The big news from the last couple of days is surely the huge extension from Sabres centre Tage Thompson. He signed a seven-year, $7-million AAV contract with Buffalo, a deal that will take him through to his early 30s ($7.14M per year, to be exact). Alex wrote about this in his Ramblings yesterday, covering the leaps in things like shooting percentage and on-ice shooting percentage that Thompson had in his career-best 2021-22 season.
I wanted to dig deeper on this because at his price, cap league owners will have a decision to make. Paying $7M a season for a 35-goal, 70-point centre with huge shot rates is doable in these formats; a 25-goal, 50-point centre, not so much. Figuring out which he's likely to be is very important. Data will be taken from our Frozen Tools and Natural Stat Trick.
What sticks out, as Alex mentioned, is the shooting percentage. At 5-on-5, Thompson had never had a season above 6.4% shooting and he exploded to 14.1% in 2021-22. That is a huge leap, and seems very high, but among 387 forwards with at least 500 minutes played, it's not even in the top-50. The NHL saw its highest league-wide shooting percentage in 15 years so there were a lot of players ahead of him. And it isn't as if he's never scored at any level; he had 20 goals in 54 AHL games across the 2017-2020 seasons. That is a 30-goal/82-game pace, so it isn't as if his finishing issues at the NHL level were a continuation of what he did at lower levels.
As for his jump in shooting percentage, it isn't hard to chalk a good chunk of that up to better line mates. Thompson had been lined up almost exclusively in the bottom-6 his entire NHL career. For the COVID 2021 campaign, that included the likes of Rasmus Asplund and Casey Mittelstadt as his most-common line mates. Looking to 2018-19, he skated roughly half his ice time with Vladimir Sobotka, in what en