A few days ago, the St. Louis Blues agreed to terms with RFA defenseman Erik Johnson, locking up the young, promising defenseman for two years at $2.6 million per year (cap hit). In reality, the Blues did more than lock up Johnson. They actually helped the Rangers gauge what the market for Marc Staal would be. Both players are alarmingly similar in many aspects: both are first round picks, both are under the age of 25, both are 6’4 200+ lbs, and both are coming off entry level deals. There is a significant drop in cap number for Johnson, but that is because he earned a ton of money in bonuses (he was a #1 overall pick). The annual salary between the two is within $100,000.
Now let’s look at the stats: Johnson is more of a scorer than Staal, with two straight 30 point seasons. However, both are coming off seasons with career highs in goals, assists, and points, and one can make the argument that if Staal saw the same amount of PP time that Johnson saw, then his offensive numbers would be around the same caliber. At the end of the season, Staal took on a more offensive role, scoring in three straight games. Looking deeper at the metrics, Staal is coming off an amazing year, posting a 10.4 GVT (4.0 OGVT, 6.4 DGVT). Johnson posted a 9.2 GVT (5.6 OGVT, 3.6 DGVT). Meanwhile, the QUALCOMP for Staal is off the charts. Staal had the 3rd highest QUALCOMP amongst players with greater than 60 games played (Patrice Bergeron and Marian Gaborik trump him) at .139. Meanwhile, Johnson posted a measly -.030 QUALCOMP, putting him somewhere in the middle of the pack in QUALCOMP.
When analyzing the numbers, it’s very evident that Staal is better defensive defenseman, but has yet to put up offensive numbers. Powerplay time, or lack thereof, is definitely a contributing factor to Staal’s less-than-favorable offensive number, but unfortunately, that will work against him. What Johnson lacks in overall defensive ability, he makes up for on the offensive side of the puck, which gives him sexier numbers. What the overall GVT numbers show is that the difference between Staal and Johnson as a collective whole is minimal.
The fact that Erik Johnson, who is for all intents and purposes an effective comparison to Marc Staal, signed for $2.6 million should put Ranger fans at ease. It is extremely unlikely that any team is going to give Staal an offer sheet of much more than $2.6 million per year, when the market has been set to such a number (considering the rumors of Staal’s contract demands, he wouldn’t even sign an offer sheet for that little anyway). Luckily for the Rangers, waiting out the situation played into their favor, as Johnson signed for what appears to be well below market value (Dan Girardi got $3.325 million, so Johnson is making less than him). When one player signs for below value, it affects overall value. Staal will be signed, but it will probably be for less than what he originally was aiming for.