Washington Capitals defenseman Dmitry Orlov has blossomed into a first pairing defenseman. How huge is his next contract going to be?
One year ago, Dmitry Orlov’s future with the Washington Capitals was kind of up in the air. He was coming off a promising, but frustrating season. Sure, Orlov showed impressive offensive production, finishing second among Caps defensemen in even strength points per 60 minutes. But everyone was angry about his constant turnovers. Funny how much a year can change things. After being put with Matt Niskanen, the duo formed indisputably the Capitals’ best defensive pairing.
Orlov did this after doing the Caps a huge favor by taking a cheap $2 million one-year deal. So now it’s time for the Capitals to pay the piper. They took an understandable risk by not extending him long-term. Short-term, it was the right decision. But how much is Orlov going to make now that the Capitals finally have some cap space?
Who Holds Leverage?
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Washington holds a fair amount of leverage in this negotiation. They can definitely afford him, so unless a team decides to sign Orlov to a comically large offer sheet, his rights are staying with the Caps.
There is the threat of him signing a one-year deal somewhere overseas so he can play in the 2018 Olympics, but the chances of this are minuscule at best. If Orlov is considering it, this will be a surprise because he hasn’t been as open about his desire to play in the Olympics as Alex Ovechkin or Evgeny Kuznetsov have.
In the NHL, how a player compares to his peers is extremely relevant in arbitration cases. But even if Orlov and the Washington Capitals don’t go to arbitration, it’s important to compare him to people so a starting point of negotiations can be formed. All stats are at even strength and are unadjusted for situation, venue and zone.
As far as production, it’s hard to argue he’s anything but among the league’s best. Since the start of the 2013-14 season, among defensemen with at least 3,000 even strength minutes, Orlov ranks 18th in points per 60 minutes with 0.98. However, it’s worth noting everyone above him has played more minutes than him. This is primarily due to Orlov missing the entire 2014-15 season. He also ranks eighth in primary assists per 60 minutes.
However, there’s more to being a defenseman than points. You have to control possession and prevent goals against as well. Orlov has improved greatly at preventing goals, but the Capitals still allow more goals at a higher rate when he’s on the ice than when he’s off of it. That said, the Caps also score goals at a noticeably higher rate with him on the ice than when he’s off of it. Since the start of last season, Orlov ranks fourth among defensemen with at least 2,000 even strength minutes in goals for percentage. While five Capitals defensemen rank in the top eight, only Nate Schmidt is ahead of him.
Orlov’s Corsi suggests he’s very efficient at preventing the other team from shooting and driving offense. His 3.5 CorsiFor percentage relative to his team ranks 11th since the start of the 2015-16 season. Keep in mind it’s a good thing to have a negative number in the CA60 column.
As great as Orlov has been, he only has one year playing like a top pairing defenseman and having the playing time to back up his argument. This should help the Caps. If they’re signing him long-term, he’s 25 years old. An eight-year deal makes sense for Orlov, but you’re probably paying for at least one decline year. Six years would be ideal, but eight is perfectly acceptable.
As far as his cap hit, Orlov should get at least $4.5 million. I’d be willing to go up to about $4.75 million. Should the Washington Capitals want to sign T.J. Oshie, this affects things a bit. But something about the $4 million to $5 million range should do it. It’s pricey, but that’s the cost of a top pairing defenseman these days.