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||
|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|
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 potential—I 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.
Alarmingly, his 5v5 Fenwick Against has blown up like his bank account:
|5v5 FF60||5v5 FA60||5v5 FF%|
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.
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.
Just got on the ice early - DL thought it would be good for Voynov to be around teammates for the day— lisa dillman (@reallisa) December 2, 2014
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|
|2014-15 PP ATOI|
All 2014-15 stats as of 12/4/14. Stats courtesy of Hockey Analysis, Hockey Reference, NHL.com, Puckalytics, Sporting Charts, and War on Ice.