The Colorado Avalanche have told the world “I’m A Believer” when it comes to David Jones. Last week they inked Jones to a four year deal with a four million dollar average annual value. They spent this coin on a forward with 67 goals in 239 career games. The initial thought I had was “Oh My My”, but perception isn’t always correct. The contract deserves a closer look to see if the Avs have legitimate reasons to believe or if they’re really just “Daydream Believers”.
Cheap obtuse The Monkees references aside, this contract seemingly came out of nowhere. Jones was due to hit the free agent market on July first so an extension in principle isn’t shocking. The magnitude of the deal is the issue. The UFA market always inflates values, but how much did the UFA market raise Jones’ price? We need to know what Jones is before we can answer that question.
The past two seasons Jones has been a 20+ goal scorer. He netted a career high 27 in 2011 and fell back to 20 this past year. His career high in points is 45.
In terms of raw production he’s been a useful player for the Avs for sure. Things begin to get dicey when you realize that he doesn’t do much else. The Avalanche trust in Jones’ defense waned considerably in 2012 compared to 2011:
The change at even strength could be coincidental. In Mile High Hockey’s post season grades series they discussed how inconsistent Jones was in 2011. Half of his goals came in February and March. He was never able to find consistent linemates either which undoubtedly had an impact on his offensive production. His penalty killing time is the most telling reality of his 2012 season that suggests the Avs lost faith in him defensively as he saw his total penalty killing ice drop 59%.
David Jones the offensive forward is who the Avs gave money to. Again, his raw production was decent. The underlying rates aren’t nearly as pretty though.
Despite the easier ice time Jones’ Corsi Relative, G/60, and P/60 all dropped considerably. His shot rate increased, but not nearly enough to account for how badly the Avs were outshot with him on the ice. Jones’ P/60 (points per 60 minutes of ice) was 140th out of all forwards who played 50+ games. Among his scoring contemporaries last year were Ryan O’Reilly, Bryan Bickell, Nik Antropov, Drew Miller, Kyle Turris, Marcel Goc, Gabriel Landeskog, Jason Chimera, and Max Talbot. That isn’t intended to be a knock on any of those guys, but outside of the two young Avs none of this group would be considered for a 4/16 type of deal.
The contract itself is questionable before you even consider the player. A quick scan of last year’s July signings yields the following list of players to sign for EITHER four years or an AAV of greater than four million:
I may have missed one or two, but the point remains. Very few free agents get both term AND money. Only five skaters received more than four years and over four million on last year’s market. Amongst the four forwards to get both was Tomas Fleischmann who unanimously was considered to be a cap floor move by the Panthers. The Avalanche are in a similar position vis-à-vis the cap floor so the assumption is that David Jones’ contract is a move to assure the club gets above the floor has been thrown out there.
Adrian Dater of the Denver Post points out that the Avs situation isn’t all that similar to the Panthers though. The Avs have several restricted free agents to sign. I’ll let Dater spell it out:
“So let’s do some math here: Let’s say Duchene gets $5 million per on his next deal, O’Reilly gets $4 million, Johnson gets $4 million, Mueller $3 million, Downie $3 million and Wilson and McGinn $2 million each. That adds $23 million to the payroll.
With those players added in, now the Avs are up to $53 million on the payroll — well above their final total last season of $42.7 million.”
Either the Avalanche think David Jones is a four million dollar player, or they anticipate moving a higher priced player (Paul Stastny?), and they will need Jones’ four million to stay above the floor.
One way or the other, the Avalanche overpaid for David Jones. He looks quite a bit like Michael Ryder. The difference is the Stars put Ryder in positions to use his best skill, his shot. Ryder was able to get a two year deal at 3.5 million per while being older but also having a longer track record than Jones. Something in that range would have made a lot of sense for Jones also, but luckily for him the Avalanche were willing to double the contract.