Paul Kariya, The Worst Forward Contract In The League?

Paul Kariya has been an all-star since his second season in the league, breaking in with a bang - scoring 246 points in 198 games in his first three years, an average of 1.24 points per game.  Kariya was a dynamic scorer and setup man in the toughest of environments, Gary Bettman's NHL, and was on his way to becoming one of the best offensive players of the past few decades before getting hit with a terribly dirty crosscheck from one of the dirtiest and cheapest players of all time - Gary Suter.  Kariya continued to produce on the scoresheet, but almost all scouting reports and "men in the know" claimed that he was a changed player -- he just wasn't ever the same after the hit.

Even with the supposed after-effects of the Suter hit, Kariya has gone on to score 740 points in his last 784 games, .943 points per game with the Ducks, Avalanche, Predators and Blues. 

Three years ago the St. Louis Blues opened the checkbook to sign Kariya away from the Nashville Predators.  Kariya was coming off of back-to-back seasons in which he posted a total of 161 regular season points and 9 points in 10 playoff games and looked like the Kariya of old.  The Blues hadn't yet started their rebuild and it was thought that Kariya might be the piece that would buy them a couple of playoff rounds.

Things, however, haven't turned out as well as the Blues hoped that they would.  Kariya has put up 120 points in 161 games over three seasons, .745 points per game, well below his career average and well below his average with Nashville.  Still, .745 points per game is 61 points over an 82 game season and nothing to sneeze at.  But it's in the underlying statistics that we can see how overpaid Paul Kariya has been.

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Paul Kariya

#9 / Left Wing / St. Louis Blues

5-10

180

Oct 16, 1974

Contract Term: 2007-2008 through 2009-2010

Cap Hit:  $6,000,000



GP G A P ES +/- 60
QC Rk QT Rk
Corsi Rk
ZS Rk
PP GF/60
2007 - Paul Kariya 82 16 49 65 0.0 10/13 2/13 1/13 3/13 6/8
2008 - Paul Kariya 11 2 13 15 N/M N/M N/M N/M N/M N/M
2009 - Paul Kariya 68 18 22 40 -0.07 6/13 3/13 4/13 8/13 7/9


He's played extremely sheltered even strength minutes during his time in St. Louis and hasn't bested his opponents.  He's played inferior opponents with superior linemates and has been outscored at even strength.  In 2007, he even started in the offensive zone more often than all but two of his teammates.  During his In 2009, his zonestart slips to ninth, but he's still taking 50% of his faceoffs in the offensive zone.  His Corsi has been number one and number four on the Blues, but given his sheltered minutes, zonestart and linemates, that should be a no-brainer.

What about the power play?  Kariya was always a lethal power play threat and in two years in Nashville, Kariya scored 71 points on the power play.  Including his pace in 2009-2010, Kariya will score less than 40 during his two healthy years in St. Louis.  His PP GF/60 rating at the bottom of the team for players with more than two minutes of power play time per game, meaning that rather than driving the play and creating goals with a man advantage, most of his teammates are besting him in that situation.

All of these numbers would look pretty good for a 35-year-old forward except for that $6,000,000 salary.  The Blues have paid Kariya $18,000,000 over the last three years and they've not come close to getting their money's worth.  Among forwards over the last three years in that salary range, Kariya ranks at the bottom of the barrel with Daniel Briere.  The names that surround those two - Ovechkin, Crosby, Iginla, Lecavalier, Heatley, Spezza, Kovalchuk, Vanek, Gomez, Thornton...they are all superior players. 

Kariya is an unrestricted free agent at the end of this season and will likely find more than a few general managers willing to overpay for his services.  A 36-year-old forward that can't handle the tough minutes, isn't a dynamic power play force but can still outscore weak minutes is worth something.  Certainly that value isn't $6,000,000 and probably not half of that, but my guess is he gets somewhere around $3,000,000 next season.  My fear is that he'll get that from the Oilers.  On a four-year contract.

 

Underlying stats courtesy the dashing Gabriel Desjardins and his amazing behindthenet.ca site. 

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