Giroux's New Contract, Is His Dependency Worth It? >

by Michael DeNicola

Monday, October 28th, 2013 --

Whenever you question our star captain Claude Giroux, you're bound to hear backlash. As far as our fanbase is concerned, #28 is an untouchable. He is the Jesus to our Last Supper, the Urkel to our Family Matters, the turkey to our Thanksgiving, the Bodhi to our Ex-Presidents, the..... you get the gist. 

As you already know, I'm sure, Claude inked an extension with the Flyers over the summer. His fresh contract begins in the 2014-15 League Year and expires in July, 2022. That is what we call a "long-term commitment", and like any commitment you have to ask yourself.... Is it worth it?

Now, there are a lot of variables that factor into this equation. It's a loaded question, I know that, which I tend to broaden on. 

For starters, Giroux's extension is worth a total of $66,200,000 USD. That is an average annual value of $8.275mm over its life cycle. As it stands this moment, Claude accounts for 12.87% of the salary cap's 2014-15 upper limit, which is comparable to other SPC's belonging to Phil Kessel, Pavel Datsyuk, Evgeni Malkin, Patrice Bergeron, Ryan Getzlaf, Corey Perry and Sidney Crosby. 

Of course Giroux's cap hit is comparable to a longer list than that, but I don't want to out-date myself here. Just like economic law, a Standard Player's Contract is controlled by supply & demand, and inflation. As the League grows and gains more demographic, the Players will get richer as a result. Price tags are controlled by contractual comparisons on an annual basis, so one long-term contract signed in 2013 is not worth nearly the value of one signed in 2010. 

Just a quick example of what I'm talking about; When Chris Pronger signed his 7-year, $34.55M extension with the Flyers in 2010, he was still considered one of the NHL's elite defensemen. That's a cap hit of just under $5-million. Fast-forward to the summer of 2013; Mark Streit signed with the Flyers to a contract worth $5.25mm annually off our cap. 

Quite the head-scratcher, am I right?

But that's the nature of the beast. Every year we see higher tier players comparing themselves to contracts of the past, and their agents whisper sweet nothings in their ears.... convincing them that they should have just a smidgen more than that. And it's been that way as revenues have grown more and more. It's why I keep saying that we're not far away from seeing a player's contract demanding $11-million (and more) off a Club's salary cap per season. We are currently seeing more overpaid NHLers today than we ever have in the history of the League.

So, if each player has a right to compare paygrades, then outliers like myself have a right to compare that player's production to those who are being paid similarly. 

I am not a fan of long-term contracts. I never have been, nor will I ever be. I firmly believe that a seven- or eight-year contract will prove to be more of a headache through the long-term than a solution through the short-term. 

Hey, if the team wins the Stanley Cup as a result of a happily overpaid roster, then I guess it's worth it in the end, correct? But what are the chances that it all pans out to another Cup banner being raised in the rafters? Especially when your highest paid superstar has a dependency level greater than his ability to make things happen on his own.

Let's go back to that short list of comparable contracts to Claude Giroux's extension; in his career, Claude has averaged 0.86 points per game, which is a 71 point pace in an 82-game season. How does that stack up against the career averages like Phil Kessel? 62 point pace in an 82-game season. Pavel Datsyuk? 81 point pace in an 82-game season. Evgeni Malkin? 100 point pace in an 82-game season. Patrice Bergeron? 61 point pace in an 82-game season. Ryan Getzlaf? 77 point pace in an 82-game season. Corey Perry? 67 point pace in an 82-game season. 

Sidney Crosby? 116 point pace in an 82-game season.

Of those names, six of them are proven Stanley Cup champions, and only three take up a higher cap percentage than Giroux (Malkin, Perry, Crosby). 

Each of these Clubs have a lot invested in said players, but there are two different types of investments I'm seeing; those who are paying their players for what they've done and what they hope they'll continue to do, and then those who are paying their players for what they HOPE they'll do. 

