55
Photo Credit: Sergei Belski-USA TODAY Sports

Drake Caggiula and the McDavid Contract Effect

So after a long unintended hiatus (partly vacation, partly busy at work, partly family obligations, partly didn’t-want-to-talk-about-the-Oilers-for-a-while), somehow not-the-rapper Drake has inspired me to get off my *ss (“started from my bottom now we here”) and write an article!

The Veneer of Drake’s Contract

Drake Caggiula just signed a two year,$1.5M per, contract. On the surface, this isn’t an unreasonable contract for a 13 goal, 20 point player. There are a number of fourth line comparables out there with similar numbers, as Jason Gregor just wrote. Matt Cane’s contract model put Caggiula at a $1.3M level, so this number is well within error bars of that estimate.

The comparables make it look as though this contract is fine, just fine.

I’m not a fan of simple comparables, especially if all they do is look at boxcars. Context matters. As with so many things Oilers, it’s a little less rosy when you try and understand the context, to make the effort to dig past the surface.

The McDavid Effect

If you want to get a reasonable assessment on an Oilers player, whether for performance or for comparison, the first place you have to start digging is with McDavid. Young McDeity is so good that he warps the results of any player that spends time with him, so you have to, absolutely have to, dig into the McDavid effect if you want a realistic sense of how that player did.

Caggiula is no exception — even more so when you consider he’s slotted as a bottom six player but had a surprising* amount of time playing top six minutes. So with smaller overall bottom six numbers to deal with, McDavid distortions carry a bigger risk of leading us astray.

*considering the history and depth of this team, I guess maybe not that surprising

Pulling the Goals, not the Goalies

The nice thing about looking at bottom six players is that often you don’t have to look at the data with statistical summaries — with just 13 goals, we can look at every goal.

Here’s an overview of Drake’s thirteen goals, with specific isolation on the presence of McDavid and Draisaitl:

Goal # Opponent State 97 Assist? 97 On Ice? 29 On Ice?
1 NJD PP yes yes
2 DAL SH yes yes
3 DAL EV yes yes
4 DET EV yes yes
5 STL EV
6 VGK EV yes yes
7 COL EV
8 FLA EV
9 SJS EV
10 CAR EV yes
11 OTT EV yes
12 OTT PP
13 CBJ PP yes yes yes

The basic takeaway here is unsurprising — Caggiula scored a significant proportion of his goals with either McDavid or Draisaitl. If Caggiula scored a goal with McDavid on the ice, McDavid assisted every time! (I didn’t include it in the table, but of the three goals Caggiula scored with Draisaitl on the ice, Dr. Drai assisted on two of them).

Now you might say that this is unsurprising, or even a positive since it means he can play with talented players. The second aspect is where you, once again, have to dig past the surface to determine if that’s actually true — scoring a few goals on McDavid’s line is most assuredly not the same as being able to play effectively with him!

If it turns out that he can’t play effectively up the lineup (foreshadow: he mostly can’t), then we have to determine how good he is in a third/fourth line role.

Discombobulating Teammates

To do that, I’ve focused here on Caggiula’s 5v5 time with McDavid and Draisaitl, who I think we can say fairly represent the first and second line centres. (Special teams need their own separate assessment, and in Drake’s case, that volume of data is small. Gregor’s article touches on it, as does Tyler Yaremchuk‘s).

The data looks like this when pulled apart (data from NaturalStatTrick):

Teammate Combination 5v5 TOI CF% Caggiula Goals GF% Caggiula Goals/60
With McDavid/Draisaitl 6:28 33% 0 0.00
With McDavid wo Draisaitl 139:48 40% 3 45% 1.29
With Draisaitl wo McDavid 176:37 50% 2 44% 1.02
Without McDavid/Draisaitl 453:07 49% 4 34% 0.40

OK, so what does that tell us?

1. While Caggiula scores at a decent rate with either of those guys, he pulls McDavid well below breakeven for both goals and shot attempts.

2. Draisaitl he pulls below breakeven for goals, but they stay about even for shots.

3. Without those two (i.e. what we would expect represents his “true” third/fourth line performance), he is almost breakeven for shots but a disaster in terms of goal balance, with two of every three goals scored with him on the ice being scored against the Oilers.

