Appraising the Value of Intangibles and Scott Hartnell

Scott Hartnell drops the gloves with Troy Brouwer. (Tom Turk/THW)

Despite an impending lockout over owners wanting a bigger cut of the money pie, they were dishing out some hefty contracts throughout the league. The talented – but oft-injured – Kari Lehtonen signed a 5 year, $29.5 million contract. Shane Doan stayed with the only organization he knows for 4 years, $21.2 million. The Boston Bruins retained the services of rising star, Tyler Seguin, to the tune of 6 years, $34.5 million. Bruins GM Peter Chiarelli has been busy locking up the core of the team, but one extension in particular resonated with me:

“Milan Lucic re-ups with Boston Bruins for $18 million over 3 years.”

To assess the worth of a player with a $6 million cap hit, the first instinct is to see how many goals and points he’s scored. But a player’s stats only tell part of the story. It’s not Lucic’s 26 goals and 61 points alone that earned him his payday. (Although, they certainly were a factor.)

Sure, you can check his career stats page and see that he had 135 PIM last year – but it doesn’t tell you how many of those were earned concussing Ryan Miller, deflating the Buffalo Sabres with one mighty collision. Stat trackers don’t record how many cheap shots were prevented or avenged while he’s on the ice, stepping up for his teammates.

They don’t see the intangibles.

Milan Lucic Bruins
Lucic provides much more than just goal scoring for the Bruins. (Jeanine Leech/Icon SMI)

When the Philadelphia Flyers signed Scott Hartnell to a 6 year, $28.5 million contract extension, it was widely considered that he took less than he could have made on the open market. After seeing the salary that Lucic will be taking home over the next 3 years, I’d say that’s an understatement.

Though not near as physically intimidating, Hartnell is similar to Lucic in that he willingly throws his body around and provides his own unique set of intangibles. Instead of intimidating opposing players, Hartnell provokes them to throw punches at him. And standing at 6’2″, 210 lbs, he’s not afraid to drop the gloves and throw them right back.

However, “Hartsy” is more than just a nuisance to his opponents. He makes his mark in the game’s high traffic areas, jostling along the boards and around the crease. You’ll never catch him coasting on a shift, whether they’re down by one goal or five. That sort of drive and professionalism doesn’t go unnoticed by the coaching staff or the rookies in the line-up that look for him to lead by example on the ice.

Hartnell posted career highs in 2012, scoring 37 goals and 67 points, including 16 with the man-advantage. During powerplays, Hartnell would often slide away from the crease towards the face-off dot, where he’d bang home one-timers delivered to him from Giroux on the half-boards.

Fans and experts alike are ready to give ample credit to Giroux and Jagr for Hartnell’s stats, but Hartnell has always been able to put the puck in the net. In his four previous seasons with the Flyers, he averaged 23 goals a season, including 30 in the 08-09 season.

It may be a stretch for him to surpass last seasons numbers, but there’s no reason to doubt that he can’t come close to matching them. The top line will definitely miss Jagr’s deft hands and elite vision, but Jakub Voracek is a decent playmaker in his own right, and possesses a much higher top-end speed and motor. Voracek will be entering his 4th year, and the former 7th overall pick scored 18 goals and 49 points last year compared to Jagr’s 19 and 54, respectively.

Concerns about Hartnell’s play matching the price of his salary towards the end of the extension should be low. Hartnell will turn 37 in the last year of the contract, but there hasn’t been a shortage of high contracts to some of the league’s elder statesmen. The aforementioned Doan just signed his four year contract at the ripe age of 35 – with a cap hit higher than Hartnell’s.

Looking ahead to this year, expect to see more of  the same contributions: the unique blend of hits, goals, drives to the net resulting in 2 minutes for goaltender interference, and the beautiful sight of Hartsy antagonizing other teams and their fans to endless frustration.



Six more years of this? Worth. Every. Dollar.