If you take a look at all the players who are currently scheduled to become unrestricted free agents at the end of the season, big names like Marc Savard, Ilya Kovalchuk, and Patrick Marleau come to mind. However, if you watched TSN’s broadcast between Columbus and Montreal on Tuesday night, you might be wondering if Tomas Plekanec’s name belongs with the ones above.
Throughout the game, Plekanec was constantly mentioned as a potential UFA this summer and while he’s guaranteed to get a raise on the $2.75 Million salary he’s making this year, is he really worth $5 Million per year or more? I think I even heard Gord Miller saying that Plekanec could be in line to double his salary next season! Whoa! Let’s take a closer look at this, because something doesn’t sound right
Plekanec has scored 20+ goals in each of the past three seasons and his best season was in 2007-2008 where he scored 29 goals and 69 points. He’s also had a strong start to the season and is on pace for 82 points. All this sounds good and you might be able to make a case that he’s worth $5 Million a year, especially if he continues his strong play this year and can hit 80+ points.
But here’s the catch – when you pay a centre $5 or $5.5 Million per season, he’s going to be your #1 centre. Unless you’re Pittsburgh or Philadelphia. Having said that, can you really see Plekanec as a first line centre? I can’t, and that’s not meant to be insulting. I see Plekanec as a solid second line player who can be counted on to score around 50 points a year, maybe 60 or 70 if he gets really hot. Outside of his career year, Plekanec’s next best season was a 47 point effort. Plekanec’s playoff record is mediocre at best too. He’s put up 13 points in 21 games, but is -4 during those games, including being held off the scoresheet in all three of his post-season games last April. That’s not worth $5 Million a year.
In terms of comparables, when you look at other centres who are of similar age to Plekanec, 26, the picture becomes much clearer. Ryan Getzlaf has a current cap hit of $5.3 Million, while Mike Ribeiro has a $5 Million cap hit. Daymond Langkow has a cap hit of $4.5 Million and Brad Boyes salary comes in at a cap hit of $4 Million. All of these players have scored more than 69 points in a season, and I’d take any one of these players at their current salary than Plekanec at $5 Million. In my mind, these players are all a notch above him.
The bottom line is that Plekanec is probably worth $3.5-4 Million per season but I’m sure there’s a team out there willing to pay more than that. The big question now is how much is Bob Gainey willing to shell out to keep his #2 centre. If it were me, I wouldn’t be willing to go above $4 Million per season. If you do, you’re basically setting this guy up to fail because the expectations will be way too high. Plekanec is a good player, but he’s not a $5 Million kind of player. He’s not that good.
Your Reporter in the Field,