The Philadelphia Flyers announced that defenseman Nicklas Grossmann signed a four-year contract extension today worth $14 million, with a cap hit of $3.5 million.
Since being acquired from the Dallas Stars at the trade deadline, Grossmann has floated up and down - and out - of the Flyers lineup, eventually settling in next to Braydon Coburn and against the opposition's top lines before being knocked out by the Penguins' Joe Vitale on Sunday.
Now, he joins Coburn as the latest defenseman to get a new contract with the club.
Grossmann - now with 100 percent more 'n' - is the type of defender Flyers fans love; big, physical, and imposing. He hits people, blocks shots and kills penalties. He doesn't have much offense - three career goals, with a career-high 12 points three seasons ago - but he makes up for it with defense.
Sometimes, though, that defense can be difficult to quantify. For the past two seasons, Grossman (then with 50 percent as much 'n') was half of Dallas' top pairing, pairing with Stephane Robidas to consistently take on the opposition's best. In both years, Grossman led the Stars in percentage of shifts starting the in defensive zone.
Simply put, Grossmann was put in the toughest of situations the past two years in Dallas. This year, however, things changed. Dallas replaced Grossmann on the top pairing with Sheldon Souray, opting to give Grossmann easier assignments.
It did not go as planned.
This year, Grossmann is facing significantly weaker opposition with more offensive zone starts - though still not many - and he is losing the possession battle rather handily. In fact, Grossmann's relative Corsi - the number of shots his team attempted while he was on the ice compared to while he was on the bench - is the fourth worst among all NHL defensemen with 50 games played this year.
In other words, the Stars couldn't get out of their own end with Grossmann on the ice.
Last year, however, Grossmann faced the fifth strongest opponents - judged by their relative Corsi - of any defenseman in the NHL and had slightly below average possession metrics. Considering his usage last year, Grossmann faced some of the most difficult situations in the NHL and came out breaking even.
That is highly impressive and a fantastic asset to have.
For some reason, however, the Stars decided to use Grossmann differently this year. The three players closest in usage - looking at relative Corsi of opponents and defensive zone starts - to Grossmann this year are Colorado's Jan Hejda and Ryan O`Byrne and Anaheim's Toni Lydman. Last year, those most similar were Robidas and Florida's Mike Weaver and Jason Garrison.
That's a pretty long list of relatively unknown defenders. Mostly all, however, have cap hits within range of Grossmann's new contract: Hejda ($3.25 million), Lydman ($3 million) and Robidas ($3.3 million). Garrison is a UFA this summer who thinks he can get $4 million.
With all of that, I must admit this is weird for me. I am generally averse to deadline acquisitions, yet I did not object to acquiring Grossmann. I greatly enjoy players who can face the toughest situations and fight to a draw, but I object to using hits and blocked shots to judge a player's defensive abilities. (To find out why, read this excellent piece by Cam Charron.)
In comparison to his closest comparables, Grossmann is overpaid by about $200,000. Normally, something like that would bother me, despite being such a piddly amount. This time though, I don't care.
I don't put much faith into plus/minus or even goals scored in such a small sample, but yet still feel the need to point out that no Flyers defenseman has been on the ice for more even-strength goals against than Grossmann has been since he was brought over.
The whole thing is a big conflict. I like Grossmann, but not for the reason most do. I think this is a fair contract based on his comparables, but the number just looks too big. He's young, but he already has to wear a knee brace on the ice, and that was before taking a knee-on-knee hit to the other knee.
None of that disputes the fact that it is a good signing. The Flyers got a good player who does one thing - defend - very well for a fair price.
Which is probably why I feel weird.