Photo Credit: Perry Nelson-USA TODAY Sports

Love the Drake, Hate the Drake

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

Recently by Jason Gregor:

  • oilersunited

    The Drake is fine, the contract is fine. People who are getting upset should probably do something different with their life. The negativity online for this signing is disgusting. I would never play in Edmonton if I was a player. Getting harassed online for a contract with a marginal increase. Calling out players wife because evidently she is the reason Lucic asked for a trade. Bashing McDavid after dinner while he was with his parents, to the threats of physical violence to Maroon after the Doughty hit. If you are these fans, find something better to do. You make it hard for “actual” fans to even enjoy the games and harass the players that do. Its disgusting.

    • Dan 1919

      So if we don’t agree with you it’s because we’re wrong and negative? Got it. The Oilers are the worst ran pro sports team in the last decade, so I wouldn’t take the negativity to heart, it goes with the territory.

      As for Drake, MY OPINION, which differs from yours is that he’s a solid young prospect/player that needs to deliver more but seems capable of that at this point. What I don’t understand is why Chiarelli signed him for the maximum possible dollar Drake’s agent could have asked for. It’s ludicrous managing… again.

    • RJ


      I was at the final game of the season, Daniel and Henrik’s last game. They received a standing ovation multiple times.

      That’s who Oiler fans are, not a few dozen idiots who did what you describe.

  • fisherprice

    Yeah there’s players in Caggiula’s range who make about the same money. Okay. I just still don’t think $1.5 million is a good contract for a guy who’s put up 38 career points, will be 24 next season, and had no negotiating power. It’s not going to make or break the Oilers, but it just points again to the fact that Chiarelli doesn’t understand how the salary cap works. An extra 500K here or there might not seem like much in the scheme of things, but it removes flexibility for other negotiations, free agent signings, and in-season trades for cap teams.

    I also don’t understand the Pouliot argument here. Sure, maybe he was overpaid, but his point per game pace in his first 2 seasons as an Oiler was more than double the Drake’s (0.619 p/g vs. 0.299 p/g). Him being a bit overpaid doesn’t really justify overpaying Caggiula.

    • Jason Gregor

      Point per game is a made up stat….Actual points matter. Four years of deal he averaged 26 points a year. Those are the actual impacting numbers. And the first two years of his deal he made $4mill. Caggiula made $925,000 the past two years. So Pouliot made 4x more. But that wasn’t the point.

      The point was the analytic people who pumped up Pouliot due to his analytics, which have been 48.7% in the four years of deal, were wrong. And so those who want to claim Caggiula is terrible because of analytics only, could very well be wrong as well.

      And it is okay if you think he is overpaid, but I showed examples of how players like him get paid around the NHL. His $1.5m is right in line with the average of them.

      • TruthHurts98

        Thanks for digging up the stats Jason. I’m in the middle with the Drake too, some games I think “wow there’s a player with grit and potential there.” Other games he can’t hit the side of a barn and is really frustrating to watch. That is because I believe the Oilers were pushing him too much since the depth on wing is not so good. Anyway I was educated on this article. Thanks for digging up the stats.

      • Ginbaby

        The dollars of this contract make sense to me. Pts do matter but the context of when a player scores also matters. Rob Volman, “analytics guy” picked the Caps to win this year. If that doesn’t cause a person to take a step back then you will be left behind.

    • oilerjed

      The fact thatyou think he is beingoverpai by a full third of his contract value (which is quite reasonabe when you look at the other players that scored 13 goals last season) is a sign that you are undervaluing the cost of players.

    • Dallas Eakins Hair

      Exactly. The coaching staff seem to want to pigeon hold people into roles and with teammates that dont work and then stubbornly leave it at that. I get trying to see if guys gel or not, but sometimes the coaching staff blender things when they make no sense even if they find a combo that works well they want to split it up, its frustrating to watch at times

  • Dallas Eakins Hair

    I dont mind Drake, the problem I think we see with the Oilers is the coaches blender the lines so oftern that no one really has a chance to gel, and even if they do gel, they seem to want to split them up and pair them with others who just cant get anything going. That is one of the biggest things I saw last season is that the coaching staff seemed very unwilling to see if lines would gel and if they did some reason broke them up. There is a long history of this with the Oil I am sad to say. TM seems to not want to adjust things when it isnt working, the PK and PP were shining examples of that. Is this an overpay for Drake, no I dont think so, but I also think Drake’s got to push harder if he wants to stay with the Oil, because if things dont shape up, I see Drake getting traded before next season.

  • dsanchez1973

    The Drake contact isn’t horrific, terrible, atrocious. It’s just a bit of an overpay for what you get, which is a replacement level fourth liner, same as the Pouliot contract was a bit of an overpay for what you were getting (especially if you use him poorly as the Oilers did). The hate is based mostly around the fact that (as usual) the Oilers, at absolute best, paid the league average contract amount, and at most likely, overpaid.

    If you say I’m a jerk or a hater for not liking that, keep in mind this – I want this team to be successful more than anything. Every small mistake, every overpay, every wrong player assessment, every blown draft pick, and most of all everything that happens that moves the Oilers away from success adds up, until even with McDavid, it’s nearly impossible to be successful.

