This week's Capped looks at the first round of the playoffs with the hope to get a step ahead on this summer’s action.
The playoffs are upon us, and with blowouts, shutouts, and overtime galore, they are as glorious as ever. We all know that once a team is in the playoffs, anything can happen, so to take it to another level, concluding anything from the first week of the playoffs would be foolish, right? Not necessarily. Small sample sizes can really throw off a player’s value to a team for the course of a season, and what better time for a player to have a really good or really poor sample size than on one of the biggest stages. Today we’re going to take a look into a few of the standout performances thus far (for better or for worse) and what it may mean in terms of the fallout this summer.
Alexander Radulov (RW) - Montreal Canadiens
Cap Hit - $5,750,000
A month ago rumours surfaced that Alexander Radulov was asking for an eight-year contract to stay with the Canadiens. At that point the 30-year-old Radulov was coming off a regular season that nearly saw him match his points-per-game from his last full NHL season in Nashville nine years prior. However, with two (clutch) goals and six points through four games, we are seeing another level. Does rewarding Radulov with an eight-year contract make sense? Absolutely not. But that doesn’t mean he won’t be overpaid, especially if he keeps up this playoff pace.
Radulov spent his prime years in Russia, though his talent translated back to the North American game very well. Between 50 and 60 points can likely be expected the next few seasons, not the point and a half per game that he is producing right now in the playoffs. The biggest factor causing some skepticism in Radulov’s production is his shot rate. Having less than 150 shots in a season is not exactly conducive to a large jump in future production. That being said, even with this season’s shooting percentage of 12.2%, Radulov still owns a career mark of 14.5%. Maybe there is still a little room for growth next year.
Over the course of whatever new contract Radulov signs, some age-related decline could also be expected. A front-heavy contract would then make the most sense. Radulov did publicly deny the eight-year contract demands, so there may be hope to get a shorter deal done. Perhaps a four- or five-year deal at the same $5.75-million rate he earns now would be the best fit. Montreal does have to be very careful not to get too committed to Radulov with the new contract. With contracts due to Carey Price and Max Pacioretty in coming seasons, as well as the monster contract of Shea Weber on the books for the next nine (!) years, the Canadiens can ill afford to mess this one up.
Zack Kassian (RW) - Edmonton Oilers
Cap Hit - $1,500,000
Has there been a more surprising playoff performance thus far? You could make a case for either of the eighth seeds and their current playoff runs, but Zack Kassian being the hero for the Oilers must take the cake at this point. He may only have two points in the series, but they are both goals, and they are both game-winners. They are the only two game-winners that Edmonton has at this point too (one of them coming in a 1-0 regulation win). What a time to score your first two career playoff points! Adding that to Kassian’s physical presence (16 hits) and dogged puck retrieval (along with his awesomely psychotic-looking side burns) makes it seem as though he is trying to will the Oilers to the next round on his own.
Kassian signed a one-year deal with Edmonton in the off-season, and did exactly what was expected, providing a depth physical presence with limited offence. Kassian has never scored 30 points in a season, but fantasy owners were still happy with his multi-category production this season as he exploded for 197 hits (102 above his career high), along with 96 penalty minutes.
The Oilers, however, do not have any key forwards with expiring contracts other than restricted free agent Leon Draisaitl. This means that there is little room for his opportunity to increase in Edmonton, in addition to the fact that the Oilers will be much closer to the salary cap. Kassian will want to try and parlay this performance into a multi-year deal at a decent price (similar to other playoff breakouts like Joel Ward). Additionally, with players such as Casey Cizikas and Matt Martin inking larger deals than typical fourth liners, we may see a three year deal for Zack Kassian in the $2 Million range per season.
Kevin Shattenkirk (D) - Washington Capitals
Cap Hit - $4,250,000
On the other side of the playoff production meter, Kevin Shattenkirk is simply not meeting expectations. The Washington Capitals as a whole did not expect to be where they are in the series right now with the Maple Leafs, fighting for every game, and every inch of ice. Shattenkirk is doing his part to give the series right back to the Maple Leafs. He has missed the net an excessive amount of times, many of those chances being very open shots.
Shattenkirk managed to put together another solid offensive season split between the Blues and Capitals, but with only two assists through the first four games, he is not doing himself any favours when it comes to the new contract he will be seeking in the summer. Shattenkirk will be one of the top free agents this summer, and regardless of his postseason performance this year, he will get paid. Teams will still be lining up to overpay Shattenkirk to run their power play, however if he cannot pick up his socks in the playoffs right now, then his list of suitors may be significantly shorter.
Commonly linked to the New York Rangers, Shattenkirk may be playing himself out of an offer from them. With promising young defender Brady Skjei and incumbent stud Ryan McDonagh in place, a big free agent deal for Shattenkirk starts to look much less appealing. Other teams may take a long look internally and realize that they are better off spending the money elsewhere. Shattenkirk could end up having to choose between going to a top contender at a discount, or getting paid to his full contract demands.
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