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Alec Martinez Extension Might Be a Mistake

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Alec Martinez isn't a top-four defenseman & didn't take a hometown discount. What was Dean Lombardi thinking?

Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

For some Kings fans, hearts were a-jazz hands on Wednesday, as popular defenseman Alec Martinez inked a six-year, $24 million dollar contract extension.

The 27-year-old was seen by some as "the quintessential break-the-bank unrestricted free agent" this summer. So good deal, right? According to our JftC poll, most of you liked it.

I am trying to break your heart.

Martinez Is Not a Top-Four Defenseman...Yet

Adam Proteau called the agreement "the going rate for second-pair defensemen these days," comparing it to Jake Muzzin's recent re-up. Muzzin, of course, was an impending RFA, not UFA.

Jason Lewis wrote that Martinez is "one of your better 4-6 defensemen in the league" in his otherwise solid reaction piece.

In Los Angeles, however, there's a real difference between a #4, second-pairing defender and a #5-6. Let's glance at the team's defensive ATOI since Martinez's rookie season:

2010-11 ATOI 2011-12 ATOI

2012-13  ATOI

2013-14 ATOI
Drew Doughty 25:38 Drew Doughty 24:53 Drew Doughty 26:23 Drew Doughty 25:42
Jack Johnson 23:11 Jack Johnson 22:30 Slava Voynov 22:18 Slava Voynov 22:17
Willie Mitchell 21:48 Willie Mitchell 22:13 Rob Scuderi 21:47 Willie Mitchell 20:19
Rob Scuderi 20:17 Rob Scuderi 20:36 Robyn Regehr 21:16 Jake Muzzin 19:01
Matt Greene 16:58 Slava Voynov 18:32 Jake Muzzin 17:53 Robyn Regehr 18:57
Alec Martinez 15:16 Matt Greene 16:40 Alec Martinez 16:01 Alec Martinez 15:40
Alec Martinez 14:43

And consider how sheltered his minutes were from 2010-14:

2010-11 5v5 DZFO % 2011-12 5v5 DZFO % 2012-13 5v5 DZFO % 2013-14 5v5 DZFO %
WILLIE MITCHELL 34.37 MATT GREENE 33.51 ROB SCUDERI 33.25 ROBYN REGEHR 30.71
JACK JOHNSON 32.61 WILLIE MITCHELL 32.46 ROBYN REGEHR 33.01 WILLIE MITCHELL 30.54
MATT GREENE 31.24 DREW DOUGHTY 30.3 SLAVA VOYNOV 32.17 SLAVA VOYNOV 29.49
ROB SCUDERI 31.18 ROB SCUDERI 30.24 DREW DOUGHTY 28.56 DREW DOUGHTY 29.4
DREW DOUGHTY 30.69 SLAVA VOYNOV 28.94 KEATON ELLERBY 26.58 ALEC MARTINEZ 28.07
DAVIS DREWISKE 30.32 ALEC MARTINEZ 28.23 JAKE MUZZIN 25.77 MATT GREENE 27.54
ALEC MARTINEZ 29.66 ALEC MARTINEZ 22.29 JAKE MUZZIN 27.1

Does this look like a solid #4? Or more like a #5-6?

Sure, past deployment doesn't necessarily indicate one's true value or potentialI don't live in a world where Ellerby or Regehr are superior blueliners to Martinez.

So fast forward to this campaign. It's well documented how Martinez has shouldered more responsibility because of Voynov's suspension:

2014-15 ATOI 2014-15 5v5 DZFO %
Drew Doughty 28:43 Robyn Regehr 38.26
Slava Voynov 23:11 Slava Voynov 37.86
Jake Muzzin 23:08 Alec Martinez 37.76
Alec Martinez 19:45 Matt Greene 31.48
Robyn Regehr 19:21 Drew Doughty 30.93
Matt Greene 16:51 Jake Muzzin 28.13
Brayden McNabb 16:41 Brayden McNabb 28.07
Jamie McBain 11:55 Jamie McBain 25.33

His ATOI has jumped four minutes, while facing the current defensive unit's second-toughest zone starts. And A-Mart, in admittedly very few games, has not reacted well to his higher-leverage duties.

