Monday, July 07, 2008

A Little Bit Mo' On Mo

As you know by now, Brooks Laich and Shaone Morrisonn filed for salary arbitration ahead of the Saturday deadline for doing so, removing the possibility of either Restricted Free Agent signing an offer sheet with another team (I guess GMGM's threat worked).

Should either case actually go before an arbitrator, here's what you need to know about the process, here's a more detailed look (including a truly interesting read - the Dmitri Khristich/Boston Bruins arbitration decision), and, as another interesting point of historical perspective, here's Vogs on Laich's arbitration hearing from last year. But most of the time when a player files for arb (24 of 31 times last year, in fact) the team and the player reach an agreement before the scheduled hearing date and the parties avoid the often awkward and contentious meeting (recall, for example, the Rangers' description of Sean Avery in their brief).

We've talked a bit about Laich lately (as has Corey), but there hasn't been much chatter on Mo, so let's put him under the microscope. Here are "The Good" and "The Bad" from his Rink Wrap:
The Good: Morrisonn was tied for third among Caps blueliners in hits and tied for second in takeaways. He skated the second most shifts per game on the team, was fourth in average ice time and still managed to cut his penalty minutes by more than 40% from last year, despite playing against opponents' top lines. As tough as they come, Mo played all seven games in the playoffs with a broken jaw and a separated shoulder. Oh, and he tied for the regular season team lead in percentage of faceoffs won.

The Bad: Morrisonn had only 47 shots on goal and an atrocious 2.1 shooting percentage, but when you're Mike Green's partner, it's not your job to score - it's your job to cover his butt. Still, Mo's offensive numbers declined for the second consecutive season on a team whose goal totals have risen at even strength (but declined on the power play) over that span, and he had the fewest points per minute of ice time on the team, as well as his personal career low in points per game (not including his 11-game 2002-03). Mo was second on the team in minor penalties, and got jumped by Vinny Lecavalier in his one fight of the year (which isn't necessarily bad on Mo, but I wanted to mention it, so there it is).
So what's Morrisonn worth? Arbitrators use a pretty narrow definition of "comparables," but we're going to assume that no arbitrator will ever hear this case and so we'll be a little more liberal in our comparables. We'll also only use guys who have signed this year.

One guy that jumps out is Kurt Sauer, who recently signed with the Phoenix Coyotes. Keep in mind that Sauer was an unrestricted free agent, so his situation was a bit different than Mo's, but let's look at some numbers anyway:
  • Drafted: Sauer (3rd round, 2000); Morrisonn (1st round, 2001)
  • Sauer, Career: 288 games played, 4 goals, 22 assists, -15, 214 PIMs, 170 SOG
  • Morrisonn, Career: 278 games played, 6 goals, 39 assists, +24, 278 PIMs, 167 SOG
  • Sauer, 2007-08: 54 games played, 1 goal, 5 assists, +17, 41 PIMs, 28 SOG, 18:41 average TOI per game
  • Morrisonn, 2007-08: 76 games played, 1 goal, 9 assists, +4, 63 PIMs, 47 SOG, 20:16 average TOI per game
Morrisonn has a higher all-around upside than Sauer, is nearly two years younger than the 'Yotes blueliner, and even though numbers alone don't tell you much about guys like Mo and Sauer, the latter provides a decent example of what those numbers might fetch on the open market. Sauer signed with Phoenix last week for four years at $1.75 million per year (a steal in Mirtle's eyes).

Looking strictly at RFAs, here are two more names that provide a couple more points of reference when thinking about putting a dollar number on Morrisonn's value:
Of the three players listed here, Gleason is probably the best fit as a comparable, given that he's forty days younger than Morrisonn, was drafted four picks after Mo, and signed his new deal as an RFA. His offensive and defensive numbers (including hits and blocked shots) are somewhat better than Morrisonn's to date, but Mo played tougher minutes and more of them.

So did the 'Canes overpay on Gleason? My guess is that in four years, that deal's going to look very good for Carolina. More importantly, though, one wonders how (if at all) that deal might impact the Caps' negotiations with Morrisonn. Mo is probably not worth $2.75 million per season right now (Jeff Finger deal aside). But if the team takes a "wait and see" approach by either letting an arbitrator decide on a one-year deal for Mo or signing him short-term themselves, they'll find themselves in a similar position one year from now and they run the risk of missing out on potentially large savings in the out-years to save a few bones in the present.

Shaone Morrisonn is 25 years old. He's steadily getting better defensively and is the franchise defenseman's security blanket. And while I think that his defensive abilities are a little over-rated by many Caps fans, there's a very low risk at this point that he flops (much lower, you'd think, than the chance that Laich does). It's not my money, but if it were, I'd lock him up to a three- or four-year deal at up to, say, $2.5 million per year - the value in three or four years would likely be worth the present day investment.

If this Capitals team is going to compete for a Cup in the next few years, they'll likely need a handful of favorable contracts to go along with the mega deals handed out to guys like Green and Alex Ovechkin. Morrisonn could - and should - be one of those deals, and the time to pull the trigger on it is now.


Tyler said...

I think that's a spot high on the dollars side. Jordan Leopold and Mike Komisarek as sorta-comparables?

Regarding development camp: Thank god for the Rink and other blogs. As you may have read by now, the Washington's Post Caps beat writer needs a rest, so he won't be covering the only Caps event between July signings and September camp. I think we know where the Caps stand with the Post, eh?

JP said...

Leopold has a better offensive skill set than Mo does, and my man-crush on Komisarek doesn't allow me to use him as a comparable.

Still, both of those guys are UFAs next summer and I'd be shocked if either was signed for under $3M, wouldn't you?

Sombrero Guy said...

We're running out of Cap room, so I hope it doesn't take 2.5 million. I was thinking 1.5-1.75 million, but I have admitedly been low balling player salaries in pretty much every speculation this summer.

JP said...

Yeah, I said "up to" $2.5, but would obviously like something well below that (and think that a shorter term deal should be significantly lower than that).

That said, a) if you look at it as Pothier's $2.5m, it's more palatable and b) I think the priorities right now have to be Mo then Laich then Gordo and Fehr then Fedorov with anything left over.

Tyler said...

I don't know about Leopold. He's gotta actually play a full season again sometime, right?

JR said...

Thank you, JP, for reading hockeybuzz so we don't have to.

Interesting about Kristich.