4. Caggiula’s personal goal scoring rate of just 0.4 goals/60 is also quite poor when he’s without one of the two skill centres, at or even below what I would consider fourth line level.

Rx

Apr 5, 2018; Edmonton, Alberta, CAN; Vegas Golden Knights goaltender Malcom Subban (30) makes a save on Edmonton Oilers forward Connor McDavid (97) during the third period at Rogers Place. Mandatory Credit: Perry Nelson-USA TODAY Sports

We can kvetch all we want about the signing or the contract, but the reality is Drake remains an Oiler. So let’s take a bit of a leap and ask what this indicates in terms of what the Oilers could/should do next year:

1. Don’t play Caggiula with McDavid. It’s been a disaster. I assume this is because of Quality of Competition issues, as it’s certainly not Quality of Teammates. McDavid needs and deserves better wingers. Go Nuge!

2. You might be able to play Caggiula with Draisaitl — the shot balance is decent, and although the goal balance is problematic, goal scoring tends to move more strongly towards shot balance than the other way round, so that’s encouraging. But Caggiula would be down the list of options to be on Draisaitl’s wing.

3. Without either McDavid or Draisaitl, Caggiula mostly holds his own shots wise, but is a (I’ve used this word a lot) disaster goals wise. Again, while concerning, I tend to believe the goal balance will move more to the shots balance than the other way round, so the shot metrics are at least somewhat encouraging.

4. That said, don’t expect Caggiula to score much while playing on the third or fourth line. His scoring rate in the context of a fourth line player averaging 10 minutes of 5v5 a night puts him at around five or six even strength goals for the season.

Contract

So how do we reconcile that with the contract?

Well, bottom line is that this is a player who should not be looked at as top six material. While his personal scoring rate is decent, his overall effect is hugely problematic. He drags those lines below breakeven, even when he’s with the best player in the world. That’s quite some feat, and not a good one — I think we can (?) agree on that.

As a bottom six player, his goal balance has been a problem, but his shots balance is encouraging. So we already know he’s fast, he has a modicum of skill, and with a little bit of further development of his defensive awareness, the numbers suggest he ought to be able to hold his own defensively when facing bottom six competition.

While people are arguing that Caggiula might be able to bump up his 13 goal total, I’d say that if he doesn’t get as much time with McDavid or Draisaitl next season, those totals could actually fall. That’s why I find the simple comparables used to be problematic.

All that said, I have time for this player probably around $1M. The evidence suggests he’s a lower end fourth liner, and that’s where I’d pay him.

Instead, he’s being paid like an upper end fourth liner. That extra $500K is a McDavid/Chiarelli bump.

I had a conversation with Tyler Dellow about Caggiula and he had the ideal description of Peter Chiarelli’s philosophy: when you find a bargain, reward him.

As with a number of other players, Caggiula should be including a hefty cheque in his Xmas card to McDavid. And also treating Pistol Pete to a wardrobe upgrade.

Death by Papercuts to the Eyeball

In and of itself, all we have here is a modest (if you look at dollars) to dizzying (if you look at percentages) overpay to a bottom six player. It’s not a problem on its own.

It does become a problem when nearly every bottom of roster player is an overpay. Pretty soon that adds up and becomes part of a cap crunch the Oilers *checks salary table*  will be are already facing.

Is There Upside?

Dec 21, 2017; Edmonton, Alberta, CAN; Edmonton Oilers forward Drake Caggiula (91) celebrates a third period goal against the St. Louis Blues at Rogers Place. Mandatory Credit: Perry Nelson-USA TODAY Sports

I don’t want to leave it all on a gloomy note.

While I don’t personally buy the “he’s only 24” line — a forward at 24 rarely has more than incremental improvements left, and this contract pays Caggiula as if he’s already made those incremental improvements — there are a few encouraging signs at least.

As mentioned in the Tyler Yaremchuk article I linked earlier, there is at least a little bit of reason to believe that Caggiula’s speed and shot might be valuable on the power play, while also keeping away from his defensive shortcomings. If he can put up some goals and help the godawful powerplay, he can earn some of that overpay back.

