Projecting Rickard Rakell and Hampus Lindholm’s Next Contracts

Updated: January 11, 2018 at 1:36 am by Pat Keogh

The Anaheim Ducks are in a pickle. While they’ve got two
young, budding stars in Swedes Rickard Rakell and Hampus Lindholm they’ve also
got something of a cap crunch on their hands. 

As a result, the pair of
restricted free agents have gone unsigned and may miss time during
the regular season that begins in just a few days. While the matter of how the
Ducks will manage to sign both players with just $7.5 million in cap space is a
discussion for another day, it’s worth looking at, in a vacuum, what kind of
contracts the players might receive.

Young players with untapped potential are tricky, because although
they may not have produced at a superstar level quite yet, teams want to get
them cost controlled and buy a few UFA years if it’s at all possible (and worth
it, which is tough to judge). Additionally, teams need to anticipate what their
needs going forward are, which is especially salient in the case of Rakell, as
the Ducks’ two top centers, Ryan Getzlaf and Ryan Kesler, are getting up there
in age, will likely begin to produce less, and may find themselves traded
eventually as the Ducks continue to evaluate their depreciating assets.

Rakell has certainly shown his potential so far with
the Ducks, with the former 30th overall pick packing a lethal
combination of smooth skating and slick hands. Numbers wise he’s produced 4
points (all assists) in 18 games in the 2013-14 season, 31 points in 71 games
for the 2014-15 season, and 43 points in 72 games last season. Given his
skill set and improvement each season he’s played in the NHL, and given the
increased role he’s likely to take on with the Ducks over the course of his
next contract, it’s easy to see why a player like Rakell would be given a
long-term, high salary contract.

 In order to better get a feel for what exactly that contract
might look like, I’ve made use of hockey-reference.com’s handy player season
finder, which allows one to narrow down a search for players’ season statistics
based on specific criteria. For transparency’s sake I searched for combined
seasons for centers who played between 70 and 170 games scoring at a pace
between 0.3 and 0.7 points per game from ages 20-23 during the new millennium,
narrowed down to the regular season only. From there I’ve decided to highlight
only players who have played 3 or more seasons under those terms, in order to
get the best possible comparison for projecting what Rakell’s next deal might
look like. You can find the chart below.

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The closest comparison for Rakell on this list is Kyle
Turris, the center for the Ottawa Senators, who put up a points-per-game ratio
of 0.49 in 168 games, compared to Rakell’s 0.48 ratio in 161 games. Coming off
a two-year bridge deal Turris signed a 5-year contract that kicked in during
the 2013-14 season worth an average annual value of $3.5 million. For the
2013-14 season the salary cap was $64.3 million, making Turris contract at the
time worth 5.44% of his team’s total salary cap allowance. Along those lines,
if Rakell were to sign a new contract today for comparable length and cap hit
percentage, it would mean 5 years at $4 million per year.

For fun though I figured I’d come up with a stylized model
to find out how just how much of a raise, as a percentage of the salary cap,
Rickard Rakell might be looking at. To start, I found the average cap
percentage of players on that chart, with the exceptions of Loktionov, Higgins,
Weiss, Cammalleri, Wellwood, Kraft, Hudler, Brodziak, Chimera, Kolanos, and
Moller, because generalfanager.com didn’t have complete data on those players
or they put up numbers comparable to Rakell pre-salary cap. From there I
decided to find the average cap percentage of the players’ next contract, and
then take the difference. Of the players on the list, most of their subsequent
contracts were bridge deals, so I’ve decided to leave those out given that Rakell
is likely to get a long-term deal. What I wound up with was an average second
contract percentage of 5.386 and an average starting contract percentage of
1.79, meaning Rakell is likely due to make 3.596% more of the cap than he
already does. This would mean, since his current contract was 1.39% of the cap
that his next contract ought to take up 4.986% of the cap, or $3.63 million in
2016-17 cap world.

 Now let’s move onto Lindholm, arguably the more interesting
of the group. A stud defenseman at the ripe young age of 22 years old, among
d-men who played more than 500 minutes Lindholm finished last season with a CF%
of 57.25% (good for 4th in the league behind Drew Doughty, Brayden
McNabb, and Jake Muzzin in that order) and a relCF% of 7.38, behind only
Brendan Smith, who played around 400 fewer minutes than Lindholm. Suffice to
say that Anaheim is going to want to keep Lindholm around for quite some time,
with a sizeable raise to boot.

Finding comparables players for Hampus Lindholm won’t be
quite as easy as it was for finding similar players to Rakell, because for
defensemen points-per-game simply doesn’t tell the whole story. Instead, I
opted to use a slightly less sophisticated methodology, which is simply looking
at players who put up similar relCF%s and seeing what their average cap hit
percentage is. To that end, I took the cap percentages of the top 10 players in
relCF% that played more than 1000 minutes last season (excluding Lindholm) and averaged
them.  In calculating this number, I left
out Victor Hedman, whose recent extension for $7.875 AAV starts in the 2017-18
season, and Josh Manson, who is on a low-salary bridge deal. What I wound up
with was an average cap percentage of 8.71%, which would mean a contract worth
around $6.35 million for Lidnholm. Given his performance so far and his
potential, it’s not unlikely that the Ducks give him more, but that’s probably
the lowest that Lindholm might make on his next deal.

So there you have it, the official NHLNumbers projections for
Rickard Rakell and Hampus Lindholm’s next contract. While it’s entirely likely
that Rakell makes more than $3.5-4 million for 5 years or more, and Lindholm
might very well break the $7 million mark, these guesstimates are just that:
educated guesses based on other players’ contracts and histories.  It’s beyond doubt that these players are
worth significant term and money, the question for now is how much exactly will
they end up getting, and how exactly will the Ducks manage to retain both
Rakell and Lindholm given their current salary cap snafu.