Last weekend, the Lightning announced a new, seven year contract for forward Alex Killorn at an average annual value of $4.45MM. That announcement was somewhat of a surprise. Former Raw Charge writer GeoFitz4 projected at the beginning of last season that Killorn would sign an extension at about $4MM with less term than the put down and questioned seven year deal the Red Wings gave to Justin Abdelkader.
The initial reaction from Lightning fans on social media spanned the full spectrum from excitement at a long-term extension for a fan favorite to frustration with a contract that is perceived to be too rich for a forty point player. Since I have a compulsion to look at data before I form an opinion, I did just that and I'll start by saying that I have good news and bad news... The good news is that the contract isn't that bad. The bad news is that it isn't that good. Overall, I think my reaction is best summed up by the word, "Meh."
To start, below is the chart of players with comparable contracts to the one Alex Killorn signed. The list comes from General Fanager using their Contract Comparables tool. Keep in mind that this tool identifies comparable contracts not necessarily comparable players. I also limited the list to players who played during the last three years so that I could compare them to Killorn's play over the last three years. Here is the resulting list.
With this list as a base, the next step is to compare how Killorn has compared to these players on similar contracts over the last three years. And the final step is to try to project how Killorn will compare to them over the next seven years. The following charts use data from Corsica.Hockey and address both of those questions and are explained in more detail below.
The bubble chart on the left ranks Killorn's performance over the last three years in comparison to the players on this list. The good news here is that he holds his own. His contract is the eighth highest out of the comparables. Based on that, he scores at a rate that is in line with the other players. The chart in the top right shows that Killorn has consistently had a positive impact on his team's possession and again the bubble chart shows us that his ranking fits the contract he received based on that metric.
Thus far, the contract seems fair and maybe even a little better than that. Where the analysis starts to head the other direction is in projecting his production into the future. Using Eric Tulsky's aging curve for forwards, the bottom chart shows how Killorn would be expected to score given his performance to this point. Based on Tulsky's work, Killorn is expected to score at a rate that justifies his contract for the first four years or so while the final three years will likely see him underperform relative to players on similar contracts.
Taken as a whole, I find it difficult to muster a strong feeling either way. Seven years is probably too long. But Yzerman may have used the extended term as a way of winning some reduction in AAV during negotiations. As I wrote in my year end summaries, Killorn is a solid top six forward who scores at a good rate and has a positive impact on his teammates' shot metrics. So if this is what it took to keep him on the team, I think the contract is reasonable. And if the Lightning do find themselves desperate to get out of it after next season, they could expose him to the expansion draft and he would likely be chosen.
The cap crunch is real in Channelside with just over $8.5MM left sign Vladislav Namestnikov, Nikita Nesterov, Yanni Gourde and of course, Nikita Kucherov. But it can be done and with Vladdy's arbitration hearing beginning next Friday, expect the Lightning to be back in the news next week.