Pay That Man His Money

As the summer now stretches into August with Marcus Kruger still left un-signed, today’s news of Sean Coutourier re-upping with the Flyers should scare the absolute hell out of Stan Bowman and Hawk fans.

As has now been widely reported, Sean Coutourier has re-signed with the Flyers on a six-year deal worth an annual cap hit of $4.33 million. Now, far be it from anyone west of King of Prussia to give a shit if Ed Snider wants to go ahead and overcommit dollars to an unstable cap cieling with Jakub Voracek approaching unrestricted free agency. And there are schools of thought that Coutourier has an offensive upside that he has not yet fully developed at the age of only 22 (he’ll be 23 in December) that warranted him being a first round pick. The Flyers are getting cost certainty where they know at least what the floor is on Coutourier, and likely overpaid a little to buy up two years of unrestricted free agency considering that Coots broke into the league right away at 18. But given what the hopeful cap hit for Marcus Kruger needs to be for the Hawks, particularly if he’s to remain slotted as the league’s premiere 4th line center (which has given the Hawks the depth to win two of the last three Cups), this is horrific news when looking at the numbers, courtesy as usual of War on Ice.

Sean Coutourier

Marcus Kruger


Now, the first thing that can be compared between the two are size and age. Coots is 6’3″, 200lbs, and is two and a half years younger than Kruger, which does count for something, but isn’t going to wholly account for what is almost double the cap hit of what most observers are optimistically hoping Kruger comes in at. In glancing at the above stats, aside from this past season, Kruger and Coutourier are basically identical in their offensive production. But bad luck for Kruger (97.5 PDO) and good luck for Coots (102.7 PDO) can likely account for almost all of that difference. And Kruger and Coutourier face similarly stiff competition (in the regular season, Kruger’s skyrocketed this post season), but where Kruger has to start and what he does with it absolutely leaves Coutourier in the dust. Coots has never been on the positive side of the ledger in any single regular season or playoff year, and only takes marginally more defensive zone draws than his teammates. However Marcus Kruger, as is common knowledge at this point, is an absolute workhorse, with only the 2014 playoff run marking any prolonged stretch of not carrying at least 50% 0f shot attempts, while literally almost never starting in the offensive zone, especially once April rolls around. Not to mention that Kruger is now aces at the dot after working on things relentlessly, and Coutourier has never even come close to threatening the 50% mark, and neither gets power play time.

Now Kruger has seemingly been adamant about his desire to stay here, with even just yesterday stating his intention to wait out the remainder of the summer and possibly even take a short term deal to be here. And even if these numbers were fair game in an arbitration hearing (they’re not), Kruger declined going through the process. The lingonberries in his private room at Tre Kronor must have something in them, because Kruger stands to make a shitload of money if Coutourier is now the main comp. And any GM doing his homework with access to numbers no one in the public has ever heard of likely knows the value Marcus Kruger, still making him a risk for an offer sheet for minimal cost going back. The Hawks in all likelihood know this as well, and they would be well served in not pissing away the good will they’ve earned with both their player and the public by letting him twist in the wind. It’s readily apparent the market for Bickell and Versteeg is non existent, and that’s not going to change if the Hawks are even further over the cap than they already are. The time is now to get Kruger back into the fold before another contract like this sets the bar even higher for him. Or to at least get him back before he realizes how high that bar already is.

  • Bannerman

    Sign him and trade Shaw then? That seems like a plausible if not particularly palatable move.

    • Jim

      Shaw adds a lot of value at his price. He is a low cost agitator energy guy, who provides secondary scoring, as a bargain price.

    • We have a couple of players that are Shaw like, i.e. Garbutt. However, we have very few players that have shown the willingness to get to the front of the net and take the abuse like Shaw.

  • After reading what Chris Kuc wrote it sounds like they already have an arrangement put together. I’m speculating it’s something like this:


    Actual numbers don’t matter for this hypothetical, they obviously do for the real deal. But that’s what it sounds like to me.

    Now if they’d just hurry along with the moves/trades so we have some new stuff to talk about!

    • Jim

      I can’t wait to see the new Russians, and Marko Dano play…

  • Preacher

    “The Hawks in all likelihood know this as well, and they would be well served in not pissing away the good will they’ve earned with both their player and the public by letting him twist in the wind. It’s readily apparent the market for Bickell and Versteeg is non existent, and that’s not going to change if the Hawks are even further over the cap than they already are. The time is now to get Kruger back into the fold…”
    Serious question: So what are the Hawks supposed to do? They have to dump salary somehow, but how can they do that if they have no dance partner in a trade? I’m all for signing Kruger, but someone else HAS to go. How do they bring that about?

    • lizmcneill

      Someone has to go anyway. They are right at the cap with only 21 skaters (6 dmen). One day-to-day injury, especially on defense, and they are short-handed for the duration.

