Thursday, September 22, 2005

Matt Cooke: Core Canuck

The Vancouver Canucks announced that they have re-signed Matt Cooke to a three-year/$4.6 million deal. The length of the deal essentially validates Cooke as a core member of the team. Of the team's free agents, the only ones who received deals of three years or more in length were Naslund, Morrison and Ohlund.

The question most fans are asking is this: Is Cooke worth $1.5 million per season?

To analyze the deal, the first task is to determine Cooke's value in the open market. (Remember that the third year of the deal is the first year he would have been eligible for unrestricted free agency.) This year's unrestricted free agents included Dave Scatchard and Kris Draper. Like Cooke, both are gritty, defensively-responsible, checking forwards with the potential to also produce some offense. The following table lists each player's stats over the last three seasons and Scatchard's and Draper's most recent salaries as unrestricted free agents:

0.44 ppg
0.24 ppg
0.45 ppg
0.23 ppg
0.45 ppg
0.44 ppg

Based on these stats and assuming a.) the market stays the same and b.) Cooke continues to develop over the next couple of years - he's only 26, there's no reason to assume he won't - we can fairly argue that his market value as an unrestricted free agent will be at or close to that of Scatchard or Draper - or $2 million. And if Cooke is worth $2 million in the third year of the deal, then the next question is whether or not he is worth $2.6 million, or $1.3 million per year, in the first two years of the deal. I think most Canucks fans can agree that he is.

Postscript: I know that the actual breakdown of the deal calls for Cooke to be paid $1.5 million in the first two years and $1.525 in the final year. The purpose of this post is simply to illustrate that overall, the deal isn't as irresponsible as some make it out to be. $1.5 million this season may seem excessive, but remember that $1.525 million in Cooke's first year of unrestricted free agency may conversely seem as an underpayment. Or so we hope anyway.

posted by J.J. Guerrero, 8:19 PM


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