At the very least, if he can improve his defensive awareness (very possible at his age), he can be a legitimate breakeven guy on the bottom six. And that has been one of the Achilles heels of this Oilers team forever, with the top three making hay, and then the bottom nine or bottom six giving that and more away.

It’s still an overpay if that’s what he is, but at least it moves us out of Korpikoski territory, so it’s a more palatable overpay.

A lot of chips have to fall right for this contract to really work out. I don’t know about you, but I’m pretty tired of always needing the nearly-best-case outcome just to break even on a Peter Chiarelli contract, but as always…let’s hope that’s what happens. I will never hold a player responsible for a bad contract, or not cheer for him because of it.

So…Go Cags!

  • wiseguy

    Using stats this way can create a confirmation bias. We need the stats of Cags’ 3rd and 4th line teammates playing with and without him to see it he elevates their play or pulls them down. We also need to see how those line mates affect Cag’ stats compared to playing with McD and Drai. You could then easily say that his poor stats on the 3rd and 4th lines are an indictment of poor depth on the team than solely on the player being without McDavid.

    • Gravis82

      He scored only 3 goals this year without McDavid or Drai. Granted, we dont know how much ice time that was in. But it would be safe to assume that if he had played all season without McDavid or Drai it would be much less than 13 and he would not be getting 1.5 mill.

      This is important, because next year he shouldnt be getting any minutes on the top 2 lines, and wont produce anywhere near what he did last year to earn his inflated contract.

      If he does play a significant amount of time with Drai/McDavid, it means we didnt make the playoffs

    • crabman

      @wiseguy,

      Strome was his most common linemate with 206 minutes together. they did well in the 52.57% CF but only 35.71% GF so they lost the scoring battle.
      Strome without Caggiula was 50.13%CF w/o Caggiula, worse without but still broke even, but his GF% goes up to 50% significantly better w/o Caggiula.
      Caggiula w/o Strome had a lower CF% 45.31%, his GF% was up at 41.51%,but still well bellow break even and well bellow Strome w/o Caggiula. this indicates Strome was driving results when they played on the 3rd line together.

      The same trend is present with Puljujarvi, Lucic, Khaira, Kassian, Aberg, Slepyshev, Jokinen, where each player does significantly better in CF% and GF% without Caggiula.
      Letestu did better in CF% but worse in GF% without Caggiula, the only player with a worse GF% away from Caggiula.
      And Pakerinen was the same with and without Caggiula in both CF%, GF%.
      this paints a picture of a bottom 6 guy who is a drag on offence with almost everyone he plays with.
      I think he can be a useful player but also think he is over paid, even if it is slightly, for a bottom pair winger.

      All the stats you are looking for are available at naturalstattrick.com

    • It’s a fair comment that I did not delve in too deep on Cags’ 3rd/4th line play directly, although in fairness, do you really want to read another 3 pages? 🙂

      I do think some others (including Mr. Crabs) have done good work showing that Cags’ bottom 6 play (both the good and the bad of it) shouldn’t all be attributed to other players or lack of depth.

  • TKB2677

    Oilers fans are truly amazing and not in a good way. Last year there were all kinds of stats guys applauding the Jokinen signing for 1 mill because a spread sheet said so. The guy was old, couldn’t skate and produced basically NOTHING.

    The Oilers sign a young, fast, aggressive forward who scored 13 goals last year in Caggulia for 1.5 mill and there are fans ripping it apart again using a spread sheet. Considering the cap will be 80 mill and the league minimum will be pushing 800k and the guys making league minimun are usually borderline NHLers. How is Caggulia’s contract bad?

    • crabman

      I will.say th8s about the Jokinen contract, ot didn’t work out but was worth the bet. Jokinen was coming off a 28 point season but was 1 year removed from 60 pts and the 2 before that were 44 and 57 pts. At $1M if the team wanted to he could have been placed in the AHL without a salary cap hit and it was for 1 year. It was a low risk low reward bet that didn’t workout. But the player he was traded for still outscored Caggiula in 16 less games. So I think using the Jokinen deal is a poor comparison.

      I like Caggiula and can live with the deal. I do think it is a slight over pay in dollars, but not much, and I think the 2nd year was the bigger overpay Again not going to sink the team but unnecessary and reduces the teams flexibility next offseason.

