When the Twitterverse found out that the Caps would make a “significant player announcement”, speculation ran wild:
- Will Brooks Laich retire and become a NASCAR Inside Front Tire Changer?
- Will Samantha Casey become a Red Rocker?
- Will Slapshot become the new sponsor for Muscle Milk?
The answer was revealed today: Nicklas Backstrom has signed a 10-year/$67 million contract extension with the Washington Capitals. I know what you are thinking: “That’s a lot of IKEA furniture!” However, Backstrom was due to become a restricted free agent July 1st, but now my unborn children may have an opportunity to see a Backstrom-to-Ovechkin goal.
A new question presents itself: Is Backstrom one of the biggest bargains in the NHL, or will he be a cap buster for years to come?
First, here are some of the accomplishments (from the Caps 2009-10 Guide) for the Swede whose jersey your girlfriend wears:
- Sixth in NHL history in assists in the player’s first three years, trailing only Wayne Gretzky, Peter Stastny, Denis Savard, Mario Lemieux, and Sidney Crosby.
- Only Backstrom, Gretzky and Stastny each had at least 55 assists in each of their first three seasons.
- Ranks third in the league in assists over the last three years (trailing Henrik Sedin and Joe Thornton).
- One of only 19 players (three of them Caps) averaging at least a point per game over the last three seasons.
- The top-scoring player from his draft class (2006).
- Has never missed an NHL game in his career (246 games).
Anytime you are mentioned in the same sentence with Gretzky, that’s a good thing (unless it’s about the Coyotes or gambling). But to get a sense of where Backstrom is and where his career could end up, we take a look at those players that are most similar to Backstrom using SABR’s similarity scores.
Backstrom currently has 246 Games played, 69 Goals, 189 assists and 258 points at age 22 through the first three years of career, with a 2010/11 salary cap number of $6.7 million. Similar active players to him, through the same time period/age and in order of similarity, include:
- Evgeni Malkin, $8.7 mil 2010/11 Cap number
- Sidney Crosby, $8.7 mil
- Anze Kopitar, $6.8 mil
- Eric Staal, $8.25
On the surface, we see Backstrom may be slightly underpaid compared to his peer group– thus giving the Caps more room to acquire other crucial pieces to the Stanley Cup puzzle. Still, $67M is nothing to sneeze at, and today was a huge success for Nicky and the organization alike.