Trevor Moore‘s salary for the next two years will come in at just a smidge above league minimum.
Hard to argue against that kind of value, right? Heck, even Martin Marincin stands to pull in a bigger paycheck for this coming season than what Moore will ultimately make, and I don’t think it’s much of a question as to which player is more likely to spend it in the AHL.
Full disclosure here: I’m a tad biased when it comes to Trevor Moore-related talking points, given how my affinity for the little guy dates back to the 2017 Rookie Tournament. That being said, I can still strap on my “objective goggles” and confidently declare that having a versatile winger who is capable of playing up and down the lineup, logging heavy minutes on the PK, and even chipping in offensively here and there under team control until the end of the 2021-22 season seems pretty darn good to me, regardless of what name is on the back of their jersey.
Actually, it might even be swell.
Locking Moore into the two-year, $1.555 million extension the Maple Leafs signed him to this past January means something. For teams that find themselves in a similar position to the one the Maple Leafs sit in right now, Moore-like extensions are precisely the avenue down which smart GMs travel in an effort to shore up the periphery of their rosters and, ultimately, extend their team’s contention window.
Kyle Dubas happens to be one of those smart GMs. Jim Benning, well, is not.
Don’t get me wrong, Benning is actually a terrific evaluator of talent when it comes to prospects. His draft haul in recent years features the likes of Quinn Hughes, Thatcher Demko, Elias Pettersson, Brock Boeser, and Jett Woo – most of whom project to experience a good-to-great NHL future at worst and a franchise-changing one at best.
And that’s great for Jim. Everyone needs to be good at something, and drafting seems to be it for him.
The moment free agency kicks off, though, is when Benning utterly loses his mind, with the most recent example cropping up literal minutes ago when the Canucks announced the signing of Micheal Ferland to a four-year, $14 million contract.
Ferland agreed to 4 yr contract with the Vancouver Canucks. $3.5 million aav.
— Darren Dreger (@DarrenDreger) July 10, 2019
You know what they say: There’s nothing quite like watching someone overpay for Micheal Ferland roughly a year in advance of an expectedly debilitating cap crunch to make you appreciate the Trevor Moores of the world.
Entering the 2019-20 season, the Canucks will pay a combined $13,875,000 in salary to Ferland, Jay Beagle, Antoine Roussel, and Brandon Sutter – all of whom serve as middle-to-bottom-six contributors on the very best of days. Vancouver doesn’t own a first-round pick in this coming draft either, having recently handed theirs over to Tampa Bay via trade a few weeks ago for what appeared to be the privilege of alleviating the Lightning’s cap troubles?
I dunno, man. It makes no sense.
According to our trusty pals over at PuckPedia, Ferland’s $3.5 million price tag leaves Vancouver with exactly $5,058,462 in available wiggle room at the moment. Needless to say, that’s not a whole lot of space, folks. In fact, it’s roughly $1.5 million above what the Leafs have to work with right now, and I’ve been told by some very reliable sources that these Maple Leafs are supposed to be trapped in the seventh level of cap hell.
Not to mention, this is a Canucks team many believe to be in the middling stages of a rebuild – their focus centred primarily on meticulously building a young core for future contention while, in the present day, benefitting from the Cap Era’s greatest available asset: Elias Pettersson on year two of his ELC.
And yet here the Benning Canucks are, inching closer and closer to the $81.5 million ceiling by the day with a roster that screams, at best, “first-round exit”.
Oh, and Brock Boeser still doesn’t have a contract. Neither does Nikolay Goldobin.
The hilarity of today’s news aside, there is, in fact, a reason for why I targeted Trevor Moore right off the hop. While first and foremost being just a darn good player in his own right, Moore more or less (pun emphatically intended) symbolizes one of the fundamental differences in how teams like the Maple Leafs and the Canucks conduct business.
He’s a comforting reminder, really; ASMR for the anxiety-ridden Leafs fan.