      • Preacher

        But you’re still not telling me how to get rid of that “someone.” I’m not sure we can count on Uncle Dale to add to the Blackhawks South team this time around.

        • lizmcneill

          Regardless of how it happens, it has to happen. They can’t go into the season with so little roster flexibility.

        • strych9

          You’ll probably have to include a prospect or eat some salary. He has a list of 8 teams that he can go to. Obviously they’re contenders with lil cap room.bickell would have to ok a trade to the other teams. Hawks had a good offer from buffalo for sharp. But he said no. I’m surprised panthers not in the mix. He might consider them.

      • You can technically go over the cap in an emergency situation. You’d have to play a night with 19 skaters to justify it. I think the Red Wings and the Kings have had to do that.

    • Jim

      LTIR Bickell, or dump him on somebody, I see no other way.

  • Bobby Otter

    Justin Bourne made a good point re: Couturier, he plays with absolutely horrible defensemen, which do not help his numbers.

    That said, as you rightly point out, if Couturier is getting $4m+, that does mess up the Kruger value. Kruger is worth $3m/$3.5m at least right now (being older, less offensive upside). It’d be nice to get him locked up, long term at around $3m-$3.5m at this point.

  • GeoHrad

    Shouldn’t that headline be “Pay zat man heees muh-nee”?

  • Pete

    Trade Versteeg for anything to move the salary and sign Kruger. For instance trade him for a seventh round pick in 2018. I don’t get the problem, he is serviceable and he only makes 2.2M. Stop trying to get value for him its a salary dump. Once Versteeg is gone then sign Kruger.

    • You assume someone would take Versteeg for a pick. Why the hell is any GM going to give Stan a break and a chance to get out of cap hell?

      The whole league knows the Hawks want Kruger back. The whole league knows that if you take Versteeg/Bickell off the Hawks hands you’ve made things a whole lot easier.

      So a simple Versteeg for 7th round isn’t probably the type of deals Bowman is hearing (this is speculation). It’s probably more like Versteeg and TT for a 7th. Essentially trades that most of us would consider ludicrous. So that’s more than likely the problem.

      We have time. Based of the Kuc article, Kruger and his camp seem to be ok with being patient and letting the process play out. So long as that stays the same then Kruger will be here for game 1 in October.

      • Matt

        Arguments like these are faulty. There are probably 4-8 teams with legit Cup aspirations next year, and you’re right, those teams probably want to see the Hawks feel the cap pain. But for the rest of the teams out there, if they can get a player with talent and Cup experience for cheap, I don’t see why they wouldn’t do this.

        Are you telling me that some middling team wouldn’t take Versteeg at somewhere between $1 and $2.2 or Bickell between $2 and $4 because it helps the champions? I know no one has been traded yet, but I find a hard time buying the collusion thing.

      • lizmcneill

        Why wouldn’t say NJD or Carolina take Bickell plus some combo of 2016 first/2017 second/Schmaltz/McNeill/Danault and return a cheap vet dman and any AHLers on 750K one-way deals they don’t want to pay?

        • jhb

          I feel like those two teams probably aren’t on his list of teams he’d approve a trade to in his limited NTC.

          • Jim

            Bickell’s contract is a disaster. He’s never lived up to it.

          • jhb

            Can’t argue that. I do believe that when he got the contract, it was earned, and now I hope that he can turn it around because I don’t see how they can trade him. The guesswork into who is going to provide exactly the worth of their contract and getting rid of those who are “replaceable” is not something I envy of Stan Bowman. He is a three time champion GM who lots of media and fans (not you, Jim) call “idiot” for his efforts.

          • Jim

            I think Bowman has done a good job in returning 2 NHL players for 1 Branden Saad. And he was able to swap out Daley for Oduya (in effect, not directly) while getting rid of a fading Patrick Sharp.

            Bickell is Bickell’s fault. He has some size and some skill, but not a lot of both. Bickell is given a pass on regular season with the hopes he would come alive in the playoffs, which he didn’t. Maybe that concept should be trashed, a 4M/year lesson. How about the player has to be good in the regular season also?

            If you look at General Fanager, Bowman has trimmed and pared the fat, and there is one glaring contract, guess who?


          • strych9

            Bickell should’ve been thrown in with saad. We didn’t need morin or other throw in. Look what hawks had to include in sharp trade. We took 2 bad players back.

      • Pete

        On the other hand, perhaps Versteeg isn’t even worth the 2.2M. In other words, maybe literally nobody wants him because he does not upgrade any other teams roster. I previously assumed somebody would want him, but perhaps that isn’t the case and explains why he hasn’t been traded.

