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The Jonathan Quick contract, six years later

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Long panned as one of the worst contracts in the sport, does that still hold true?

Montreal Canadiens v Los Angeles Kings Photo by Harry How/Getty Images

Basking in the afterglow of the first Stanley Cup title in team history, Dean Lombardi wasted no time in rewarding his Conn Smythe-winning goalie with a monster 10-year, $58 million contract. One year shy of free agency, Jonathan Quick’s Cup-winning performance capped a breakout year, which saw him lead the league in shutouts while finishing second in voting for the Vezina and fifth for the Hart. It was a perfect storm for the then-26 year-old to cash in on a life-changing contract.

As the story goes, Quick never did replicate that career year and in the years that followed, Lombardi was widely criticized for handing such a lavish deal to what looked like an average net-minder. A second Stanley Cup victory kept the heart-and-grit crowd on Quick’s side, while the numbers-crunchers were all-too-happy to point out what a poor return on their investment the Kings were receiving.

As we reach the halfway point of that contract, several other goaltenders have secured their own high-dollar deals. With Quick having a bit of a renaissance season and Carey Price making his record-setting contract look more regrettable by the day, I thought it would be interesting to compare Quick’s deal to similar goalie contracts around the league and see if it is still as bad as everyone seems to think.

Currently, ten goalies have a higher cap hit than Quick, though all but one (Price) have less term. For the purposes of this exercise, I narrowed the list to goalies with a cap hit of $4 million or greater, with at least three years left on their contract after this season. All save percentage numbers are a culmination of the last three years, plus the current season:

Goalie Contracts

Goalie Age Cap hit Years Left 5v5 sv%* High-danger sv%* Overall sv%*
Goalie Age Cap hit Years Left 5v5 sv%* High-danger sv%* Overall sv%*
Carey Price 30 10.5 8 93.55 85.03 92.52
Henrik Lundqvist 35 8.5 3 92.75 80.28 91.65
Tuukka Rask 30 7 3 92.54 75.77 91.74
Cory Schneider 31 6 4 92.91 82.14 91.9
Jonathan Quick 31 5.8 5 92.89 82.43 91.97
Roberto Luongo 38 5.33 4 92.8 78.04 91.91
Frederik Andersen 28 5 3 92.28 81 91.56
Ben Bishop 30 4.92 5 92.42 77.83 91.83
Jake Allen 27 4.35 3 92.67 81.88 91.67
Devan Dubnyk 31 4.33 3 93.28 80.96 92.23
Scott Darling 28 4.15 3 92.9 82.16 92.01

*2014-18 seasons. All numbers as of 11/3/17, courtesy of Corsica.hockey

Price and Lundqvist are considered the elite goaltenders of their era and are paid as such, both locked up until age-38. Luongo likely has the only contract more universally panned than Quick’s, as he is signed with a similar cap hit until seemingly forever.

I still owe JZarris a round of beers, since Ben Bishop signed a deal that was more team-friendly than Quick’s. I still intend to pay that debt (where are ya, J??), though I would imagine most here would agree the difference is negligible, considering the similarities in age and numbers. Much like the speculation that Quick’s reliance on athleticism will cause him to break down sooner than later, it is fair to ask the same about whether a goaltender as big as Bishop can hold up into his 30’s, particularly considering his recent injury history.

Absent context, the best comp on this list looks to be Cory Schneider. Only three months younger than Quick, Schneider declined last season to a .908 sv%, after a run of excellent seasons with the Devils. Quick, of course, appeared in only 17 games last season after a very stable three-year run of his own, though it fell shy of Schneider’s peak performance. With one less year of commitment to go along with a stronger body of work, it is not a reach to say Schneider’s deal is the better one.

Of course, the issue with Quick’s deal has always been more about the term than the cap hit. Since 2013-14, when his current deal kicked in, Quick has been among the ten best goaltenders in the league:

(minimum 3700 total TOI)

Player TOI 5v5 sv% Cap Hit
Player TOI 5v5 sv% Cap Hit
Carey Price 9851 93.52 10.5
Braden Holtby 11,831 93.24 6.1
Corey Crawford 11,264 93.15 6
Sergei Bobrovsky 10,112 92.99 7.425
Steve Mason 10,081 92.94 4.1
Craig Anderson 9120 92.93 4.2
Tuukka Rask 12,194 92.9 7
Devan Dubnyk 10,646 92.88 4.33
Jonathan Quick 9992 92.85 5.8
Cory Schnider 11,116 92.81 6

Courtesy of Corsica.hockey

Quick has earned his money to date, but the contract becomes more concerning as he enters his mid-30’s. The next player on this list would have been Roberto Luongo, with a 92.76 5v5 sv%. Now 38 years-old, Luongo conveniently has already played out the Quick contract, which will expire when he is 37. How did Roberto perform from 32-37?

Roberto Luongo, last five seasons

Season Age GP 5v5 sv%
Season Age GP 5v5 sv%
2011-12 32 55 93
2012-13 33 20 92.1
2013-14 34 56 92.6
2014-15 35 61 93.1
2015-16 36 62 93.5
2016-17 37 40 91.5

Courtesy of HockeyReference.com

Before falling off last season, Luongo maintained his value through the first part of his 30’s. Should Quick’s next five years look similar, I think we would all take that. Pekka Rinne is a more cautionary tale, as he has traded off solid and poor seasons:

Pekka Rinne, last five seasons

Season Age GP 5v5 sv%
Season Age GP 5v5 sv%
2012-13 30 43 92.8
2013-14 31 24 89.9
2014-15 32 64 93.6
2015-16 33 66 92
2016-17 34 61 92.9

Courtesy of HockeyReference.com

Still, not terrible, especially if you throw out the small sample in 2012-13. Rinne also earns a full million more than Quick and has historically performed far worse when using the high-danger save percentage metric: 70.92% from ages 29-31, compared to Quick’s 82.38% through the same ages.

Thanks to a middling raw save percentage and a ten-year deal, Quick has been unfairly scrutinized the last few years. I won’t pretend these methods are a perfect way of determining his future value, but a goalie with the league’s ninth-best even-strength save percentage the last three years - at the 11th-highest cap hit - seems like fair value to me. Factor in his sixth-best high-danger save percentage over that time and I feel comfortable calling him a top-10 goalie, even as he approaches age-32.

His contract is not great, but calling it bad at this juncture is overblown. The Rangers have $8.5 million of their cap tied to Lundqvist for three more years, while the 35 year-old is working on his second straight underwhelming season. Carey Price is as good a lock as anyone for a bounce-back after his poor start to the year. But even at top form, his $10.5 million cap hit is a ridiculous waste of resources. Rinne’s deal will expire after his age-36 season, like Quick’s. For $7 million a year and a worse save percentage, there is no question which contract is worse. And just in case you forgot, Luongo’s deal is still going, running until age-42!

The deal is probably two years longer than what is ideal, but history has shown that a guy with a track record as good as Quick’s is hardly guaranteed to fall off a cliff at age 35. An average goalie in today’s NHL is going to cost you $5 million a year and Quick is a good bet to provide that kind of stability the next few seasons. That time frame works for the Kings, coinciding with the closing of their Cup window.

And who among us does not want to see how irritated the rest of the hockey world would be to see Quick raise the Cup for a third time? That alone would make the contract worth it. And if Cal Petersen or Matt Villalta force the issue in a few years, there are no clauses that would stop the Kings from moving Quick’s contract to a desperate team. The Kings have plenty of troublesome contracts that will hinder them in the years to come. I really hardly see Quick’s being one of them.