to lock up Luke long-term, can we finally just sit down and agree on a number?

DM: That's fine Burkie. I no longer need to wait for Doughty's contractual issues to be settled, I am more than willing to look at the "very fair" value that John Van Riemsdyk received from the Flyers as a guideline for what my client Luke should be looking at. JVR signed for six years at an average of 4.25 million per season. That contract takes away the first two years of JVR's unrestricted free agency. Is that how long you want to have Schenn locked up for? My client has played three seasons in the NHL already, so as per the CBA adjustment in 2008, he needs to play only four more seasons until unrestricted free agency. A six year deal will buy out the first two years of his UFA status despite him not being 27 at the beginning of the 2015-16 season.

JVR received $4.25 million with nothing but the hopes of progress. In his first two seasons in the league he has averaged 18 goals and 37 points. If he warranted a contract like that, then my client Luke, who plays a premium position, and lead all defencemen in hits, deserves a a contract of at least $5 million per season.

BB: Don, as much as I respect your ability to twist and construe anything to provide your client with as much money as you can, don't look at me straight in the eye and tell me you actually believe the crap you are saying right now. The reason why JVR got that deal has nothing to do with how he played in the regular season, it is a combination of his remarkable playoff performance, and the fact that Paul Holmgren has shown himself to be completely blinded by the future of his team that he forgets to live in the present. The day that I give a 9yr/$50 million dollar deal to a goalie, is the day that I will be willing to concede to you that I will give a 21- year old defenceman the kind of money you claim he is worth. Besides if you want to take a Holmgren contract that he handed out to a young player, would you like to compare Schenn to Claude Giroux's annual $3.75 million dollar deal, it makes Schenn look like a $2.5 million dollar player.

DM: Burke you are being completely unfair, Giroux contract is only for three years and does not take away any years of unrestricted free agency. If you would like to structure Schenn's contract like that, we will obviously be willing to discuss a lower cap number- albeit not the $2.5 million that you arbitrarily made up.

However let's forget comparing forwards and defencemen, with 180 full-time defencemen in the league I am sure we can find comparable contracts. This week the Blue Jackets signed Fedor Tyutin to a 6yr/$27 million contract. I think Schenn compares positively to Tyutin. He has double the amount of hits and blocked shots, and while Tyutin's point totals were a little bit higher, that can be attributed to him seeing approximately 2 minutes more PP time per game. Also, if I may add, Schenn has improved on his point totals every season.

BB: Stop acting like your client is irreplaceable. I do not need to sign him into the first few years of his free agency, I am perfectly happy with a four year deal. As for Tyutin, he is a solid player that Columbus could not afford to lose. To get people to play in Columbus you need to pay a bit of a premium. Also, stop comparing Schenn to players in a different age class, or position, there are plenty of players at his position and age group to compare him to. Karl Alzner signed with the Capitals for 2 yr/ $1.29 million per season. I am not lowballing you here, just telling you that 22 year old defencemen who play 20 minutes a night, and have not shown all that much offensive flair do not make all that much money.

DM: I refuse to compare my client to players that have only played one season in the NHL, and also took a hometown discount to play for a Cup contender.

BB: Fair enough, I wasn't trying to compare the two, just wanted to illustrate a point. Let's cut to the chase, Erik Johnson in 2010, signed for 2 yr/$2.6 million per season. This is a contract number I would like to work with. I know that your first claim is going to be that the cap went up from $59.4 million in 2010, the year Johnson signed, to $64 million this season. I am going to calculate the % difference from year to year. A salary in 2010, that was $2.6 million represents a $2.8 million salary at the current number the NHL employs. What I like about this deal is that Johnson does not become a free agent at the end of the contract, rather he retains his RFA status. So Don, if you feel your client will continue to improve and can get significantly more money down the road, would you agree to a 2 year offer at $2.7 million per season? I think we can both agree that your client is not as good as Erik Johnson.

DM: Absolutely not, Luke is not interested in doing this every single season. We want a deal that will make Luke feel comfortable with his team, and continue to retain his job security with the Toronto Maple Leafs.

BB: Ok, that seems fair. I'll increase the offer to a five year deal,, which will eat into one year of UFA status, with an annual salary increase of fifteen percent for years two, three and four, and a twenty percent increase for year five. The reason for this increase is to properly compensate for the growth in the salary cap, as well as for the expected growth in Luke's game and subsequently his value.

Breakdown is as following:
2011-12: $2.7 million
2012-13: $3.1 million
2013-14: $3.57 million
2014-15: $4.1 million
2015-16: $4.9 million

Annualized Cap Hit= $3.674 million.

DM: Is that really what your offer is? $3.65 million for 5 years? Marc Staal last season received a 5 year deal, with an average cap hit of $3.975, and was at a time when the cap hit was $59.4 million. With my clients strong defensive ability, we are looking at a slightly higher number, plus the inflation of the higher salary cap.

BB: So we are getting closer. There are a couple of things that I would like to say about the Marc Staal deal, and explain to you the difference, with our situation. 1: I am not Glen Sather. Bobby Holik, Scott Gomez, Chris Drury Darius Kaspiritis, and the list goes on. He overpays for everyone. However I am willing to use that as some sort of guideline. 2: Marc Staal's contract does not carry a no-trade/movement clause. He could end up in Nasville, Florida, Islanders or any other small market, which will hurt your client's long-term value. The no trade clause to play in Toronto is quite a valuable asset to have. If your client wants reassurance he will have job security here, then I will charge you for it.

Also, Marc Staal this year was an All-Star. He plays more minutes than Schenn, and while I know Schenn is a better checker, and at blocking shots, if we analyze the statistics, the lack of shot blocking is largely due to his linemate Dan Girardi dominating the category. Also, Staal is better in the takeaways department, which is a crucial defensive stat, as well, he has a career high in goals that is higher than five. So did you bring up Marc Staal to lower the contract that I offered you? Or to at least prove my point?

DM: Right Burkie, you don't give out bad contracts, only Sather and Holmgren. What you gave to Komisarek must have made perfect sense at the time didn't it? Staal is not better than Schenn offensively. When you adjust their stats according to Power Play time received, Schenn actually had more points than Staal. My client will not be penalized because your coach chooses not to put trust in Luke's offensive ability. Dustin Byfuglien got $5.2 million from the Thrashers/Jets. The man is not capable of playing defence, and you want to tell me he is worth that? What would you say about $4.6 million for five seasons with a no trade clause?

BB: I maintain my stance, that the Komisarek deal was not all that expensive at the time, for one of the best unrestricted free agents on the market. Regarding Schenn, he receives no PP time, because he does not have an offensive flair. No matter how much time he got he would not have it. Marc Staal is a better play, or at least just as good as Schenn. His contract extends two years into his unrestricted free agency status, he does not carry a no-trade clause, and is getting paid less than $4 million. The contract for Luke only covers one year of unrestricted free agency, includes a no trade clause, so I will counter-offer with $3.9 million. I have increased from my original offer of $3.67 million, and also included a valuable no-trade clause to stay in the biggest hockey market in the world. As for Byfuglien, he had more game winning goals last season, than Luke's season career high in goals- let's just not go there, it is not worth the fight.

DM: $4.4 million.

BB: $4.05 million, or Luke is sitting out the year.

DM: Done. Congratulations, now I have got to go speak with the Kings GM Dean Lombardi, and explain how bad Luke Schenn, is and how Doughty is now worth at least $7.5 million. Good doing business with you Burkie.

BB: (grunts)

Note: This conversation never happened, but rather is a complete figment of my imagination.
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