A strong showing in the Stanley Cup finals and a pay hike in the offseason goes hand in hand for free agents in the National Hockey League.
Chicago Blackhawks winger Bryan Bickell is the poster boy for UFAs poised to cash in this year. He has used his 6-foot-4, 233-pound frame to his advantage in the playoffs, dominating along the wall and in front of the net. His strong play has carried over to his stats as he sits fourth on Chicago in points with eight goals and 13 points in 19 games.
Bickell is undoubtedly underpaid at the moment – only collecting a $541,667 yearly salary. There is no denying he deserves a raise. However, it seems the $4.5-5.5 million salary he is expected to receive will shift him from the underpaid category to overpaid in a hurry.
In the regular-season, Bickell scored 23 points in 48 games. If it would have been a full 82-game season and Bickell would have kept up that scoring pace, he would have notched 48 points. Before this season, he scored a total of 61 points in 149 points in the past two years. Taking these stats combined with his clear-cut second-line ceiling and the assumption he hasn’t hit his peak yet at 27-years-old, it seems Bickell should average 40-60 points a season for the next five-seven years. Therefore, staying at a happy medium 50-point average, if Bickell does cash in at $5 million, he will average $100,000 in salary for every point he is expected to score. This is obviously quite high. In the NHL, it seems $75,000 in salary for every point scored is a fair ratio for second-third line forwards. This would put Bickell at a $3,750,000 salary. It appears anything above this number will ultimately put the “overpaid” cloud over the Bowmanville, Ont., native.
Since the Blackhawks only have slightly over $2 million in cap space next year, all signs point to Bickell signing elsewhere.
Boston Bruins winger Nathan Horton and defenceman Andrew Ference likely won’t receive as big of a pay increase as Bickell, but their salaries should be headed north.
Horton makes a fair salary right now - $4 million per season. In the past three years, he has scored 107 points in 169 games, averaging 51 points in an 82-game season. Not to mention, taking into account he is injury prone – missing 43 games since 2010-11 – you could consider him slightly overpaid at the moment. But because of the weak free agent crop and a strong playoff, precedents suggest he will receive north of $5 million a season come July 4. That would place him at roughly $100,000 a point, assuming he doesn’t hit an unexpected spike in performance, which as mentioned above, is a $25,000 per-point overpayment for a second-third line winger.
Ference hasn’t exactly knocked anyone’s socks off in the second season, but he has shown he is worth more than his $2.25 million per-year salary. In the regular-season, the 5-foot-11, 189-pounder has proven to be good for 15-20 points a year. But for defenceman, obviously the $75,000 per-point calculation doesn’t work. You have to take his minutes played, positioning, use on the penalty and power play, toughness, skating ability, and lastly, his point production into account. That said, it seems he fits in at the $3.20 million dollar range because of what the Los Angeles Kings gave Robyn Regehr (3.0) just recently and what they gave Rob Scuderi (3.4) after he won a cup with the Pittsburgh Penguins.
The Bruins only after $5 million in cap space next year and that doesn’t include restricted free agents Tuukka Rask and Kasper Daugavins. Therefore, unless they buy out or trade some players, it appears Horton and Ference could be playing outside of Massachusetts next year.