Photo Credit: J. Carey Lauder/USA TODAY Sports
It looks as if the Winnipeg Jets will retain Drew Stafford, the NHL-level piece that they received as part of the return in the Evander Kane trade, after all. ESPN’s Craig Custance is reporting that the deal is done and that it’s a two-year pact. Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman is reporting that the deal will pay Stafford $8.7 million in total, so it will carry a $4.35 million annual average value.
The news isn’t a big surprise, as the Jets were reportedly working hard to retain the American-born middle-six winger prior to the opening of the market on Wednesday. Stafford, 29, is a reliable secondary scoring forward and managed nine goals and 19 points in 26 games with the Jets last season.
The annual average value of Stafford’s new contract is pretty high. Though the American-born winger has generally managed to generate offense at the level you’d expect from a credible, second-line point producer, there are some gaps in his two-way game.
The underlying numbers are pretty much sewered for most of the players who spent time with the Buffalo Sabres post-lockout, but the fact that Stafford wasn’t a helpful play-driving winger even after joining an imposing two-way club like the Jets, has to be cause for concern.
It’s not just possible that the level of production that Stafford managed in Winnipeg will regress next season, it’s likely that it was a percentage driven mirage.
At Stafford’s age it’s not uncommon for players to begin to incur significant diminishing returns, particularly when they play the sort of game that Stafford does. Stafford relies on a power game to generate goals and protect the puck, and that physical side of the game is often what goes first as a player ages. It’s why it’s a good sign that Winnipeg avoided a long-term commitment to the pending unrestricted free agent.
In looking at players who performed comparably with Stafford at a similar age, Garret Hohl drew up a list of Stafford’s cohorts, and it was filled with players that were nearing the end of their shelf life as effective NHL players. it was a group that included players like Pierre-Marc Bouchard, Jason Williams, David Legwand and Ryan Malone. Based on that, and the risks inherent in a long-term extension for a player of Stafford’s type and age, Hohl figured that Stafford was likely worth somewhere between $3.3 million and $3.8 million.
So Stafford is coming in well above the range that Hohl suggested he was worth. If the Jets opted to pay a premium in actual salary to Stafford in order to keep the term of his extension down though, and it sure seems as if they did, then that’s eminently sensible.
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