I had an interesting Twitter discussion yesterday with someone named Joe S. about how much of a raise Scott Hartnell can get in his next contract versus what he "deserves." Hartnell, who turned 30 in April, is entering the sixth and final season of the contract he signed the same day he and Kimmo Timonen were traded to the Flyers from Nashville.
Last season, Hartnell enjoyed his finest season in the NHL, earning his first trip to the NHL All-Star Game while racking up career highs in goals (37) and points (67). The power forward still posted 136 penalty minutes, but significantly cut back on the number of retaliatory penalties and gratuitous offensive-zone minors (I'm NOT talking about incidental-contact goaltender interference penalties that some referees call virtually every time a goalie flops to the ice).
It is my belief that Hartnell will be re-signed to a multi-year extension before he ever hits the UFA market on July 1, 2013. First of all, that's the Flyers preferred method of operation with players they really want to keep. Having recently been burned by Matt Carle, I think the Flyers would be even more likely to try to lock up Hartnell early.
Secondly, Hartnell has become one of the Flyers' most popular -- and most visible in both the local and national media -- players. He is happy in Philadelphia, but business is business. If he doesn't get close to market value from the Flyers, he will go elsewhere and receive quite a lucrative payday. Wherever he goes, the outgoing Hartnell would rapidly become a popular teammate and a fan favorite.
Last but not least, Hartnell has been part of three highly successful line combinations in Philadelphia. First, in 2008-09 he set then career-highs of 30 goals and 60 points while playing on a line with Jeff Carter and Joffrey Lupul. Then, from the 2010 playoffs through the 2010-11 season, he was part of an effective trio with Danny Briere and Ville Leino. Last year, after a slow start, he was placed on a line with Claude Giroux and Jaromir Jagr and had a career season.
At a certain point, it is tough to say that Hartnell's offensive success is just a product of his linemates. He may not look too graceful and he not have the most natural finishing touch, but the bottom line is that he's been pretty consistent from season to season. If he bags another 30-goal season in 2012-13, it will be the third in six years as a member of the Flyers. In six of the last seven seasons, he has scored at least 22 goals, and he's produced 24 or more in five of them.
As such, Hartnell is going to get a raise in his next contract, especially in light of some of the prices being paid on the UFA market. But the question is how much of a raise?
When Hartnell signed his deal with the Flyers six years ago, the club made a leap of faith with a contract that pays an annual cap hit of $4.3 million. It was only within the last year or two that the market place finally started to catch up to the contract and players of roughly the same or somewhat lesser levels of recent accomplishment started to receive salaries in the same range.
Taken on the balance of his Flyers career, I would say that Hartnell has lived up to his contract minus the 2009-10 regular season when he was dealing with personal issues and his production on the ice slipped. Even then, he redeemed a subpar season with the best playoff run of his career.
Hartnell would have no problem whatsoever getting a five-year, $25 million deal from the Flyers if he was willing to extend his contract early, especially if he starts next season on pace for another 30-goal season. But a $5 million cap hit may be a little too conservative of an estimation, unless the salary cap ceiling is significantly lowered in the next CBA.
At a certain price point, the Flyers would have no choice but to let Hartnell go the way of Carle and Jagr as a unrestricted next summer. Just because a player can GET a certain salary somewhere else does not mean his present team should feel compelled to pay it.
Where do you see that price point for Hartnell, assuming the NHL's cap ceiling structure does not radically change?
I am looking forward to the start of the Flyers' prospect camp today. Most of my blogs the remainder of this week will look at various players and goings-on at the camp.
KINDLE USERS: Please sign up for Flyers Buzz. For more information click here