When the Anaheim Ducks re-signed Ryan Kesler to a new six-year, $41.25 mil. extension that will seem him with the club through the 2021-22 season if he plays through the term, the immediate reaction was, shall we say, negative.
Perhaps the most withering response came from Puck Daddy's Ryan Lambert, who labeled the deal "indefensible", laying out the (small) historical precedent for forwards playing to the age of 37, attacked the idea of signing a player to a deal with a $6.875 mil. AAV that seems primed to buy-out in a number of seasons, and suggests durability issues pointing to decline already showing up in his game. It's very much worth you time to go back and read the full, well-written and reasoned piece to grasp the arguments, because you'll be hearing them again later.
Still, in Puck Daddy's original piece on the signing by Joshua Cooper the cap question was brought up in terms of having the 30+ Kesler, Ryan Getzlaf, and Corey Perry locked up at a significant portion of the cap (just over 32% next season), with the questions of how it will impact the Ducks being able to bring back the three restricted free agent defenders Hampus Lindholm, Simon Despres, and Sami Vatanen as well as RFA goalies Frederik Andersen and John Gibson. PUQ raised similar age issues, while at the same time making the acknowledgement that the deal locks Kesler and the Ducks in as a "win now" team.
Enter today, and the Calgary Flames re-signing defenseman and captain Mark Giordano to a six-year, $40.5 mil. extension rounding out to a $6.75 mil. AAV (read SBN sister site Matchsticks & Gasoline's take here).
Sportsnet's Mark Spector effused about it being a "no-brainer", raving about Giordano's leadership in teaching fellow defensemen TJ Brodie and Dougie Hamilton how the game 'is supposed to be played'. Puck Daddy bossman Greg Wyshynski waived away concerns about age and length because it pays Giordano "what he's worth now". Just run a search for "Giordano re-signs Flames" on Twitter and see for yourself the parade of blue-checkmarked hockey analysts giving Calgary all the props.
Since elevating to Calgary full time in 08-09 Girodano has had three of seven seasons where he's appeared in over 90% of the Flames games, with one of those coming during the lockout shortened 12-13 season. Each of the past two years where he's been considered an 'elite' defender, he's missed 18 or more games including the entirety of this past season's surprise playoff run. If there are injury concerns about Kesler, who has appeared in less than 93% of his teams games just twice in 10 seasons (one of which was 12-13) since becoming a full time NHLer in 05-06, why are folks not making a similarly large deal about a defenseman who is a year older?
It's worth pointing out that Kesler does have significantly more miles on him both in the NHL and as a professional hockey player, 809 regular season and playoff NHL games and 934 as a pro. Giordano has only appeared in 514 RS+PO NHL games and 731 as a pro.
In line with that Kesler has a much more established track record of production, with seven of his 10 years as a 20-goal scorer, and seven as a 50+ shot attempts percentage player at five-on-five despite facing majority defensive zone starts for nine seasons. Each of the past six seasons Kesler has been 50+ SAT% in all circumstances, facing majority defensive zone starts in three. Giordano has two seasons of 40+ point production, with one additional 30+, and while his five seasons of 52.2+ SAT% at all strengths are impressive, he's only posted that level of play the last two seasons with majority defensive zone starts. Not to mention, at five-on-five three of the past four years he's been 48.4 SAT% or lower. Relative SAT% standings are similar too, with Giordano a positive performer six of seven seasons, while Kesler six of eight.
The next question pertains to Calgary's cap situation, where according to NHLNumbers the Flames currently have $3.052 mil. left for the coming season. Next year leading scorer Jiri Hudler is due for a new deal, and after two seasons of leading the team in points (including tying for the team lead in goals this past season) and a third where he finished top three, he figures in line for a raise from his $4.0 mil. AAV if he's to remain. Dennis Wideman's $5.2 mil. AAV doesn't come off the books until the 17-18 season, and the Flames will also have to figure out their goaltending with both Jonas Hiller 's $4.5 mil. AAV and Karri Ramo 's $3.8 mil. AAV up for renewal as well after this season. Add on top of that RFA deals due for Johnny Gaudreau and Sean Monahan in the coming summer.
The $17.15 mil. number being quoted between Giordano, Hamilton and Brodie is a nice starting point, but unless the team can find a suitor for Wideman that doesn't really become the advantage it could be until two years down the line, after which the Flames with have had to re-up Gaudreau and Monahan. Goaltending is an important question as well, as unless Calgary can demonstrate the ability to turn around the massive possession gulf they've faced since 11-12 (47.7 SAT% or lower at all strengths, and 47.4 at 5-on-5 as highs in that stretch) plugging in a replacement-level goalie won't be an option if the Flames want to remain a playoff competitor.
Mark Girodano has been a fantastic story the last two seasons for the Flames, and next year is in line to become the eighth highest paid defenseman in the league. He'll be doing so as the second oldest in the top 10 behind Zdeno Chara, and older than every defenseman save Chara earning $6.0 mil. AAV or more. Of the 18 defenseman earning more than $5.5 mil. AAV he's older than all but three (Andrei Markov, Duncan Keith). The Flames are making a bet on a player who's only recently developed to an elite level and has a history of injuries, and doing so at a more advanced age than most many of his financial peers.
Folks point to the Anaheim trio of expensive forwards and shake their fingers, seemingly failing to acknowledge the necessity of the deal in the short term to guarantee the club as a legitimate Stanley Cup contender. For the Flames it's a much more long term proposition, and the question must be asked whether at the same time folks think Kesler will be a prime buyout candidate, might Giordano also be as well? Hamilton and Brodie figure to be shouldering the load in their mid and late 20's by that point, making Giordano an awfully expensive, aging option outside the first pair.
Has Giordano been underpaid the past two seasons with Calgary? Yes. Does Ryan Kesler give Anaheim a better chance to win the Stanley Cup? Yes. Did both the Flames and Ducks have to pony up to aging players that are critical to the success of their team? Yes.
It sure is interesting the polar opposite reactions each drew.
Follow Managing Editor Eric Evelhoch on Twitter: @EricTheHawk
Staff Writer Liz Brownstein contributed to this article: @lizbrownstein
Statistics used in this article courtesy www.war-on-ice.com