On Saturday the Anaheim Ducks locked up one of their core players as they signed defenseman Sami Vatanen to a four-year contract extension worth $19.5 million ($4.875M per).
I think this is an excellent contract for a few reasons:
1) 5 v 5 point production
Over the last two seasons Vatanen has averaged .91 points per 60 minutes of 5 v 5 ice. That puts him in a tie for 29th with the likes of Keith Yandle, T.J. Brodie, Ryan McDonagh and Anton Stralman, among others.
Vatanen has not only equalled their 5 v 5 production but also been a more efficient point producer than Justin Faulk, Duncan Keith, Oliver Ekman-Larsson, Drew Doughty and Hampus Lindholm to name but a few.
In today’s NHL it is hard to produce points - particularly at full-strength - and Vatanen is very good at it.
2) 5 v 5 results
The objective in hockey is to out score your opponents. Over the last two seasons the Ducks have scored 51.2% of the 5 v 5 goals with Vatanen on the ice.
What helps you out score the opposition is generating a larger percentage of the shots and attempts. Over the last two seasons the Ducks have controlled 50.9% of the 5 v 5 shot attempts with Vatanen on the ice.
That he has managed to be efficient with Clayton Stoner pulling him down is quite impressive.
3) Power play production
Vatanen is an excellent point producer at even-strength but he is downright elite on the man advantage.
Over the last two seasons Vatanen has scored 1.71 goals per 60 minutes of 5 v 4 ice. Among 51 defenseman who have played at least 300 PP minutes over the last couple seasons only Shea Weber and Justin Faulk have scored more frequently.
Vatanen has also averaged 5.28 points per 60 minutes of 5 v 4 ice. Once again that ranks him 3rd in the NHL over the last two years; behind only Kevin Shattenkirk and John Carlson.
4) He is signed through his prime
While many would have liked to see Vatanen put pen to paper on a deal with more term I think signing him for four years was very smart.
The Ducks now have Vatanen under contract for his age 25, 26, 27 and 28 seasons. In order words they have him signed for the prime of his career.
At 28 or 29 he will likely begin to show signs of decline and in his early 30s it will become more and more apparent. Rather than paying him big money when he’s not the player he is today the Ducks went short, ate up his prime years on a good value contract and are not committed to him when his game starts to head south.
This was a smart bit of business by Bob Murray.