RFAs, the sequel: Connor Brown

Apr 8, 2017; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; Toronto Maple Leafs forward Connor Brown (12) celebrates his game winning goal against the Pittsburgh Penguins with Toronto Maple Leafs forward Mitchell Marner (16) and forward Zach Hyman (11) at the Air Canada Centre. Toronto defeated Pittsburgh 5-3. Mandatory Credit: John E. Sokolowski-USA TODAY Sports

So far in this series has kicked off with Nikita Zaitsev, and then covered the two Marlies goaltenders Antoine Bibeau and Garret Sparks. Today it’s time to look at hometown boy Connor Brown.

The Player

This season was Connor Brown’s first real look at an NHL role, and it was abundantly clear that he’s a player who belongs here. Having been a hot prospect in the Leafs organization for a while despite only being a 6th round pick. It was really nice to see him find a role on this team. There was never a question over the season of whether he should come out of the lineup, which is abundantly encouraging.

His season was balanced between Auston Matthews’ line with Zach Hyman, or Nazem Kadri’s line with Leo Komarov. Two very similar lines, with an elite level offensive center and a grinding left winger.

Brown also spent a significant amount of time on the penalty killing unit, typically on the second unit.

The Stats

Brown was able to score 20 goals and 36 points. His scoring was mostly 5 on 5, but he also had 6 points each on the powerplay and shorthanded. I’d be curious if anyone has ever been able to have the same non-zero number of PP points and PK points, let alone as high as 6. Curious indeed.

One important thing to note is that his on-ice shooting is a little high at 10.53. That’s not in the realms of needs-to-come-crashing-down, but it’s an indication of some slight regression downwards in the future.

As for the advanced numbers, here’s how DTMAboutHeart’s Goals Above Replacement model (significantly more powerful than Corsi) looks at him:

TOI TOI_EV TOI_PP EVO EVD PPO DRAW TAKE FAC EV_OV PURE_OV OVERALL
1324 1003 107 1.7 -0.8 0.5 -1.1 2.6 0 0.8 1.3 2.9

For an explanation on these components please read through DTM’s writeup, all of which are here (scroll all the way to the bottom to start at the primer).

We can identify two weaknesses here for Brown, which are Even Strength Defense, and Penalty Drawing. But his overall is 2.9, which is positive but more among the ranks of depth forwards as opposed to elite players. This is pretty logical for Brown.

The Money

The interesting thing with Brown is that the stats identify him as a 3rd or 4th line forward, but he’s almost entirely been playing on the top 2 lines. For line balancing purposes this isn’t the end of the world, but I’m curious if the Leafs would be better off giving that role to others in the system like Brendan Leipsic or Kasperi Kapanen.

There’s no question the Leafs will want to bring Brown back, but at what cost? And for how long? Ideally the plan would be to supplant Brown in the lineup long term, but for now he’s a top 6 forward and I imagine he’ll ask to be paid like one. But on one season to base it on the Leafs shouldn’t have a hard time arguing that lower.

Here’s my attempts at some guesses:

Optimistic: $3M x 2 years

Realistic: $3.5M x 3 years

Pessimistic: $4M x 2 years

This is the first one I’m really not confident on. I have no idea what someone like Connor Brown is worth. I can’t see the Leafs going for a 1 year deal and I also can’t see them diving in and going very long term. As for the dollar amount, is a 20 goal season worth more than $4M? Not really. I think I’m probably in the right range, but maybe I’m way too high. He’s coming off a $686k contract, so no matter what he is getting a significant raise here. Can he be convinced to take as low as $2M? Really, who knows.

Keep your eye out tomorrow for my piece on AHLers Seth Griffith and Sergei Kalinin.

 

 

  • Gary Empey

    Oddly enough Brown scored two more goals (20) than Montreal’s free agent Alexander Radulov (18). Radulov does have more assists. Cam Lewis stated the other day Radulov’s contract for last year was $5.75 million. Ryan here has posed the question “As for the dollar amount, is a 20 goal season worth more than $4M?”

  • Stan Smith

    I was thinking to myself that a Shot% of 10.53 wasn’t that high as to be unsustainable. I checked on hockey reference and they show him at 14% for this season, which is a bit high. That doesn’t say it is not sustainable. Tyler Bozak has a career Shot % of 15.1% over more than 500 games.

    Fact is Brown as exceeded all expectations at every level of hockey he has played, and is a great all around player. If the Leafs could lock him in to $3M for 5 season would be a steal.