The value of players on a two-way contract

Updated: March 9, 2018 at 5:33 pm by Cpt. Stupendous

Pat Cannone is more valuable than Connor McDavid. Pat Cannone is also more valuable than Johnny Gaudreau. Now that two Canadian markets are riled up, hear this out…

You’re probably thinking – with a little muttering but more indignation – how in the…can anyone seriously make this claim? Mainly cause it’s true to varying degrees. If we’re talking points per game, you’ve got me dead in the water; the debate is over. Cannone can’t hold a light to the point totals of McDavid or Gaudreau. Thing is, there is more to value than points. If you want to debate that, we can but you’ve got a tough up-hill battle ahead.

You’re also probably thinking – more muttering, less indignation – who in the… is Pat Cannone? Honestly, if you knew who he was you must be 1) a huge AHL fan, 2) an Iowan farmer (how’s that for a blanket generalization), or 3) some obscure member of the Cannone family. If you don’t than you’re just like the rest of us. Put it this way: Pat Cannone is a 31-year old AHL’er with limited NHL experience and that is what makes him so valuable. He’s also a member of the Minnesota organization, playing for the Iowa Wild.

Together, we’re going to get into the nuts and bolts of the CBA. This is not going to happen all in one shot, but by peeling back various aspects we can begin to make sense of the dense document. The intention is to consider the various aspects from a different angle.

Case and point: if we’re building a team from scratch, obviously we’re taking McDavid and Gaudreau well before Cannone is even considered. Eventually though we’re going to need to fill out the roster and this is where Cannone’s value can be found. It’s in the details; it’s in the CBA.

A player over the age of 30, with limited NHL experience, is not the type of signing that will headline the nightly news; for you millennials, news notices are not being sent to your phone. These are the types of signings that fans should get excited about because of the flexibility it offers the team, both at the NHL and AHL level. 

Too often do we think of our favourite franchise in terms of only the NHL roster. This is all well-and-good, but there is more to a team than the 23-player active roster (18 skaters, 2 goalies, 3 scratches). There is a reason teams are allowed up to 50 professional contracts with an additional 40 on the reserve list. NHL players get injured and the AHL club is the easiest way to fill voids made by any injury. Efficiently utilizing these 50 professional contracts can save a team from having to use resources to acquire players mid-season. Quiet often it can be difficult to justify the costs of mid-season acquisitions – not every team can be like Vegas and have a toy-chest full of draft picks at their disposal.

What are teams to do if their resources are sapped (Calgary’s lack of draft picks) or they are on a shoe-string budget (hello…Arizona…anyone home…your lights must be off to save money)? Teams like Minnesota, who have resources and budget, but are up against the salary cap thanks to long-term contracts, need to be inventive in filling out their rosters – the 50, not 23-player roster.

So what makes Cannone special? Honestly, a lot but there are other players out there that, to a degree, are like him. Heck, if I walked past Pat Cannone at the mall I probably wouldn’t notice him, just like every other person at the same mall. That’s part of the beauty of Pat Cannone, he carries himself like the consummate professional; he does his job, he knows his role and he does it well. Part of that is maturity – he is 31 – another part is his makeup.

Teams should be lining up to sign him, but they are not and this dates back to his junior years. Maybe this is a result of his build. He’s not even league average in height (5’10”) and weight (190 lbs) (NHL avg: 6’1”& 202 lbs); he’s not a point-per-game player; he’s not a high penalty minute type; he’s not…we can go on about what he is not.

But, what is Pat Cannone? I’m not saying he’s the only one, there are others, but he’s the easiest representation of this type of player. He is a leader, a mentor and he can adapt. Ottawa saw this when they assigned him to the AHL squad after he finished four years at Miami University (Ohio). St. Louis saw this when they traded future considerations for him. Minnesota saw this when they signed him as a UFA. The US National Inline Hockey Team saw this when they brought him on in 2013 – this during his third professional season and for an inline team that had medaled in 12 of the previous 16 years in existence, not one with Cannone on the roster.

Cannone is a responsible hockey player. He’s never been the best on any team – take a look at the various rosters and you’ll see they are chock full of ‘better’ players. He brings that ‘it’ factor – he’s a leader, a mentor and he can adapt. For teams developing through youth Cannone is exactly what you’re looking for on a two-way contract. He will lead the AHL squad but can fill in bottom-six minutes for the NHL team, if necessary. He won’t win you the game, but he won’t lose the game either as he’s not flashy – these types of players all too often go unheralded.

If you’re not an intangibles guy let’s talk dollars and cents. He’s got a hefty AHL contract value with a league minimum NHL contract and he’s waiver exempt. In case you missed that, he’s waiver exempt meaning Minnesota can bring him up and down without a worry of exposing him to other teams. The fact that he’s making good coin in the AHL suggests other teams now want him and Minnesota just ponied up the dough. Cannone knows he isn’t a long-term NHL player, that’s why he would accept league minimum as his AHL pay-rate more than makes up for it. This is just one benefit to the player of getting onto a Standard Player Contract (SPC) and off an Entry Level Contract (ELC) as ELC’s have a cap limit of $70,000 for AHL contract – Cannone makes far more. The CBA is a funny thing if you know how to read it.

Consider this in terms of the salary cap. We’ve got a replacement level player with strong leadership and mentorship abilities who also happens to be waiver exempt and is a solid, smart hockey player. He’s a consummate professional who understands his role and is willing to play for an AHL team chock full of developing players. All a franchise needs to do is pay him a higher rate at the AHL level, this does not affect the NHL team’s salary cap; his NHL salary (league min) affects the NHL team’s salary cap. He can play bottom six minutes, fits into the NHL team’s culture, and he can protect NHL teams from exposing their youth to the NHL level because he can fill any role necessary – remember, Pat Cannone can adapt.

If none of this has sold you on Pat Cannone, I’ve got one more card to play. His NHL sweater is 42, Jackie Robinson’s number…