Earlier today, the Anaheim Ducks signed Andrew Cogliano to a three-year contract worth $2.39 million per season. Lowetide’s take on it is here, and he makes a quick comment on the Oilogosphere in the piece:
As an aside, if Steve Tambellini had signed this contract, I suspect Oiler Nation would be rushing to the internet to express their displeasure at the signing.
I think that deserves comment.
First off, I think it’s worth comparing the Cogliano contract to a couple of others. Ideally, these contracts would be to restricted free agent forwards, the players would be about the same age, and ideally they’d be signed this summer. Fortunately, we have two such examples to look at: Blake Wheeler and Michael Frolik.
- Blake Wheeler: Two years, $2.55 million cap hit
- Andrew Cogliano: Three years, $2.39 million cap hit
- Michael Frolik: Three years, $2.33 million cap hit
How do those players compare, given that their age, status and contract situations are all similar?
Cogliano scored 45 points as a rookie, and recorded 18 goals each of his first two seasons – thanks to a shooting percentage more than twice as high as he’s recorded in either of the last two seasons (where he’s scored 10 and 11 goals respectively). The question is whether his first two seasons or the last two seasons better represent his NHL ability; given the fact that recent results deserve more weight and that Cogliano’s shooting percentage was insanely good the first two years, I’d bet on the latter. If that’s the case, than while Cogliano’s game has come along, offensively he’s not likely to be a game-breaker. Over the last two seasons, he’s scored 1.39 and 1.33 points for every 60 minutes of 5-on-5 play.
Blake Wheeler, on the other hand, has scored 18, 18 and 21 goals over the last three years. His goal-scoring the last two years hasn’t been attributable to shooting percentage, and while he’s played a somewhat similar role to Cogliano on the depth chart (i.e. complementary forward) he’s been a far better scorer, topping the 2.00 points per 60 mark two of the last three seasons (including 2010-11, where he managed 2.20 points per 60).
Michael Frolik is far and away the most complete player of the three. He’s recorded between 38 and 45 points over the last three years. In two of the last three years, he’s topped the 20-goal plateau; last year he finished with 11 goals thanks to a massive drop in shooting percentage (an 8.4% career shooter, Frolik scored at just a 4.4% clip last season). He played on a tough minutes line with Stephen Weiss and Nathan Horton as a sophomore, and saw an unusual amount of quality opponents with Weiss as a rookie. He recorded 1.73 points per 60 last season, and while he’s not the scorer that Wheeler is, he’s better than Cogliano.
In short: Anaheim probably overpaid for Cogliano, relative to the market. Other restricted free agents in the same age range but with a better track record got almost identical dollars and terms, and while Cogliano might grow into the contract he probably isn’t there yet.
The dollar figure on Cogliano’s new contract makes Steve Tambellini look better for trading him. We might present it as a choice, one between Eric Belanger and a second round pick as well as roughly $700,000 in savings, or Andrew Cogliano. Given that Belanger’s the better player, cheaper, was available at no cost other than money, and most importantly fits team needs better, that’s a great choice.
Even so, on a rebuilding team, it may not have been an easy one to make. Trading Cogliano is a risk; he’s young, has scored in the past, has blazing speed and rarely left anyone questioning his effort level. He’s also been exceptionally durable.
Personally, I think it’s a smart risk. The Oilers have, in the past, been reluctant to sever ties with far worse players than Cogliano. Steve Tambellini made a smart choice here, and given that I’d be criticizing the signing (had he made it), it’s only fair that I acknowledge his strong asset management in this instance.