This article was originally intended to be a follow-up to last week’s debate on whether or not the star players are worth the money they are paid – only this time covering defensemen. Unfortunately, there is a huge variance in salary for defensemen, even when moving towards the top of the pyramid. This was definitely worth further investigation.
While forwards are primarily paid according to their ability to produce offensively, the same cannot be said for defensemen. There are plenty of blueliners who do not produce elite offensive numbers yet are paid top dollar for their play in their own end. As a result, in a points-only league you may be overpaying for some of them.
For this research, NHL defensemen are separated into two categories: offensive and two-way. Since we will only be looking at guys projected to post 30 points or more by Dobber, there is no need to categorize the classic stay-at-home types. The assigning of players in one category or the other is subjective and some choices can be debated, but regardless the same conclusion can be drawn. The chart below shows projected points versus cap hit. Like last week, player names will not be attached because the projections come from the Fantasy Guide, which can be purchased.
This supports the statement that defensive ability is a strong factor in the player’s cap hit. Additionally, a lot of “offensive” blueliners have a cost that is on the lower-end compared to the rest. The points per million dollars chart below paints an even more interesting picture.
Here we see that defensemen in the “Two-way” category almost universally find themselves among the most inefficient players to own with a couple of rare exceptions. The average points per million value for the 24 players in this category is 10.7. Meanwhile, the 44 players that qualify as “offensive” have an average value of 19.5 including several great cap bargains.
These findings can help you make decisions moving forward. In points-only leagues, it is probably a good idea to avoid defenders who have a strong game in their own end. In most cases their salary is or will be inflated beyond their value to your team. Thankfully, many of them possess great name value and could command a good return in a trade.
Two guys that were allocated to the “two-way” category, former defense partners Shea Weber ($7.85 million) and Ryan Suter ($7.5 million), share the quality of being game-changers at both ends of the rink and were both signed to new contracts this summer. Weber’s career-high of 53 points translates to just 6.75 points per million while Suter’s best output of 46 points scores a measly 6.13. And that is if both can match their respective career years.
This reality should extend to your prospect scouting. Again, in a points-only league you want to stick to defensemen who will be paid for their offensive output. The skill set will not be a factor during the entry level stage of their career, but after that you could get caught paying for more than they produce.
Here are some blueliners drafted in the last three years with significant offensive potential who could fall victim of an inflated salary down the road:
- 2012: Ryan Murray, Griffin Reinhart, Jacob Trouba
- 2011: Adam Larsson, Dougie Hamilton, Duncan Siemens
- 2010: Erik Gudbranson, Brandon Gormley
In roto leagues, the question becomes much more complicated, and is definitely beyond the scope of this article. Obviously, you have to understand your setting. If your league only counts offensive categories, then the points raised in this article will for the most part remain true. However, if you have categories that make defensive players stand out more, then the value of players changes.
It is up to you to find a system for grading players in your own format and applying the same procedure as in this article to compute the efficiency of your players and decide which ones are giving you good value and which ones are dragging your team down. This is a great time to plug the Fantasy Hockey Geek website which does a great job of assigning format-specific values to each player in your league.
In recent articles we discovered that cheap contracts are both rare and short in duration. Next week we will look at ways to find the next cap bargains in your keeper league.
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