    • Jim

      It’s Bickell and his 4M that needs to go. Versteeg at 2.2M is fine, why get rid of him? You still have to put players on the ice. They have already trimmed the fat. You need the superstars (Toews, Kane, Keith, Hjammer, Seabrook, Crawford) to win the Cup for you, and all of their role players and depth guys are already in the 1M range.

      • Pete

        Versteeg and his 2.2M should be tradeable. The Hawks don’t need him and they need the cap space. Bickell isn’t playing up to his contract but I suspect that makes him harder to move and plus there is an injury question. I don’t like the idea of giving away prospects and picks just to get rid of Bickell. Plus he offers something they don’t have i.e size. Accordingly a salary dump of Versteeg to sign Kruger is the best option.

        • Doog

          If Versteeg is dumped in order to sign Kruger, the team would still be hard up against the salary cap with only 21 players on the active roster.

          I’m with you that, at 2.2M, Versteeg is a useful player – currently for the ‘Hawks and possibly for another team. There is no good reason to jettison the white rapper for nothing, let alone add a prospect (not that you had suggested that).

  • Matt

    Any idea why Svedberg and Nordstrom haven’t been signed yet? I guess I could see Nordy taking a 1-way deal but not Svedberg.

  • Matt

    Chris Kuc seemed to indicate that since offer sheet timing was passed up, Kruger couldn’t realistically get an offer from any other team at this point.

    • I believe he could sign an offer sheet at any point in time. What definitely has past is filing for arbitration, which both Kruger and the Hawks passed on.

  • strych9

    Hawks can be 10% over the cap. They could sign him now. What happens if hawks are over the cap when season starts? Can they just sit bickell in pressbox

  • Doog

    I don’t think that Couturier is a particularly good comp for where Kruger is now. A 22-year-old with a first-round-draft-pick pedigree is simply going to get a better contract than a 25-year-old who is established as a checking line center. General managers pay for upside; Couturier has a lot more of it now than Kruger. Although Kruger’s development – and he did about the same thing at age 21 as Couturier just did – suggests that Couturier won’t become a top-six forward.

    As for Couturier himself, in his first three seasons, he andhis most common on-ice partner, Matt Read, had played well together, with both improving Corsi shares while on the ice together. Last season, Read looks like an absolute anvil around Couturier’s neck – 52.9% away / 47.5% together for Coots. (This gap gets wider if adjusted for game situation and zone starts – 55.3 / 48.8.) This is all that I know about Matt Read, but it suggests that Couturier would be well served if he had a much better right wing.

    • I would counter this argument with looking at the rotating cast of thousands that have played on Marcus Kruger’s wings during his time here, and his numbers remain consistent. Marcus Kruger makes other players better in a highly specific role.

      • Doog

        WOWY’s also (likely) underrate Kruger since he is playing behind Jonathan Toews. And Brad Richards was no slouch. And despite this, all three ‘Hawk goalies had better Corsi %’s with Kruger on the ice than without him.

        To your point, Kruger’s linemates have consistently done better with him than without (and again, some of there away time was presumably with good centers). And as you sort of insinutate, that rotating cast of thousands has been something other than la creme de la creme of NHL talent. More like skim milk left on the counter for ninety minutes (Fernando Pisani – had totally forgotten about that guy). But when they play with Kruger, all of the sudden Brandon Bollig’s zone-adjusted share looks like Jonathan Toews’. Who, lest you had missed it over the past few years, is generally considered to be a solid hockey player.

        All of which is to say that Marcus Kruger is really good at what he does on the ice rink. In fact, going through these numbers has made me much more appreciative of Kruger’s talents. What this lengthy discussion does not do is INVENT A FREAKIN’ TIME MACHINE to make Kruger a fresh-faced 21-year-old. At 25, most forwards in the NHL have shown what they can do; Kruger has shown that he is a phenomenal checking line center. And that is it. Or, more accurately, all that NHL GM’s likely believe Kruger can be.

        Couturier has thus far shown himself to be a below-average center on a below-average team. (Although his most common linemate might be dragging him down.) But since he bought his first legal beer in the US within the past year, GM’s can wishcast a future for him as an elite center. Coots’ is lucky enough to play for a team with a GM willing to put the owner’s money where his belief is.

      • Doog

        No, I’m not done.

        Do you want a good comp? Look at Dave Bolland. Who basically did – for the Blackhawks – what Kruger does for the Blackhawks. At his best, Bolland was a good center who was worse than his teammates (this would be the year of the first Cup). But since then, it has been a long slow decline. And yet when his contract was up at the end of 2014, he was able to pick up a multi-year deal with a nice pay increase. If the Couturier contract makes you concerned that Kruger is going to become unaffordable, then Bolland’s contract history should produce an hefty pantload, I’m sorry to say.

  • Doog

    As for why Kruger hasn’t signed – perhaps they are waiting to find out what kind of salary can be cleared, which will determine if Kruger gets a one-year deal or a long-term contract.