Forecasting Mark Stone’s Extension

Mark Stone is currently being criminally underpaid making a cap hit of $3,500,000. However, this is going to change. In the summer of 2018, the Ottawa Senator’s forward will be looking for a big raise as he becomes a restricted free agent. There have been hints at extension talks already, and while a lot can change between now and the summer, Stone’s extension is going to loom large enough over the Senator’s future that it’s important to get an early indication of what is to come. To do that, the negotiation is going to be broken down to see how much he is likely to make, and if he is going to be able to live up to the raise.

How Much Will Stone Make?

First, let’s get an idea of how much Stone is actually likely to get paid. Contracts are typically evaluated using comparables, so to ballpark Stone’s future payday let’s look at his five closest contract comparables from Capfriendly.com. All 5 of his closest comparables from his last contract have since signed their extensions, so we will use those extensions to get a ballpark of the money and term. Before we examine any further there is one important note to make about Stone and his comparables. All five of these players signed bridge deals that expire while the player is still a restricted free agent (just like Stone’s will), we will come back to this point later. So with that in mind here is the cap hit of those five comparables after their extension :

 Comparable Cap Hit Length
Ondrej Palat $5,300,000 5 Years
Tyler Johnson $5,000,000 7 Years
Tomas Tatar $5,300,000 4 Years
Tyler Toffoli $4,600,000 3 Years
Reilly Smith $5,000,000 5 Years
Average $5,040,000 4.8 Years

The average cap hit of the comparables comes out at an estimated $5.04 million cap hit and term of 5 years. This would make him tied for the 78th highest paid forward in the NHL based on today’s contracts. In other words, Stone is probably about to make below average first line money. Now that we have an estimate of how much money Stone is about to make and the archetype that typically comes with said salary, let’s look towards the next question.

How Much is Stone Actually Worth?

Since he is about to cash in as a first line winger, let’s look at some public metrics (from Corsica.hockey) to see how much money Stone should be worth.

So with just one look, it is pretty obvious Stone is bordering on elite. He shows in the 95th percentile at tilting the shot clock (Corsi Rel), which suggests he is one of the best play drivers in the entire NHL. Once those shots are weighted for danger (XG Rel) he falls to the 83rd percentile but is still well into the first liner category. Combine these two and we see he has a high-end ability to drive play, which earns him the reputation as an elite defensive winger. Next up we can look at points. I find with players who are cut from the same cloth as Stone, we often forget that while they are amazing play drivers they also put up points at an incredible rate for their ice time. This is shown by his impressive ranking in the 93rd percentile in point production, which again i bordering on elite. His penalty differential does leave something to be desired, however, I wouldn’t really worry much as it is still well above average. To get a definitive ranking of all our metrics in one, we can look to the far right at his gamescore per game over the past three seasons.

Embed from Getty Images

When we blend everything in one we find Stone to be in the 89th percentile amoung forwards. From here if we assume all 31 NHL teams ice 12 forwards, being in the 89th percentile puts you as the 40th best forward in the NHL. Going back to Capfriendly we can see that the 40th highest paid forward in the NHL makes $6 million per year. So the true value of Mark Stone today is a cap hit of $6 million, nearly double what he makes today and a full million dollars more than what he is likely to be paid after his extension. This is because Stone, like all of his comparables, is a restricted free agent after his bridge contract is over. The NHL’s payment structure is infamous for restricted free agents making way less money than they should be, and if you don’t believe that from me just ask the 87th highest paid forward in the NHL, Nikita Kucherov. This should lead to Senator’s fans cheering in the streets after the upcoming Stone extension as he will likely be worth around a million dollars more than he is actually going to be paid for the near future. Of course Stone isn’t going to sustain this level of play forever so finally let’s look beyond the near future.

Going Forward

Currently being 25, and 26 when the extension kicks in we are likely witnessing Stone at the absolute best he is ever going to be. So since his play is probably going to dip going forward, let’s turn to the Canucks Army age curve to see how far we should expect Stone to fall off in the ladder years of this coming contract. 

The age of 26 is the first year we begin to see the steady decline of NHL forwards. Luckily for players like Stone, that decline is relatively minimal until they hit around age 31 and beyond. Conveniently for the Senator’s fans, a 5-6 year contract for Stone would end right when or before we start to see NHL forwards fall off a cliff. So while he is definitely not getting better, there should be no dramatic fall off in Stone’s play over the course of a 5-6 year contract.

Conclusion

Being the teams most important forward, this upcoming Stone extension is very important for the Senator’s in the future. Based on his comparables we should expect about a 5 year, $5,000,000 cap hit. Luckily for the Sens, this raise is probably still going to leave Stone as more valuable than his contract implies. Even better yet, the mid-range term we can expect means the contract will end right before it’s reasonable to expect a dramatic drop off in Stone’s production. All in all, this upcoming contract is likely to be a win for the Senator’s, and a loss for Stone, just like the contract he is currently on.

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