  • crabman

    @OILERSNERDALERT,

    I thought it was a good analysis but my only problem I had was your use of “the McDavid effect” on Caggiula’s goals. McDavid was in on 6 of Caggiula’s 13 goals which is 46% of his goals. 46% looks pretty bad but when you look at the team as a whole, McDavid was in on 47% of all the teams goals so it is right on par with the team as a whole.

    • Gravis82

      but Caggiula should never be on the ice with McDavid ever again. And he may not be going forward, and yet we are paying him for McDavid inflated production

    • Gravis82

      we need to bring that % down also, and the only way to do that is to add players who don’t need McDavid to help them score. This signing, and what I suspect will be future deployment, is the opposite of that.

      • crabman

        @Gravis82,

        I agree with you that he won’t score as well without McDavid and he shouldn’t play much with McDavid because Caggiula isn’t a 1st line winger. I am simply pointing out that McDavid doesn’t just drive Caggiula’s points he drives the entire teams points. To point out 1 and not the other misframes the extent McDavid’s play had on Caggiula. Relatively speaking it was on par with the rest of the team.
        I am not argueing Caggiula is a $1.5M player, infact in other comments I have said I think it is a slight over pay on dollars and an extra year overpay on term.

  • Johnnymaced

    The kids got some heart. Hes gritty. Hes energetic. All traits sorely lacking once you get past the big 3. If he keep a line hustling he will be alright. Like most oilers he was snake bitten last year. These things usually even out so I believe he will have better performance numbers next year.

  • JimmyV1965

    If the Drake cleans up his defensive game there’s no reason he can’t be a third line player. The guy can clearly score and I’m sure there’s lots of guys on this team who didn’t score with McDavid or Drai. That’s why he’s the highest scoring player on the team who didn’t play centre last year.

    His Corsi with Strome was encouraging. Clearly the team thinks he can improve defensively so the numbers should improve as well, including the goal share.

    The team is making a reasoned bet on this player. The hind casting is fine and instructive, but clearly the team sees something there, as so many of the fans.

    My question to the naysayers, is who do we replace him with for $1.5 mill? And please don’t list a bunch of 32 year olds.

    • Hi Jimmy,

      I don’t have a problem with making a bet on this player, I just think there is reason to believe (as I outlined) that the amount of the bet is too high, and the team has been fooled as it has a few times by the McDavid effect.

      And to reiterate, a singular bet that’s too high is not a problem, but the real issue for the Oilers is that many if not all of their bets are on the high side and they lack the bargain contracts that every team needs.

      • oilerjed

        But saying that the McDavid effect is fooling management is a bit of an overstatement dont you think? If Connor continues to be Connor then every Oiler on the team will have a boost in numbers due to the McD effect seeing that he is in on close to 50% of All Oiler goals. If the power play starts clicking this year that number will likely rise over 50%. Chia would have to use it as a negotiating tool against every contract which wouldn’t fly. Its too bad that this contract came out in a slow news week, if anything else was going on, a 200K “overpay” wouldn’t make a mark on anybody’s radar.

        • I think the concern in this case is that you have a player who has a non-sustainable amount of McDavid boost. Notice for example how 5 of the first 6 Cags goals were McDavid assisted goals and then basically just one late season after that … I think that’s the coach realizing that Cags has a toxic effect on McDavid, despite the goal scoring).

          But now you’ve baked in the whole ‘he scored 13 goals so pay him on that basis’ but he’s extremely unlikely to get close to that number if he doesn’t have McDavid time next season – which he most definitely should not.

          That’s the problem.

  • 18% body fat

    we have better left handed players for the PP, conner, leon, nuge, Khaira, Klefbom, nurse, sekera, we dont need another lefty that doesnt bring anything these guys dont, What we need is Right handed shots. Strome , Pool, Yamo.

    Please stop talking about this guy on the powerplay, it makes us all puke. It only got better last year once he and lucic were removed.

