I guess it’s because NHL writers love the thought of going to Vegas on the company dime in the spring so much that no one ever bothers to question what George McPhee is doing. It’s kind of the same thing with Nashville, but to an even greater degree. And yet, if you look underneath the hood that NHL media is so happy to just settle for, you’ll see that this is one of the dumber contracts around and that in less than two seasons, George McPhee has completely throat-fucked a completely blank salary cap situation. That’s not easy to do!
So let’s go one at a time. While it hasn’t been made official, it was reported as soon as Stone was traded that he will ink an eight-year, $9.5M per extension with the Knights. Mark Stone is a fine player. Better than that, he’s a good player. Probably the highest-end second-line player you can find. Can even fill out your top line as he had to do in Ottawa for most of his career. All well and good.
Mark Stone has never scored more than 30 goals, and he’s likely to just barely scratch it this year for the first time. In a season when a bunch more are scoring 30 goals. Mark Stone has never bested 64 points, though he might, might get to 70 this year. But he’s never been anywhere near a point-per-game.
I suppose the arguments would be that Mark Stone’s metrics have been other-worldly, especially this season. and especially considering the team he’s been on. And I guess if you want to make the argument that those metrics on a team with better talent like Vegas will result in the numbers that would make $9.5M seem a good deal. It would also make Stone the first “analytic” contract in the sport’s history, and you’ll have to pardon me if I don’t think George “Punchy” McPhee is capable of that. Just a hunch.
Here’s just a smattering of forwards that Stone’s cap hit will be higher than: Sidney Crosby, Leon Draisaitl, Steven Stamkos, Claude Giroux, Vladimir Tarasenko. Yes, grated, those players signed deals at different points in their careers or in different times. But you also would take any of them over Stone in a heartbeat.
Now, you may say that it’s the Knights, it’s an expansion team, and they can overpay guys. Here’s the thing, they can’t! For next year, the Knights have about $10M in space and that’s without an extension for William Karlsson, supposedly their #1 center. While he’s not shooting 25% anymore, he’s also their third-leading scorer, and on their top line, and you’d have to figure he’s going to gobble up at least 60% of that $10M in space. Fuck, if Stone gets $9.5M then why can’t Karlsson ask for that? After all, he actually does have a 30-goal season on his resume.
Depending on what Karlsson cashes in for, the four highest cap hits next year in Vegas will be to players over 30. Because that’s a solid strategy! Works out for everyone! And you may say they can jettison some salary. Except straight salary dumps don’t tend to benefit the team making them and would also erode the depth that the Knights’ success is built on, so I’m told. I guess you could move out Eakin and Tuch for a combined $8M, maybe throw in Colin Miller and Brayden McNabb for another $5.5M, and then sign Erik Karlsson, to give you five contracts to players over 30 that are your highest. Maybe that works for a season, maybe even two, and then what. And what does it matter if Marc-Andre Fleury suddenly starts playing like he’s 35 (which he kind of already is, unless you want to believe that three March games–two of which came against the Ducks and Canucks–undue his .892 February)? Now you’d have no third line or second pairing or goalie. The Sharks have Karlsson, four lines, three pairings, but because of their goaltending might be a second-round washout. So you’re going to do it with less but better than the Sharks next year there, McPhee baby?
I feel like I’m taking crazy pills! And hey, maybe they spasm another run in the spring while beating the Sharks and Flames and maybe even on to the Final again and all the writers get what they’re after anyway. Or maybe they get clubbed by San Jose in the first round and then have a top-heavy and old roster next year, with no cap space. In their third season. That’s some trick.