One potential unrestricted free agent was taken off the market yesterday when the Colorado Avalanche re-signed winger David Jones to a four-year contract worth $16 mil. This might not look like a big deal at first glance, but has the potential to be a pretty awful contract for the Avalanche. Jones might have two 20-goal seasons under his belt, but a closer look at his numbers suggests that the chances of him sustaining this kind of production are slim.
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Over the last three years, Jones has been incredibly lucky when it came to shooting the puck. He wasn’t exactly being used in the toughest of situations but was still underwater territorially in most seasons. He was able to score 20+ goals because about 15% or more of the shots he took ended up in the back of the net. In addition to that, the Avs were shooting at a higher rate as a team when he was on the ice during the 2009 & 2010 seasons. Unless Jones can maintain his career shooting percentage of 16.3%, his production is probably going to take a significant drop. This is one of the reasons why I wanted Carolina to stay away from him this off-season and why I think this contract will look awful by this time next year.
How does this concern Carolina, though? Because they are in the market for a top-line winger and the Avs just signed a guy who is a 2nd liner at best to a deal worth $4 mil. per season. This gives us an idea of what the market will look like in about a month when free agency hits and it does make you a little concerned about how much money Jim Rutherford will need to shell out to acquire a top line winger. Rutherford made a similar decision by signing Tuomo Ruutu to a four year contract worth $750k more per season, so most knew what the market was going to be like this year. The news of the salary cap increasing to $70.3 mil. also means that teams are going to shell out more money than usual for some players, so you’ll probably see more deals like this handed out over the next month or so.
Just how much money does Rutherford need to spend to acquire that top line winger he is looking for, though? That is something I can’t answer right now, but I have to think that it is in the ballpark of Jones and Ruutu contracts, likely more. Spending a lot of money for next season isn’t a big deal with the cap being so high, but Rutherford can make things much easier on the team long-term by avoiding signing players to 4+ year contracts and offering more money for less years instead. It doesn’t seem like anyone on the market this year is going to provide a long-term solution to Carolina, so short-term contracts appear to be the way to go. He’s going to be overpaying no matter what, but shortening the term of the contract minimizes the overall risk of it.
No matter what Rutherford does, he has to be smarter than the Avs were with this Jones contract when he looks to fill the void on the top line. Granted, the Avs are in a tougher situation because they are ways away from the cap floor, but no GM should be offering four year contracts to a player whose success is mostly driven by luck. That’s not what you should do when you’re on a budget or when you’re a rebuilding team. This along with the Cody McLeod contract puts the Avs summer of to a very rough start. Let’s hope Rutherford doesn’t follow suit.