Unfortunately, the Flyers fall under the latter category. Giroux is not a proven Stanley Cup champion. He is not an elite player yet, no matter how much you care to argue that he is. And now more than ever, I'm stuck wondering if he's worth such a high investment. 

When Claude signed his extension with Philadelphia, I winced. Again, I am not a fan of long-term commitments in this League. Would I have rather seen him walk off into free agency? Obviously not. I knew the Flyers were going to have to spend bookoo bucks to anchor our franchise player. But an $8.275mm cap hit is a debt explosion, especially through the long-term. 

Giroux may still be developing and progressing, but spending $66,200,000 on a whim of faith is what has gotten our franchise in predicaments before. This one would just prove to be the most expensive. 

To add to the circumstance, in true Flyers fashion, Giroux's extension doesn't come without a strict no-movement clause. So not only are we spending a tenth of our cap dollars on one paycheck, this organization has added another immovable contract to payroll.

Still not worried?

Please direct your attention to Exhibit A:

March 15, 2013 was the last time Claude Giroux scored an NHL goal in an NHL game. Our Eight-Million Dollar Man is going through a sixteen game goal drought. To add to that, it has been twenty-seven games since Giroux tallied back-to-back games with a goal scored -- 03/18 @ TBL, 03/24 @ PIT. It has been forty-one games since Giroux lit more than one lamp -- 02/18 @ NYI, 2 goals.

The reason I am putting so much emphasis on scored goals is because if you're a forward being paid 10-million salary dollars in Year 1 of your contract, then you (and more importantly, your employer) cannot afford to go through double-digit scoring droughts. 

It also means you haven't fully established elite status, but I jest. 

You think any one of those players with comparable cap hits has a comparable goal drought? Or has had a recent comparable goal drought?

Aside from an obvious slump, what else could this possibly mean for Claude Giroux?

In the 2011-12 campaign, #28 skated alongside a bona fide future Hall of Famer. Jaromir Jagr allowed the performances of his linemates to flourish under his years of experience and inimitable success. Because of Jagr's presence, Hartnell and Giroux recorded career years simultaneously, a feat that was absolutely no coincidence, and undoubtedly sealed each their large contract extensions. 

The following (abbreviated) season came with its fair share of woes defensively, which definitely contributed poorly to our problems offensively. Given the unfortunate results, it was impressive to see Claude finish out with 48 points in 48-games, yet it was still a dramatic drop-off from the season prior. 

Fast-forward to the present, Claude is goalless through 12% of the 2013-14 season.

There is a regularity among this irregularity; Giroux is dependent on a linemate. Take this Saturday's win over the Islanders; Vincent Lecavalier was finally assigned to Giroux's right flank, and our captain hooked up on one of two even-strength goals by Lecavalier.

It was like the two of them had been skating together their entire careers, and it's only a matter of (short) time before this French Connection gains a stronger, more impressive chemistry. I never said that Claude Giroux isn't capable of consecutively recording elite seasons.... or even a Stanley Cup winning performance. 

My concern lies with his dependency; a player with a contract of that magnitude is expected to regularly set the tempo. He makes the chemistry with whomever he skates alongside with, and consistency is every part of his game as his leadership and hockey smarts. Perhaps it's a bit premature for me to assume any part of his game is permanent, but if that is truly the case.... was nailing him down for 8-years, $66.275M a practical decision? What is practical about an expensive player who is only great when he skates with someone great?

I've taken up too much of your time with this drivel, so let me close out with this...

As a Flyers fan, I'm used to this Club annually operating at the cap ceiling like a child playing in a revolving door. Any large, long contract frightens me. I'm a man who enjoys options, and the more you limit those options, the more I tend to weigh the remainder pragmatically. I enjoy assurance, and although Giroux's ability assures me that we have a damn good player locked up for nearly a decade ahead, he's shown no consistency that assures me he'll always be worth his extension. 

With the cap's upper limit bound to rise, expendable player contracts expiring through the imminent years, and a youth movement one day being implemented onto this roster, who knows.... perhaps we'll look back and label Giroux's contract as a bargain. 

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Giroux Lecavalier Raffl 10282013.jpg 

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