Alex Chiasson has his arbitration hearing on July 23. Yesterday both parties (the player and the team) filed their desired salaries. Chiasson filed for $2.475-million, while the team offered $1-million. This appears to be an enormous gap. Many balked at Chiasson's asking price, and a few were surprised the Senators started so low. Of course, both bids are negotiation tactics, not a realistic assessment of where each party would like to end up.
Now I believe there has to be some precedent for what Chiasson is worth. He's 24 (and will be 25 before the season starts) so he's not exactly young, but could still develop somewhat. He's a former second-round pick, which is decent draft pedigree. He roared onto the scene with seven points, including six goals, in his first seven NHL games. In his first full season with the Stars, he put up a middling 35 points in 79 games, but this included a spell in which he lost a lot of weight to sickness. Last year was his worst campaign yet, putting up only 26 points in 76 games. Still, 6'4", 205 lbs forwards don't come along often, and with only two full NHL seasons under his belt, Toaster definitely could be a good player for the team.
Chiasson's 26 points last year had him tied for 279th in the league, along with forwards such as Andrew Shaw, Dwight King, John Mitchell, and Colton Sceviour. 11 goals was good enough for 224th in the league, along with players like Charlie Coyle, Victor Rask, Travis Zajac, Peter Holland, and John Mitchell (again). Some point out Chiasson's prowess on the powerplay as a net-front presence. His six powerplay points put him tied for 236th in the league, along with notables such as Mats Zuccarello, Anders Lee, Martin Erat, Dustin Brown, Linden Vey, and Andrew Shaw (again). Point-wise, that gives us a good sense of where Chiasson falls.
Personally, I think the Andrew Shaw comparison is noteworthy. Shaw is essentially a fourth-line player for the Blackhawks who gets time with the top powerplay unit. Shaw is a year younger than Chiasson, but with 82 more games of NHL regular season experience. Shaw is currently in the second year of a two-year contract that paid him $1.5-million in the first year and pays him $2.5-million this year. This contract was signed after two half-seasons and one full season with the big club. Chiasson is essentially where Shaw was in terms of games played when Shaw signed his extension.
Charlie Coyle is another interesting comparable. He has about the same NHL career point-per-game pace as Chiasson. Coyle is a couple years younger and was a late first-round pick rather than a mid-second-round pick. However, Coyle is starting a five-year contract with a cap hit of $3.2-million based on his potential. This is likely higher than most Sens fans would like to see for Chiasson.
Nick Spaling is a third suitable comparable for Chiasson. Spaling actually had quite a bit of NHL experience before signing his current two-year, $2.2-million cap hit contract. However, his previous deal was a one-year, $1.5-million contract. At that point, he was about Chiasson's current age, and had a bit more NHL experience but had put up similar points.
I'll also look at John Mitchell since he matched Chiasson in goals and assists. Mitchell is 30, so his salary is for a UFA player. Still, he's in the middle of a three-year, $1.8-million cap hit contract. This would fall well within the range set up by Chiasson's agent and the Sens. However, Mitchell sees close to 20 minutes per night, a lot more than Chiasson, showing that Mitchell's role is much bigger than Chiasson's is expected to be. I think this shows that $1.8-million for a one-year contract is too high.
It is possible to look at far more in-depth stats. Ary had a fantastic piece on Chiasson a couple weeks ago that established him as not a top-six player, but decidedly an NHL player. For an in-depth look at alternative stats for Chiasson, check that out. I'll only use one tool here. WAR-On-Ice has been working on a Wins Above Replacement score, similar to the one used in baseball. The tool attempts to quantify a player's impact in helping their team to win games versus a replacement-level player. The top players on their list using stats since 2005 are Pavel Datsyuk, Joe Thornton, Alex Ovechkin, and Sidney Crosby, so there is at least some credibility to the method. Of course, the system is skewed to players who have been involved in a lot of games since 2005. To balance this out, I only looked at players' 2014-15 seasons. Chiasson had a WAR of 2.16, implying that he helped the Sens win two more games than a replacement-level player in his spot would have. This may not sound great, but he found himself in the company of Brad Richards, Torrey Mitchell, Dominic Moore, and Milan Michalek. None of these are top-flight players, but most fans would see them as NHLers. Mitchell was just signed to a three-year, $1.2-million-per-year deal, and that sounds like very good value for Chiasson to me.
In conclusion, I think it's clear that Chiasson deserves an NHL shot. His numbers aren't amazing, but he's a solid bottom-six option. His size is his biggest asset, and his skating, his hands, and his hockey sense appear to be strong enough to stay in the NHL. His numbers line him up with players who are indisputable NHLers. The role I see Chiasson taking on is of a bottom-six forward with significant powerplay time. Personally, I think the best comparables for Chiasson are Shaw and Spaling. However, both those players currently see a lot more ice time than Chiasson was seeing toward the end of last season. For that reason, I'd like to see Chiasson come in a bit lower than either of them. A one-year contract around $1.4-million seems fair for both sides. If he performs well, he'll get a longer-term raise. If he disappoints, it won't have been a huge expense, and the team will still have him as a restricted asset. Now let's just hope the two sides can figure this out before the team has to tear him to shreds in arbitration.