Chart courtesy of @MimicoHero.

Alarmingly, his 5v5 Fenwick Against has blown up like his bank account:

5v5 FF60 5v5 FA60 5v5 FF%
2014-15 46.61 48.92 48.8
2013-14 42.78 33.31 56.2
2012-13 43.9 29.66 59.7
2011-12 47.04 29.43 61.5
2010-11 43.52 34.22 56

As Eric pointed out, it's not just a Regehr thing.

So until proven otherwise, Martinez is a excellent #5-6 defenseman, who was given a long-term, top-four payout.

Martinez Did Not Take a Hometown Discount

Let's begin by putting some of the better defensemen from the 2014 and 2015 UFA classes side by side:

2014 UFA Age 2013-14 ATOI Years Cap Hit 2015 UFA Age 2014-15 ATOI
Matt Niskanen 27 21:17 7 5.75 Francois Beauchemin 35 22:43
Brooks Orpik 33 21:11 5 5.5 Marc Staal 28 22:30
Dan Boyle 37 21:16 2 4.5 Johnny Boychuk 31 22:09
Anton Stralman 27 19:24 5 4.5 Paul Martin 34 22:03
Kyle Quincey 28 20:48 2 4.25 Christian Ehrhoff 32 21:56
Willie Mitchell 37 20:19 2 4.25 Marc Methot 30 21:45 (2013-14)
Andrej Meszaros 28 18:54 1 4.125 Zbynek Michalek 32 21:05
Christian Ehrhoff 31 23:54 1 4 Johnny Oduya 33 20:37
Mark Fayne 27 18:18 4 3.625 Mike Green 29 19:56
Tom Gilbert 31 21:20 2 2.8 Andrej Meszaros 29 19:11

2014's defensive group was better and younger than 2015's. But eyeing some of the going rates from last summer, who is most like Martinez? Among younger players, he's nowhere as established as Niskanen or Stralman.

So that leaves Fayne, a less-used, historically decent play-driver, as an acceptable comp for Martinez, even though the defensemen own differing skillsets. Yet, the Edmonton deal, which was already considered by some to be an overpayment, was two years shorter than LA's.

So while it's possible that Martinez would've received a significantly richer offersheet this summer, I doubt it, especially with the uncertainty surrounding next year's salary cap. Dean Lombardi paid about market value on both cap hit and term.

I repeat, he showered a good #5-6 guy with top-four dollars, which is a very UFA thing to do.

Looking Forward

So what was Lombardi thinking?

Again, this summer's UFA blueline crop is no peach. Yes, A-Mart seems to be a great fit in a tight locker room.

I think this was a "hope contract." On one hand, Martinez is 27 years old, so maybe we've already seen most of his upside. On the other hand, as my cohorts have argued in the past, maybe someone so "ridiculously good" in sheltered minutes just needs more time and trust to show his stuff. Obviously, I'm dubious.

And while early returns from Martinez this year seem to support my case, it's hard to argue with Lombardi's judgment...of talent, that is.

Addendum: And since you've made a substantial investment in Martinez, why not utilize said investment properly? Check the productivity of LA's most-used 5v4 defensemen since 2010 (Johnson's totals include his time in Columbus in 2011-12):

2010-15 5v4 5v4 TOI 5v4 G/60 5v4 A/60 5v4 P/60
Alec Martinez 384:41 1.40 2.34 3.74
Slava Voynov 476:10 0.63 2.90 3.53
Jack Johnson 604:37 0.30 2.68 2.98
Drew Doughty 1065:16 0.84 1.69 2.53
Jake Muzzin 354:42 0.68 1.69 2.37
2014-15 PP ATOI
Drew Doughty 3:44
Jake Muzzin 2:57
Slava Voynov 2:43
Alec Martinez 1:55
Jamie McBain 1:52

All 2014-15 stats as of 12/4/14. Stats courtesy of Hockey AnalysisHockey ReferenceNHL.comPuckalytics, Sporting Charts, and War on Ice.