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Summer Signing Series – Jones

As the summer free agency period comes to a close MPS is taking this opportunity to review the biggest signings of the summer from a purely financial perspective. To be fair to all the teams and players we’ll be looking at we’ll be using the same set of base assumptions throughout the series. Principally these assumptions are:

– The performance metrics we want to pay for are:

o Goals (40%) and Assists (60%) when the players are out at Even Strength or on the Power Play.
o Team Goals Against (100%) when the player is on the ice killing penalties.

– The salary cap starts this season at $73 million and increases 5%/year for future years (obviously this is up for debate but it basically reflects flat revenue growth and the assumption the NHLPA uses its escalator clause).

Signing #5 – Seth Jones

At #5 in our series we take a look at our very first defencemen in Seth Jones. After the blockbuster trade involving Jones to Columbus and Johansen to Nashville there was no doubt that Columbus was going to find a way to get this one done!

The Details

Right before free agency, on June 29th, Seth Jones signed a 6 year, $32.4 million contract with the Columbus Blue Jackets ($5.4 million AAV). Last season Jones had 3 goals and 28 points with both Columbus and Nashville.

Breaking it Down

As explained in our earlier blog, point totals are fine but valuation needs to be done using rates (if this doesn’t make sense to you please check out that other post because the rest of this article/series takes it for granted) so let’s take a look at Jones’s rates:

EVEN STRENGTH Last 3 Years Last Season
Goals/60 Min 0.14 0.09
Assists/60 Min 0.54 0.68
POWER PLAY Last 3 Years Last Season
Goals/60 Min 0.59 0.31
Assists/60 Min 3.51 3.70
PENALTY KILL Last 3 Years Last Season
Team Goals Against/60 Min 7.16 6.93

After looking at the rates for some of the NHL’s best forwards in our last posts these numbers are a little more modest…even for a defencemen Jones’s ~0.7 Pts/60 at Even Strength is a little below the league average that is closer to 0.9 Pts/60. He fares a little better on the Power Play where his ~4 Pts/60 is slightly above the average NHL rearguard who puts up ~3.5 Pts/60 but all in all these numbers could be summed up as okay.

Ice Time

The other key factor to determining a player’s worth is how much ice time they get (again if you haven’t read this article yet you may want to do that so you can see the logic behind this). In Jones’s case he has played the following:

ICE TIME Last 3 Years Last Season
Even Strength 15.80 16.45
Power Play 2.16 2.43
Penalty Kill 1.74 1.95

Unlike our prior posts Jones’s last three years are probably not an ideal forecast for how much he will play during his contract. As you can see from this chart there is a clear trend in increasing responsibility for Jones. Last season his ice time increased to almost 21 minutes/night whereas his 3 year average was under 20 minutes/night (which of course included last season). This will probably be a factor in our forecast later but suffice it to say that Jones will probably need to play at least 21 minutes/night to justify his new contract.

The Forecast

Just like the rest of our posts we are going to start with a baseline forecast that assumes Jones simply plays exactly the same way and exactly the same minutes as he has for the last 3 years.

Jones1

Obviously this forecast isn’t going to work. While Columbus might have been under a lot of pressure to make sure they didn’t trade Ryan Johansen for nothing by letting Jones walk I doubt they would have wanted to overpay by as much as this forecast would imply. Furthermore, we alluded to Jones’s increasing role in the section above so we might as well bring that in to another forecast.

Jones2

A little better but still not enough to justify $5.4 million/year. So what does it take to get to $5.4 million/year?

Jones3

Without increasing Jones’s scoring rates (which we could probably forecast if we wanted to) we would have to see Jones playing about 23.5 minutes/night to justify his $5.4 million/year. That’s not crazy. It’s about what Justin Faulk plays for Carolina and he’s playing the 3rd most minutes for defencemen on that team but it’s definitely a step up from where Jones is today. Maybe the more likely scenario has Jones playing slightly more minutes in the first few years of his contract and then eventually playing more than 23 minutes/night as he moves into a top pairing role near the middle or end of this contract.

Verdict

VerdictJones

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Summer Signing Series – Jones

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