    • IRONman

      I think the Oilers have bigger needs than just drake. The defence is a huge wtf. Pc wants to win now with no cap space. Need to build thru draft based on budget. 21 million in 97 and 29 hurts cap space. So be very savvy with players and contracts. Pc is just not doing a great job. If he does not draft Dobson and picks forwards the proof is there. Interesting time to be a fan

  • oilerjed

    Since McDavid was on the ice for around 50% of ALL Oiler goals, holding this a a knock against Drake is pretty misleading. It would be better balanced if you were to use other Oilers stats in the same way to judge how well Caguilla did or did not play. Either way, even if I held Cane’s chart as the standard, 200k is not an overpay worth even discussing IMO

    • If you don’t back out the McDavid effect when you’re looking at salary comparables, in essence you are making the argument that every player on the team deserves a 25% bump in salary the first day they take to the ice with McDavid as a teammate.

      Great for the players, but problematic for the team for a whole lot of reasons.

  • Serious Gord

    So at best this contract is par value but very likely it’s an overpay, possibly/arguably more than a 50% (1.5 mill vs 1 m) overpay.

    So what contracts has chia signed since he became GM that are still on the books that we can consider to be underpay / value contracts?

  • Bills Bills

    Umm in case you didn’t notice, the Oilers sucked last year. The TEAM lost the scoring battle on most nights, not one individual player. They scored 33 fewer goals than their opposition in their games. Saying one guy isn’t worth his contract because his stats were in line with the team play is kind of dumb. There are 5 skaters on the ice and the amount of time the Oilers spent in their own zone should not be hung on a winger. The winger can’t make a goalie stop a puck either.

    As long as Drake is in an Oilers jersey I will cheer for him. That’s what fans do.

    • The team sucked because the players were not good enough. Caggiula’s stats were not in line with team play – that’s the whole point explained in the article.

      He was more part of the problem than he was part of the solution. That’s the issue identified. He needs to take a step forward to turn into a neutral or positive contributor.

      And yes, you should always cheer for the guys wearing the jersey.

      Just don’t confuse the incompetent management employees who’ve been driving YOUR franchise into the toilet for so many years with the guys wearing the jerseys.

      Giving the latter guys your undying support makes you a loyal fan. Giving the former guys, the incompetent hired guns, your undying support makes you … well, I’ll leave you to fill that part in.

  • Guy5354

    There is way too much negativity on this website and way too many stats. Hockey is not all about stats although they are an indicator and that is all. Cags is an awesome Oiler. He works hard, he hits, I think he’s liked in the room. Come playoff time I would have no problem having Cags on my 3rd or 4th line. He could go up against anyone. I am really having issues with the negativity on this website. Let’s support the team and the players and see where that gets us.

    • This team has been out of the playoffs 11 of the last 12 years. The same incompetent people running the organization keep making the same predictably terrible decisions.

      Yet the building sells out, and fools like us still spend our time and our passion reading and writing and arguing about this team.

      I do not think “fans who are too negative” is the issue.

    • Big Nuggets

      The crao team effect on a player is a valid point but you can’t throw out all the other stats just because numbers make your brain hurt. Caggiula’s scoring stats away from McDavid are concerning and are an indication of where he is at in terms of development/competitiveness.

      There are two reasons I see that might contradict the articles conclusions. One is that the whole team was bad and we don’t know what Caggiula looks like with confidence on a good team. The second is I believe Caggiula was better in the second half of the season so he might start to figure things out. I hope can gibe good value for this contract

    • MrBung

      I expect more negativity given the Oilers missed the playoffs in Chia’s third year – with the best player in the game. Also, the Oilers have made the playoffs like once in the last 12 or so years. I am surprised things are as positive as they are around here.

  • camdog

    Cagiulla’s contract reminds me a lot of Kassian’s contract. Both players are over payed which results in a loss of about 750,000 in cap space per year. If you have the cap space they are not problem contracts, if you end up with multiple AHL players in the line up because of lack of cap space that’s the problem.

    • Gravis82

      its worse than that. These two guys get overpaid because they have a bit of a scoring touch and some visual tools, but are well below average defensively.

      But they are not good enough to play on the top 2 lines, so they are relegated to defensive roles which they are not suited to.

  • MrBung

    It is an overpay. A smallish one relatively speaking, but one nonetheless. The Oilers are in desperate need of value contracts. It is additive. And the McDavid effect is alive and well with Drake. It is a mediocre to poorish deal, but not one that is any kind of make or break by itself. With Chia, these deals will all add up.