PART 2: KYLE PALMIERI—KEEPING HIM IN NJ

 

Kyle Palmieri is all smiles as he reaches the 30 goal milestone for the first time in his career.

He was Ray Shero’s first big acquisition as Devils GM. In desperate need to bolster his offense, he flipped a 2nd and 3rd rounder to Anaheim for Montvale, New Jersey native, Kyle Palmieri.

Palmieri has always shown a lot of potential but the Duck’s deep roster and tight cap situation made him expendable. Palmieri’s age and speed fit the blueprint of what Shero was looking to build in New Jersey. That he had a manageable ($1.47MM) cap hit for anther season made it a no brainer. In this hard-cap era, one team’s issues are another team’s reward—and the Devils were certainly happy with the return on their investment.

That cap friendly number is about to change—dramatically.

For good reason, though. One of the bright spots of the Devils’ season, Palmieri hit the milestone 30-goal mark (16 more than his previous high) and added 27 assists for 57 points—all career highs.

He’s 25, just finding his prime, endeared himself to the fans, played in all 82 games, and wound up the teams leading scorer in his first season in NJ. Hmm…I’m pretty sure those are the kinda guys every GM covets and last I checked, they don’t come cheap.

He’s no doubt one of Shero’s top priorities this off-season and while I have no doubt a long term deal will get done, it begs the question, for how much?

Let’s look at some comps:

Palmieri scored more goals than a few guys you might have heard of:

Daniel Sedin, Jonathan Toews, Phil Kessel, Anze Kopitar, Zach Parise, Ryan Kesler, Bobby Ryan and Kyle Okposo to name a few.

He’s also tallied more points than Brandon Saad, Partick Sharp, T.J. Oshie, Patrick Marleau, Jordan Eberle and Andrew Ladd.

You get the idea. And guess what? None of the aforementioned guys make less than $4.5M—most make far north of that. Considering Palmieri is 25 and just entering his prime, he’s even more coveted. He’s also an RFA, which means Shero doesn’t have to outbid anyone, he just has to negotiate competently. Instead of paying for past performances on an aging UFA, Shero’s betting on the future upside of a growing talent. That’s (generally) the better end of the business equation.

There are a few guys who I think are comparable in both age and statistics when they signed their big deals. The first two are Brandon Saad (23 yrs old/signed last summer) and T.J. Oshie (29 now/25 yrs old at signing). Saad is 2 years younger and had more points in his first three seasons (and a couple of Cup wins) than Palmieri did in Anaheim. But Saad played with more talent in Chicago and, like Palmieri, just hit the 30-goal plateau for the first time this season as a Blue Jacket. I’m not suggesting Palmieri’s better than Saad, but their numbers prior to signing contracts are comparable.

Brandon Saad recently signed his 6 year / $36MM contact with CBJ last summer.

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T.J. Oshie signed a 5 year / $20,875,000 contract with the St Louis Blues at the end of the 12-13 season (when he was 25), which has an AAV of $4,175,000. Oshie is a solid all-around player (and Olympic shoot-out hero) but has only eclipsed 20 goals twice in his career (21,26).

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Here are Palmieri’s stats in the same span:

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Another “less known” comparable to take a look at would be Craig Smith of the Nashville Predators.

Both Palmieri and Smith were taken in the 2009 draft, with Nashville selecting Smith in the 4th round and Anaheim selecting Palmieri in the 1st round. Like Palmieri this season, Smith was facing restricted free agency after his age 24-25 season in 2014-15. After filing for arbitration, Smith signed a 5-year deal worth $21.25 million, which comes out to a $4.25 AAV. Prior to signing a long-term deal with Nashville, Smith enjoyed a break out season in 2013-14, scoring 24 goals and 28 assists for 52 points, similar to Palmieri’s 2015-16 season.

The similarities don’t end there with Smith and Palmieri either. In terms of production prior to their age 24-25 seasons (Smith hit his age 24-25 season a year prior to Palmieri), they had nearly identical point totals. In 277 games, Smith totaled 144 points while Palmieri totaled 146 points in 280 games. Of Palmieri’s 146 points, 73 of those were goals while 65 of Smith’s 144 points were goals.

Not only were Palmieri’s and Smith’s traditional stats similar, but they also had similar advanced stats as well. Palmieri’s average Goals For per 60 is 2.50 through his age 24-25 season while Craig Smith’s was 2.46. Palmieri’s Goals For Percentage is 55.9% while Smith’s was 53.7% with all of this coming at even-strength. Their production is quite similar and could be a good building block for negotiations between Palmieri and Shero.

Takeaway

Palmieri and Smith’s production through their age 24-25 seasons are nearly identical. Considering Smith signed a 5-year, $21.25 million deal, that seems Considering Palmieri’s value to the Devils going forward, this is one deal that should get completed with relative ease. Of course, stats don’t tell the whole story but they serve as a basic barometer here–and overall, they’re pretty similar.

I think the magic number is between $4-$5MM annually. Is $5M high? Probably. Is $4MM low? Maybe. For me, Shero would do well with a 5-year, $21.25M ($4.25M/AAV) deal—just like Smith’s. It seems like a logical deal for Palmieri and the Devils and one that would be incredibly fair for both sides.

I think Palmieri would be vey happy. Devils fans would rejoice, too.

 

 

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