The Leafs announced today that they have re-signed Joffrey Lupul to a 5 year contract extension at an average salary and cap hit of $5.25M/yr. Some Leaf fans are a little dismayed at both the value and the term of the deal as many people seem to view Lupul as a second line winger with a defensive liability that should have been traded, not re-signed. I won’t deny that Lupul is a defensive liability (though wingers generally have less impact on defense than centers or defensemen), but I will dispute the claim that he is a second line winger.
Last season I wrote an article pointing out that Lupul’s production was not an anomaly and that he has always been that good of a player. In it I showed that he made almost all of his line mates more productive offensively when they were skating with him than when they were not. I also showed that Lupul’s even strength goal production had not increased dramatically last year. I won’t reiterate that here as you can go read it if you want, but I just wanted to post one more chart. This chart shows the top 20 players in terms of goal scoring rates (individual goals per 20 minutes of ice time) during 5v5 zone start adjusted play over the last 5 years (minimum 3000 minutes of ice time).
Lupul sits right there in 13th spot right behind Kessel and just ahead of guys like Toews, D. Sedin, Neal, Hossa and Malkin. That’s not too shabby if you ask me and certainly worthy of a $5.25M/yr deal if you ask me. The reason for Lupul’s perceived performance increase last year is largely due to more ice time, and more PP ice time in particular, and not because of luck or a one year wonder type thing.
Update: Edited to indicate the chart uses 5 years of data, not just last season.