The Drake was a mutual friend of Jerry, Kramer, Elaine and George in the greatest sitcom, Seinfeld. We were first introduced to him when JKEG decided to buy him and his fiancée a big screen TV for their engagement party. Very quickly after giving them the TV, the Drake announced they split up and now the four main characters want their gift back.
The Drake resurfaced on the show periodically and the sayings “Love the Drake” or “Hate the Drake” became synonymous with his character.
It would see Oilersnation is split in a similar fashion on Drake Caggiula.
Caggiula has played 127 NHL games. His rookie year he was injured for the first 19 games, then thrust into playing centre, a position he hadn’t played in four years — not an ideal way to get comfortable in the NHL.
This past season, Caggiula bounced around the lineup. He played 776 EV minutes. His most common “linemates” were defenceman. The forward he played the most with was Ryan Strome, 206 minutes. He played left and right wing on a variety of lines. He never found a regular home, yet he still scored 13 goals, tied for fifth on the Oilers.
Caggiula has areas he needs to improve, mainly his consistency, and he knows it.
“Consistency is the biggest thing. I had had an up and down season,” Caggiula said. “There were times where I thought I was playing great and then there were times I got into a slump and couldn’t find a way out of it. I have to find a way to end those slumps a lot earlier and find a way to crawl out of those holes without dwelling on it,” Caggiula told me at the end of the season.
Finding consistency is not easy. We’ve seen ten-year veterans struggle when they second guess themselves, so I wasn’t surprised a sophomore did the same. However, he needs to find consistency, or at least minimize the peaks and valleys.
Caggiula signed a two-year deal with an AAV of $1.5 million. Despite the usual voices of dissent, who are actually mistaken, Caggiula’s contract fits in the range of other players in similar situations.
He turns 24 next Wednesday and in 127 NHL games, he has 20-18-38. Caggiula had arbitration rights and there are players who were of similar age, with arbitration rights who signed similar contracts the past few summers.
Sven Andrighetto: He signed a two-year deal at $1.4M AAV last summer with Colorado. He was 24 years of age. He’d played parts of three NHL seasons between Montreal and Colorado. In 102 games he produced 16-28-44. In the first year of his deal he produced 8-14-22 in 50 games.
Johan Larsson: Signed a two-year deal at $1.475M AAV with Buffalo last July. He was 24. In 178 games, over four seasons, he produced 22-26-48. In the first year of his deal he produced 4-13-17 in 80 games.
Brett Ritchie: Signed a two-year deal at $1.75M AAV with Dallas last summer. He was 24 and in 2016/2017 he scored 16-8-24 in 78 games. He had 22-12-34 in 102 career games up to that point. This season, the first year of his deal, he produced 7-7-14 in 71 games.
Joakim Nordstrom: Signed a two-year deal at $1.275M AAV with Carolina in summer of 2016. He was 24 and had 11-19-30 in 125 NHL games at that point. In the two years of his deal he produced 7-5-12 in 82 games and 2-5-7 in 75 games.
Andrew Copp: Signed a two-year deal at $1M AAV with Winnipeg in July, 2017. He was 23 and produced 16-15-31 in 142 games. In first year of his deal he scored 9-19-28 in 82 games.
Vlad Namestnikov: Signed two years at $1.937M AAV with Tampa in 2016. He was 23 and had scored 23-28-51 in 127 games. He scored 10-18-28 in his first year of the deal and produced 22-26-48 last season split between Tampa and New York.
Sven Baertschi: Signed for two years at $1.85M AAV with Vancouver in 2016. He was 23 and had scored 25-33-58 in 138 games. In the two years of his deal be produced 18-17-35 in 68 games and 14-15-29 in 53 games.
The Jets got really good value out of Copp in his first season. Tampa had decent value from Namestnikov in year one of his deal, and then he took off playing with Stamkos and Kucherov before being traded at the deadline. Baertschi has produced quite well for the Canucks.
Nordstrom stagnated offensively, while Larsson and Ritchie struggled. Andrighetto had good production, but missed 32 games.
If you only want to use a best-case scenario comparison, Copp, then sure Caggiula looks overpaid, but if you compare all seven, it is interesting to note that their average AAV is $1.52 million. Caggiula’s contract isn’t nearly as overpriced as some stated yesterday when it was announced.
What is Caggiula capable of?
It is difficult to say. He skates well, is aggressive and produced quite well on the PP in limited minutes, but he didn’t finish off some really good scoring chances at even strength. Caggiula had three PP goals in 65 minutes. Milan Lucic had three in 174 minutes, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins had four in 121 min, Connor McDavid had five in 243 minutes, while Leon Draisaitl had six in 220 minutes. Caggiula could be a decent second PP option. He is good close to the net.
Ray Ferraro gave me his viewpoint of Caggiula yesterday on my show.
“I see an energetic guy who is physical, can score a bit and is likely a middle six. He needs to be engaged more consistently, but that is part of the process. He knows it, and now the challenge is to learn how to do it (be consistent). Consistency is hard to master,” said Ferraro.
Caggiula averaged 13:33 per game last season, eighth most among forwards who played a minimum of 50 games. He is likely an 8-10th forward on the team, who has the potential to slot up the top-six when injuries occur, or players are struggling.
I’m surprised how many call him a fringe NHL player (Ferraro clearly disagrees), or only a fourth line player. That viewpoint surprises me when you consider how little pro hockey experience he has. He’s only played 127 NHL games, and the first 40 he played at centre, a position he hadn’t played in three years of College.
The NHL has hundreds of players who didn’t figure out the game until they were 24, 25, 26 years of age, and some even later. I’ve seen the comment, “the analytics say he is.” And that is accurate, his numbers weren’t great, but I think it is has been proven that analytics don’t tell the whole story.
Many believed Benoit Pouliot’s analytics were great and his five year contract worth $4 million/season was a good deal. In the first four years of that contract, Pouliot has played 254 games. He scored 54-49-103. In four years he has averaged 26 points/season and he has a combined CF of 48.7%. (2,739 CF and 2,875CA).
Over the four years, Pouliot played 3,058 EV minutes and his ten most common EV linemates were:
Jordan Eberle: 1,066 min
Ryan Nugent-Hopkins: 965 min
Nail Yakupov: 376 min
Connor McDavid: 336 min
Ryan O’Reilly: 337 min
Zack Kassian: 287 min
Leon Draisaitl: 225 min
Kyle Okposo: 224 min
Jason Pominville: 193 min
Sam Reinhart: 155 min
Over the past two seasons, Caggiula has played 1,416 EV minutes and his ten most common EV linemates were:
Zack Kassian: 279 min
Anton Slepyshev: 273 min
Leon Draisaitl: 253 min
Mark Letestu: 235 min
Milan Lucic: 234 min
Connor McDavid: 213 min
Ryan Strome: 206 min
Patrick Maroon: 194 min
Ryan Nugent-Hopkins: 157 min
Benoit Pouliot: 152 min
So the veteran making $4 mil/year is a good contract, while the player making $1.5 million entering his third season is a terrible contract?
I will admit at times I am really enlightened and learn things from certain analytic presentations, but at other times I am very perplexed by other arguments supported by analytic numbers.
Does Caggiula need to improve? You bet, and I suspect he will become more consistent in the next two seasons. But his new salary really isn’t out of whack with what we have seen from previous players in a similar situation as him.
It seems some either “Love the Drake” or “Hate the Drake.”
I’m in the middle. I like Caggiula’s potential.