    • The Ghost of Alex Plante

      Exactly my thoughts. The deal on it’s own isn’t terrible, next season is not lost because of Drake’s contract.

      In the McDavid/Drai era, every contract the Oilers hand out needs to be a good one. The team can’t afford overpaying for guys, especially bottom of the roster players. Drake’s deal in a vacuum is not necessarily a horrible deal, but overpaying him by $250,000 combined with overpaying guys like Kassian and Russell by $500,000 really starts to add up. There is no reason to sign Cagguila to this contract now. Let him sweat it out over the summer and try to grind off a couple hundred thousand.

      Not liking the $ amount is by no means wishing ill against the player or hoping for him not to succeed like others seem to be suggesting.

  • RexHolez

    I would rather my 8-10th forwards be more capable on the penalty kill, but what do I know.

    If they can pay 1.3 for Pouliot not to play, I guess 1.5 is a bargain for someone who will atleast lace them up

  • ed from edmonton

    1.5M is exactly what a bottle 6 23 year old forward should be paid
    Anyone who thinks he is overpaid is just being bithchy
    Remember this guy is going Mone.

  • puckle-head

    Yeah, He produced poor on-ice results, but I’ve liked a lot of what I saw from him. He seems to have some decent tools, and I am intrigued enough by his potential to see if he can’t put it all together to start getting results where it counts. $1.5m is probably a bit too steep for an RFA who shouldn’t have that much bargaining power, but ultimately it’s not much of an overpay. Hopefully he outperforms his contract and provides some offensive depth.

  • CMG30

    I’m neutral the whole way around this player. Hopefully his path is one that sees steady growth in his game and he solidifies as a solid NHL player. If they move him for someone else, I’m not going to lose sleep either.

  • 0W-20

    The issue is not with the player, it’s with a perception of value for the contract. Some fans of EDM argue that Drake is underpaid. Some might say this is fair compensation, others will suggest it is an overpay. Nobody actually knows because Drake has yet to fulfill the two years under contract whereby his performance can be quantified; this is all forecasting. The problem this fan has is Chiarelli has not demonstrated any consistency in negotiating a favorable deal for the organization. He overpays on salary and term and compounds the error by losing on the market exchange rate (trades). For being a Harvard man, it would appear he missed/failed the courses that taught value of money and asset management.

  • Drivefastfinishlast

    I thought the plan was to bring everyone back so we can make playoffs.
    Lucic and Sekera contracts are the only bad ones.
    Drake’s contract doesn’t hurt the team. Do you really think 250k will make or break Oilers chances of signing a UFA, re-signing Nurse is make playoffs. Hahaha give your head a shake.
    This is what happens to people when they become Oiler fans. They become so miserable and unhappy, they get so bitter about everything. Oilers management is poison. That’s what wrong with the Oilers. It’s not Drakes fault he got $1.5mil AAV. Don’t blame the player.

  • MrBung

    Those players that got the bigger deals didn’t have the McDavid lift. It is an overpay. And given how much the Oil are in cap he’ll Chia needs steals and value deals to get the team back into the playoffs. This team was nothing when the McDavid line didn’t drive it.

  • crabman

    Sven Andrighetto – 3rd round draft pick and comming off 16 pts in 19 games since being traded to Colorado and was playing in their top6 when signed.

    Johan Larsson – 2nd round pick, plays center, 5th most icetime for a forward and 3rd most PK time for a forward in his contract year.

    Brett Ritchie – 2nd round pick, 11th in ave icetime among forwards that played at least 30 games in his contract year. scored 16 goals.

    Joakim Nordstrom – 3rd round pick, 7th ave ice time, 3rd ice time on PK.

    Andrew Copp – 4th round pick, play’s center, 11th ave ice time, 5th ice time PK.

    Vlad Namestnikov – 1st round pick, coming off a 35 pt season, 8th in ave ice time, and plays center.

    Sven Baertschi – 1st round pick, 9th ave ice time, no PK time but recieved a push on the PP 1:43 7 pts.

    Drake Caggiula – undrafted, 8th in ave ice time, 9th in PK time and team improved when his PK icetime was decreased. and although he was only 8th in icetime he spent 40% of his time with either McDavid or Draissitl which gives a boost to point totals.

    Out of the list of comparables Caggiula is the only undrafted player which still matters during contract time for youngrr players. And out of the comparables I think Ritchie is the closest comparison with usage and scoring and has since been the biggest disappointment.

    I don’t think $1.5M was a big overpay, I expected $1.25-1.3M no big deal, but I don’t like the 2nd year. I don’t think Caggiula has a lot more growth in his game and didn’t need a 2nd year in his contract to mitigate paying him more on his next contract. I also worry all of Rattie, Aberg, and Khaira out play him this year and need contracts next year.
    I like Caggiula as a bottom 6 guy but unless it is a player you expect to out preform his contract, or plays a role harder to fill, ie center, or PK specislist, you don’t need to offer term. He would also still be an RFA if he was signed to 1 year and under team control.
    At the end of the day it isn’t great but it isn’t horrible. nothing to lose sleep over and if it happened st a time any big news was going on it probably wouldn’t get near this much attention.