Moore was plucked off of the undrafted collegiate scrap heap by Toronto back in 2016 at a time when Googling his name elicited the top search result of one of the main guys from “The Whitest Kids You Know”. The Maple Leafs then moulded Moore into a terrific depth player over three calendar years worth of intense work with their developmental staff, allowing him to refine his game across multiple lengthy postseason runs at the AHL level while filling a plethora of varying roles, and then proceeded to lock him swiftly into an absurdly team-friendly deal just before Moore could conceivably conjure up an NHL sample size worthy of inflating his price.
The result? A “set it and forget it” depth contributor who makes the NHL equivalent of minimum wage for a team that aches for one.
The Canucks, on the other hand, have sought to deploy a slightly different strategy when shoring up their bottom-six. Benning’s blueprint hinges on the cutting-edge method of spreading nearly $14 million in cap space across a group of late-20’s-to-early-30’s veterans who each carry limited offensive upside and find themselves on the downward precipice of their respective primes.
Which one seems like the better bet? It’s honestly too close to call!
Of course, strictly comparing Moore to Ferland is an entirely unfair practice, especially when accounting for the latter’s surplus of NHL experience and inherent playing style which features oodles of “grit”, “jam” and any other single-syllable descriptor for physicality that is simple enough to say without developing a migraine.
Moore obviously wouldn’t be able to command $3.5 million on the open market. But then again, that’s kind of the point.
You can’t ignore the fact that the Canucks just handed $14 million in sweet, sweet cash over to a 27-year-old winger (one of the NHL’s most plentiful assets, by the way) coming off a season during which he failed to hit the 20-goal mark despite playing extended stretches alongside a franchise centre.
Ferland’s most common linemates during the 2018-19 campaign were Teuvo Teravainen and Sebastian Aho. Moore’s were Frederik Gauthier and Tyler Ennis. If you look closely enough, you’ll be able to faintly make out the quality difference between the two supporting casts.
Moreover, both Teravainen and Aho put forth higher possession numbers in time spent away from Ferland than Ferland did when separated from either of them, per NaturalStatTrick. In Teravainen’s case, his CF/60 at sans-Ferland 5v5 measured out to a 55.7% compared to the 53.76% Ferland mustered in sans-Teravainen ice time of his own, while the splits between Ferland and Aho proved a little more dramatic at 55.72% and 50.46%, respectively.
How did Moore and his most common linemate fare in this metric when separated from each other? I’m glad you asked. It’s not too eye-opening really, just a 46.27% for Gauthier and 62.24% for Moore.
Again, only a mere smidgen of difference.
The point here is that while the Canucks happily commit 4.29% of their ever-tightening cap to Ferland who: a) occupies the most saturated position group in the NHL; b) got outscored by Zach Hyman last year despite playing alongside his own 21-year-old number one centre; and c) doesn’t positively impact those who play with him, the Leafs quietly (by their own standards) continue dolling out term-appropriate deals to versatile depth options at below-market cost.
Anything different, and “We Can and We Will” fades from the reality it is soon to be.
Moore is only the beginning. Heading into the 2019-20 season, the Maple Leafs will likely form the majority of their bottom-six using Moore, Jason Spezza, Nic Petan, Kenny Agostino, and Nick Shore, in any particular order. Combined, those five players will account for exactly $3.7 million against the cap – otherwise representing just $200,000 more than the $3.5 million Vancouver owes Ferland, with all but one contract, Moore’s, carrying a multi-year term.
There is no risk involved. No headaches. And no contracts that will one day require a sweetener to exorcise.
The core of what both Dubas and Benning have demonstrated here with their respective team-building methods can be boiled down to a difference in self-constructed ceilings.
Dubas can sit back and count those any of those deals as a win by simply squeezing out the odd 30-point season from one of the five. If Ferland manages to hit the UFA market on July 1st, 2023 by way of anything other than a buyout, Benning will be popping champagne.
And then there’s Tyler Myers…