Yesterday Mark Giordano inked a two-year contract for the ridiculously low amount of $800,000 per season. The statement this makes to the rest of the players on the Maple Leafs is enormous. It says to them, “I have made my money in the NHL. Now I want to win a cup, and win it with the Maple Leafs.”
While Giordano will be 39 years old when the puck drops on the 2022-23 regular season, he is not a player well past his prime. He’s still an impactful player in the NHL. He has literally left millions of dollars on the table to play in his hometown of Toronto. Those millions can go a long way towards helping this team sign other players.
Giordano’s signing goes beyond just the money, however. It sends a message to the core players who might be questioning their ability to accomplish something in the playoffs that he believes in them.
Giordano’s Signing Goes Far Beyond Money; Still, Consider the Money
Getting back to the money. How much is Giordano worth, and how much potential money did he leave on the table?
If we look strictly at scoring, Giordano had 35 points for the Maple Leafs and the Seatle Kraken this past season. That tied him for 43rd in the league. If we look at the ranking of salaries for NHL defensemen according to the website spotrac.com, the 43rd highest-paid defenseman in the league is Nate Schmidt, who made $5.95 million in 2021-22. In total 56 defensemen made $5 million or more this past season.
If we look at ice time, Giordano averaged 20:53 per game. That ranks 81st for ice time by a defenseman in the NHL. The 81st ranked player by salary in the league is Brendan Dillon at $3.9 million.
Without getting into more statistics and ignoring the salary speculations that Giordano was worth $6 million on the market (which seems a bit high), we think it’s safe to say the way Giordano performed this past season as a UFA means he could have easily been offered a one-year $4 million deal on the open market. If that’s so, an $800,000 salary is in essence a potential 80% pay cut.
For the Maple Leafs, it means they are getting $4 million worth of performance for 20% of that amount. It theoretically gives the team over $3 million in added cap space to spend on other assets. That’s $3 million in salary-cap space the team can use on re-signing Ilya Lyubushkin and/or re-signing Rasmus Sandin and Timothy Liljegren.
Looking at it a different way, last season the combined salary-cap hit for Morgan Rielly and Mark Giordano was $11,750,000. Seattle retained half of Giordano’s $6.75 million in their deal with the Maple Leafs, dropping that hit to $8,375,000. Still, the combined value of those players was $11.75 million.
Next season, even with Rielly’s $2.5 million raise from $5 million to $7.5 million, the combined salaries of him and Giordano will be $8.3 million. Using a dollars-and-cents logic, the money saved with the Giordano deal covers Morgan Rielly’s raise.
The Real Story Is Giordano’s Sacrifice to a Goal
Talk about putting your money where your mouth is. Again we repeat, this signing sends a huge and positive message to the other players on this team that a player of Mark Giordano’s stature believes in the potential this particular team has to take that next step and compete for a Stanley Cup.
The Giordano signing, while similar to the Jason Spezza signing three seasons ago, and the subsequent league minimum contracts Spezza has inked, might be even more impactful. Not only does it impact the salary cap, but it has to impact the psyche of the team.
Spezza was at the twilight of his career. There’s no insult intended because he’s still a good player and has added value to the team in many ways. But, he’s not the player he once was. Giordano remains a significant talent and a solid top-four defenseman on any team in the league.
Brendan Shanahan once stated that he wanted to create an environment and a culture in Toronto where hometown players (and others) wanted to come and play for this team. Giordano certainly has purchased his ticket for that train.
How Might Giordano’s Signing Impact Other Signings?
We can’t help but wonder what other signings from outside of the organization Giordano’s signing might attract. We can also only speculate about how Giordano’s signing might affect players on the team seeking new contracts.
We also don’t know if or how the message that Spezza and Giordano (and Jumbo Joe Thornton before them) sent the younger players in the organization might encourage them to ponder (and perhaps act upon) the huge pride that comes with being part of a Stanley Cup champion team. That doesn’t happen very often and for very many hockey players.
Would they too want to be part of that journey?
The List of Intangibles Might Be Huge
There are so many unmeasurable intangibles that go into success in sports. Could this one signing be the inspiration that lifts the Maple Leafs to greater heights?
Given the play of the Tampa Bay Lightning in round two, the Maple Leafs now seem so very close.
[Note: I want to thank long-time Maple Leafs’ fan Stan Smith for collaborating with me on this post. Stan’s Facebook profile can be found here.]
The Old Prof (Jim Parsons, Sr.) taught for more than 40 years in the Faculty of Education at the University of Alberta. He’s a Canadian boy, who has two degrees from the University of Kentucky and a doctorate from the University of Texas. He is now retired on Vancouver Island, where he lives with his family. His hobbies include playing with his hockey cards and simply being a sports fan – hockey, the Toronto Raptors, and CFL football (thinks Ricky Ray personifies how a professional athlete should act).
If you wonder why he doesn’t use his real name, it’s because his son – who’s also Jim Parsons – wrote for The Hockey Writers first and asked Jim Sr. to use another name so readers wouldn’t confuse their work.
Because Jim Sr. had worked in China, he adopted the Mandarin word for teacher (老師). The first character lǎo (老) means “old,” and the second character shī (師) means “teacher.” The literal translation of lǎoshī is “old teacher.” That became his pen name. Today, other than writing for The Hockey Writers, he teaches graduate students research design at several Canadian universities.
He looks forward to sharing his insights about the Toronto Maple Leafs and about how sports engages life more fully. His Twitter address is https://twitter.com/TheOldProf