When the Sharks cleaned out their lockers following their first round loss to the Edmonton Oilers, general manager Doug Wilson told reporters that signing goaltender Martin Jones to an extension this summer was one of the organization’s top priorities.
Yesterday, Friend of the Blog Kevin Kurz examined the recent Scott Darling and Ben Bishop contracts in a piece, and what those meant for Jones’ contract status going forward. In his estimation, Jones is in line to make more than Darling and Bishop signed for:
Based on what has happened so far this summer, the guess here is Jones’ average annual salary settles somewhere in the $5.5 – $6 million range if a multi-year deal is struck, as he's simply more valuable than either Bishop or Darling.
$6 million, on the surface, sounds like a lot. But looking at what other goaltenders in a similar position to Jones had signed for, it’s not too outlandish.
Using Cap Friendly’s contract comparison tool, we can examine all of the contracts signed under the current CBA, narrowing it down to goaltenders who were in a similar in position to Jones when they signed.
Jones has played in 164 NHL games, will sign his contract as a 27-year-old if he signs an extension this summer as the Sharks intend, and as a pending unrestricted free agent. With these criteria in mind, Jones’ three closest comparisons under the current CBA signed within the range that Kurz outlined.
Corey Crawford’s six-year, $36 million deal signed in 2013, Cory Schneider’s seven-year, $42 million deal signed in 2014, and Ben Bishop’s two-year, $11.9 million deal signed in 2014 were the closest matches. Each deal was signed a year before the deal kicked in, and are especially instructive given where each player stood in their respective careers.
Crawford, Schneider, and Bishop were were 28, 28, and 27, respectively, when they signed their contracts. All three were backup goaltenders that worked their way into a regular role in the crease, much like Jones. Schneider and Bishop, like Jones, signed their deals with a different team than the one that drafted them. Crawford was still with his original team, but had a Stanley Cup Final appearance under his belt before signing the deal, also like Jones.
The comparisons, of course, are not perfect. Bishop signed his deal after only one year as a full-time starter under his belt, Crawford won a Stanley Cup during his appearance in the Final, and Schneider’s save percentage in all situations (.925) was far higher than Jones’ save percentage (.916).
Yet these are the deals that will more than likely set the market for Jones’ extension, and all three sit right around $6 million annually. Jones boasts a very similar resume to Crawford, Schneider, and Bishop when they signed their extensions, and if you couple that with a salary cap that’s set to rise this offseason, it’s well within reason Jones will be paid similarly, too.
Of course, the concern for San Jose is whether or not Jones is as good as the trio, and thus worth the money. When looking at even strength save percentage, which we know is more predictive of a goalie’s ability over a large sample, Jones does not compare as favorably.
His career .923 5v5 SV% is lower than all three players at the point in which they signed their extensions, and their 5v5 SV% since signing those deals is also higher than Jones’ career mark.
If Jones can make a Crawford-like leap (.924 5v5 SV% before signing his extension, .930 5v5 SV% since), he’ll be right in line with Crawford and Schneider’s performances and a $6 million per year deal will be well worth it for San Jose. Such improvement is certainly possible, but it wouldn’t be wise to bet on it with a six-or-seven-year deal.
Signing Jones to a two-year deal for that price, just as Tampa Bay did with Bishop in 2014, seems to make more sense from San Jose’s perspective, especially considering that the organization’s future remains very much up in the air.
I’d venture, though, the length will split the difference between Bishop’s deal and Crawford and Schneider’s contracts. Doug Wilson has never signed a goaltender to a deal longer than four years.
Of course, given Wilson’s willingness to sign Brent Burns to an eight-year deal and how highly the organization thinks of Jones, the general manager is operating under a different set of circumstances than when he re-signed Evgeni Nabokov and Antti Niemi to four-year deals.
Crawford, Schneider, and Bishop set the market for Jones’ extension. He may not yet play as well as them, but there’s good reason to believe he will be paid as well.