Thursday, October 11, 2018

Best Month To Sign NHL Restricted Free Agents

What is the best month for NHL teams to sign their pending restricted free agents to a new contract? To answer this question, we will look at 870 RFA contracts signed since the salary cap. Each contract gets a score from 0 to 100, then are sorted by what month they were signed. The scores are from the team's perspective and how much value they got from the contract. The first column is the sum of all contract extensions signed before the month of June.

The chart below shows each score by month. Those signed as extensions during the season tend to have a much smaller sample size; for example the two highest scores are Dec and Jan as extensions during the season before their current contracts expire, and those two months also have the smallest sample sizes. Below they were all bundled into one extension column. The large majority of contracts are signed in the offseason, with 81% of all RFA contracts signed from June to October near or after the player becomes a free agent. Contracts signed prior to that have a larger margin of error.

When we look at this June to October window, there is no statistically significant difference between June and July, but the scores do increase significantly if you make the RFA wait until August and beyond. Of those who went unsigned into October, it rarely worked out for the player. Rickard Rakell, Nikita Kucherov, Josh Anderson, Andreas Athanasiou all ended up signing team friendly contracts. It's possible that Johnny Gaudreau got what he wanted in 2016, but that one has since become a bargain with his growth in PTS and the rising salary cap. Turris and Trouba both held out until November and ultimately signed team friendly contracts.

Teams know that they can wait players out. Any player who sits out the entire season will end up losing out on more salary than he would have gained by getting his requested salary. Rarely do players have significant leverage over the team to get their demand. Gaudreau had the most leverage, followed by Kucherov, although they had very different outcomes. Kucherov had just scored 30 goals and signed for 3 years at $4.8M. He scored 100 PTS in year two.  Gaudreau locked in for 6 years at a higher number ($6.8M). For the last 3 years of John Hockey's deal, Kucherov will be making $9.5M.

A reminder to William Nylander and Nick Ritchie, the odds of getting what you want are not in your favour. Eventually, the house always wins. At a certain point in the hold out, they will start to realize they are losing too much money. Everyone breaks eventually.

And Nick, you are on my fantasy team. Savage Beatings is anxiously awaiting your return.

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