It’s being heavily reported across the web that Mattias Ohlund will probably test the open market when his contract expires this summer. Report from team1040 radio says that negotiation between Ohlund’s party and the Canucks organization have broken down, and Ohlund is now seriously thinking about leaving the only NHL team he’s played for during his 11-years career.
To many fans, Ohlund is perhaps the best defenseman for the Canucks, but how good is he, and what return can he get if he tests the market during 09’s free agent season? A number of factors play into the offers being made to any UFA during any off-season. Of course the player’s statistics, character and age affects his value, but the number of other available UFA defensemen during a particular year will have a great effect as well.
So first, let’s take a look at Ohlund’s numbers:
2008-09 season (60 GP) – 4G, 15A, 19Pts
2007-08 season (53 GP) – 9G, 15A, 24Pts
2006-07 season (77 GP) – 11G, 20A, 31Pts
Looking at this year alone, Ohlund ranks 69th amongst defenseman, and has the similar point production as Ruslan Salei, Jordan Leopold or Zbynek Michalek. Not exactly top-rank in terms of statistics, but Ohlund’s value has never been about his ability to score goals or put up great assists. But in terms of +/-, Ohlund current ranks 108th amongst D-man, at +1. So, when teams are talking about Ohlund being a perfect choice as that puck-moving defenseman, this is not the case, at least not statistically. In terms of age, Ohlund is 31, just at the peak of his prime, which is also the same age as most of the highest paid defenseman in the league, ie. Chara, Boyle, Redden, Visnovsky, Souray(avg salary of 6.34-million). In terms of cap-number wise, Ohlund is 48th amongst all Defenseman at 3.5-million.
So he’s not very good number-wise, but at his prime, he’s making much less than the other top-tier defensemen of the same age. Of course, the determining factor when estimating his value is whether Ohlund belongs in the same group as these top-tier players. Let’s take a look:
Zdeno Chara 61GP – 14G 21A 35P +25 (7.5-million)
Dan Boyle 54GP – 14G 30A 44P +14 (6.67-million)
Wade Redden 62GP – 3G 18A 21P -11 (6.5-million)
Lubomir Visnovsky 50GP – 8G 23A 31P +6 (5.6-million)
Sheldon Souray 60GP – 17G 23A 40P -5 (5.4-million)
With the exception of Redden, who’s having an off-year, Ohlund’s numbers are nowhere near the top. So on paper, Ohlund’s value shouldn’t be more that what Visnovsky or Souray is making. If we look at another 31-yr old top-tier D-man, Pavel Kubina, who’s making 5-million, his numbers are better than Ohlund’s as well:
Pavel Kubina 62GP – 10G 24A 34P -8 (5-million)
Most GM, Burke included, would agree that Kubina is a great deal at 5-million dollars. So, for argument’s sake, let’s say that Ohlund’s other elements of play compensates his lack of point production, that he has more value than Kubina. Then his value will probably be in the range of 5-million to 5.6-million.
What about competition? Who else is available during the off-season, in terms of UFA?
There are a total of 11 UFA defensemen this summer who makes more than 3-million in terms of salary. We use this as a simplified factor for finding players with similiar market value as Ohlund. Of the 11, six of these UFAs are 35-yrs old or younger, and they are:
Scott Niedermayer (35) – 6.75-million
Jaroslav Spacek (35) – 3.33-million
Adrian Aucoin (35) – 4.0-million
Jay Bouwmeester (25) – 4.87-million
Filip Kuba (32) – 3.0-million
Derek Morris (30) – 3.917-million
Aside from Niedermayer, who may soon contemplate retirement, the other five are direct competitors with Ohlund in terms of being offered a heavy contract. Spacek or Aucoin, due to their age, will likely receive similar package as they did, close to 3.5-million per year. This leaves us with Bouwmeester, Kuba and Morris.
With the shrinking global economy, the Cap is likely to be reduced for next year, and not many teams with a decent shot at the cup will have enough cap-space to offer inflated contracts to free agents. Furthermore, the CBA will expire by the end of next season, so teams are reluctant in offering long term contracts as well. With these in mind, and the other three alternatives out there, what will the offer be for Ohlund???
I honestly think that Ohlund will probably be looking at offers for 5-million per season for 2 years, and although his numbers doesn’t support this, I think he’s worth every penny of it. Unfortunately, if the Canucks want to sign the Sedins to an extension, they will probably not be able to afford another 5-million for Ohlund. However, as I just explained, there are a number of good UFA defenseman coming up, so there’s really no need to break our bank to keep Ohlund here.
Sometimes as fans, we hate the idea of losing a valuable player to free agency. But what goes around comes around, we can also sign good free-agents if it makes sense to our cap-room.
P.S. This is also the reason why I don’t believe Gillis will trade Ohlund before the deadline this year, he doesn’t really mind him walking. Come next season, it will all be about cap-space, and those teams which offer inflated salary to attract players will suffer at the end.