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What the Hornqvist, Little deals mean for Kyle Okposo, Josh Bailey

I know it was just yesterday that I ventured you might be tired of salary talk.

(If you are, my answers to Arthur are now up at Anaheim Calling. In other links, Andrew MacDonald's Twitter Q&A was fun. ... And Ken at Okposo Net has been filing some quotes from the summer prospect camp (Brock Nelson right here, Travis Hamonic right there) ... And Bruce Peter at Puck Worlds has been covering that World Hockey Summit, including a nice post on the juniors question here, and another on the Europe transfer issue here -- on that note, Rene Fasel sure came off like a tool in that Puck Daddy bit betraying his entirely Euro-centric slant as "International" hockey head.).

Anyway, two league salary stories from this week are relevant to decisions the Islanders will face next summer: Namely, the next contracts for Josh Bailey and Kyle Okposo. Nashville's RFA Patric Hornqvist, 23 and coming off a Matt Moulson-like surprising 30-goal season, signed for 3 years, $9.25 million. Meanwhile, Atlanta's Bryan Little, 23 in November and coming off a severe drop after a 30-goal season two years ago, signed for 3 years, $7.14 million.

Now, Bailey and Okposo are each younger than those two and also have one more season to put up data before their second contracts are due. But for a hint of what's to come it's worth taking a gander at how these players look next to each other:

Player-Season (age)







team rank
team rank

Okposo 2008-09 (age 20) 65 18 21 39 -6 3:10 1:21 5th 5th 10.9%
Okposo 2009-10 (age 21) 80 19 33 52 -22 4:17 1:49 6th 14th 7.6%
Bailey 2008-09 (age 19) 68 7 18 25 -14 3:10 0:03 8th 7th 9.5%
Bailey 2009-10 (age 20) 73 16 19 35 +5 2:07 0:32 11th 3rd 14.3%
Hornqvist 2008-09 (age 22) 28 2 5 7 -3 0:55 0:02 n/a n/a 3.7%
Hornqvist 2009-10 (age 23) 80 30 21 51 +18 2:50 0:02 9th 1st 10.9%
Little 2008-09 (age 21) 79 31 20 51 -5 4:00 0:02 5th 4th 18.0%
Little 2009-10 (age 22) 79 13 21 34 -6 2:58 0:02 12th 6th 7.9%

Those two ranking categories (Corsi relative to Quality of Competition, and "Rating," which is a relative +/- within the team) are from Behind the Net, and I include them here just as a rough way to get an idea of how important -- and how tough the assignments -- each guy was to his team at 5-on-5. ... Shooting percentage, meanwhile, can give you a strong hint on whether a guy's year was a little luck-aided (Little in 08-09?) or luck-harmed (Okposo in 09-10?), since players don't generally suddenly forget how to shoot or suddenly learn to shoot twice as well as before.)

Further Reading: Dirk Hoag at Predators blog On the Forecheck has an argument praising the Hornqvist deal, stating he's no flash in the pan and noting his shooting percentage hardly screamed "fluke!" Adam Gretz has a post at FanHouse focusing on both deals, and examining why Little's production dropped so much (a drop in PP time being one factor).


Where These Guys Stand

Now, these forwards are of slightly different ages and different pedigrees. Okposo was a 7th overall pick in 2006, just five spots ahead of Little in that same draft. Bailey was a 9th overall pick two years later. Hornqvist was now famously an afterthought -- a 7th rounder in 2005.

We've talked before here how Okposo's tough minutes and bad luck likely fed that poor plus/minus last season. (I also suspect he's been relied on too heavily at this age.) Put that aside and consider his age and all-around deployment -- the only one in this group to be used on both special teams units -- and you could picture him, after this coming season, clearly being the best player among this group. He's already its highest single-season scorer by points.

Bailey, on the other hand, has typically had less demanding assignments and has experienced a position shift (possibly temporary) that has reflected a more stuttering development. Is he a left wing or is he a center? That question may not be answered by next summer, but I bet it affects his contract negotiations. While the Islanders likely see his future still as a center, it's been on the wing that he's played his best so far as an NHLer. If this season represents more growing pains for the youngest member of this group, it might depress his asking price, which wouldn't be the worst situation for the Isles if they happened to lock him up for longer at that lower price.

But looking at the numbers and ages, in Bailey, Okposo, Hornqvist and Little we have four players with similarly uncertain track records in their early 20s. (Such ups and downs are hardly surprising for any player, but especially so for players early in their development.) As it happens, Okposo and Bailey are the two who have followed the more "expected" curve from one year to the next -- Little, in contrast, saw a big drop, while Hornqvist saw the unlikeliest of Moulson-esque jumps.

Guess the Contract

[Update: After sleeping on this a bit, I decided I need to clarify the question.] Fortunately the Isles have another year before they have to put an RFA value (and term) on these two. But given their age and growth curve so far, what do you suppose those numbers and terms will be? And if either Okposo or Bailey does not improve last year's counting stats, which one has more to lose at the negotiating table -- Bailey, right?

It all depends on how 2010-11 goes, but right now I'd bet next summer Okposo signs a Hornqvist-like contract (maybe a little over Hornqvist's 3 years, $3.083 million cap hit), while Bailey gets something closer to Little's (3 years, $2.383 million cap hit) or David Perron's (2 years, $2.1 million cap hit with a $2.5 million top salary).