Late Tuesday night it was revealed that #CBJ 4th line Center, Derek MacKenzie, would be getting a 2 year contract extension worth $2,000,000 ($1M/yr). For some, the decision to extend MacKenzie for that price was a bit controversial. MacKenzie earned $600,000 in each of the previous two seasons and some saw a “66 percent raise” for a 4th line center to be a gross over-payment.
While trying to get some comparable statistics for other 4th line centers around the NHL I found that it’s a very hard position to evaluate. There’s so much change on 4th lines and without watching the other teams on a nightly basis it’s hard to tell how many games a player truly played on the 4th line. With that said, I tried my best to get a list of as many true 4th line centers I could find & their stats/salary information. I limited the list to players who played 50 games or more. MacKenzie played 66 games last season which is directly between 50 and and a full 82 game season.
Here is the most accurate list I was able to find (though I’m sure I’ll quickly be corrected on some of these):
One of the more interesting numbers to stand out was that of these players, only three had a positive +/-. There’s a great many number of articles debating the usefulness of the +/- statistic but I’ve been told it’s a decent stat when used over a large sample size such as a full season. Of the 3 players to finish with a positive +/-, MacKenzie tied Detroit’s Justin Abdelkader for tops on this list with a +4 rating (while playing 15 fewer games).
MacKenzie’s 0.21 points per game falls right in the middle of this list, tied with BOS’s Gregory Campbell (-3) and PIT’s Joe Vitale (-5). Both of those guys played on playoff teams that finished 1 & 2 in goal differential at +67 and +61 respectively. Meanwhile, MacKenzie finished +4 on the team with the worst goal differential in the NHL at -60.
It’s worth pointing out is that of the players listed (many on entry level or their RFA contracts) only 5 earn $1,000,000 or more. There are not a lot of $1M 4th line centers in the league so I can see why some would be hesitant to give MacKenzie that kind of money. MacKenzie’s new contract will put him even Vancouver’s Maxim Lapierre. Comparatively Lapierre earned 5 more points in 16 more games while finishing -3 on a President’s Cup winning Vancouver team.
That’s my look at a, albeit incomplete, list of the 4th line centers in the NHL and how MacKenzie stacks up against them statistically. If you ask me, he had a damn fine season and looking at the numbers he deserves to be paid more than the $600,000 he was making last season. How much more? Well, I guess that’s something we’ll probably all never agree on.