Tim Stützle Signs Massive 8-Year, $66.8M Extension
In an unexpected twist at the Senators 2022-23 Season Start-Up event, general manager Pierre Dorion announced that the organization had agreed to terms on an eight-year extension worth $66.8 million with Tim Stützle.
Stützle is currently in the last year of his entry-level contract, but when his new extension kicks in next season, the contract’s $8.35 million average annual value (AAV) will make it the team’s most expensive one — surpassing the $8.205 million AAV on the seven-year deal that Brady Tkachuk signed last fall.
Today’s news is a calculated gamble banking on Stützle’s pedigree and continued development.
It is not without at least some risk.
It is certainly possible for Stützle to fall short of the lofty projections placed upon him as the third overall pick of the 2020 NHL Draft. Some prognosticators have been quick to point out that his first two seasons in the league have been good, but not dominant.
Stützle’s game is not without warts. Of all the qualified skaters who took more than 400 draws last season, only three players had a lower faceoff winning percentage than Stützle’s 38.1.
And for a player whose calling card is his offensive upside, Stützle’s five-on-five production has surprisingly not reached the levels one would expect. At least not yet anyways.
HockeyViz.com’s data shows that Stützle’s isolated offensive impact was not particularly strong — even when accounting for his teammates and other factors.
Some pundits may inevitably point to Stützle’s -27 plus/minus stat and use that as some conclusive proof that the centre’s defensive aptitude also needs improvement.
Like the rest of Stützle’s body of work, I think you need to dig a little deeper under the hood to get a finer appreciation of how he is developing — especially on the defensive side of the puck.
Using Evolving-Hockey’s ‘Total Defence’ (DEF) metric that takes an encompassing look at measuring a player’s defensive contributions at even strength and while shorthanded, Stützle rated as Ottawa’s worst defensive player during his rookie season. By the end of the 2021-22 season, he became a positive contributor on the defensive side of the puck.
If you look at Stützle’s isolated defensive impact on HockeyViz, he was one of Ottawa’s most improved forwards.
On the surface, I can certainly understand the concerns about Stützle’s five-on-five production. The proponents of his contract extension will certainly play up Stützle’s production down the stretch in which he averaged more than a point per game over the last 30 games. During that stretch though, most of that damage was done on the power play.
In saying that though, I think adding context is important. In his first 80 games, Stützle played the wing where his responsibilities and puck touches were few and far between. In his first year in the league, Stützle’s two most common centres were Chris Tierney and Colin White. The following year, he was playing predominantly with Alex Formenton and Connor Brown.
As much as I like Connor Brown, he’s simply a good defensive third liner who could play up the lineup in the event of injuries to players in the top-six. Alex Formenton is a slasher who relies on his speed to create individual chances. Despite some flashes last season where he showcased an ability to rely on patience and creativity to create offence off his teammates, it has not happened frequently enough. Most of his opportunities fail to create sustained puck possession in the offensive zone and for it, the team’s underlying numbers suffered when he was on the ice.
While Brown and Formenton are useful depth pieces, neither will ever be mistaken for Alex DeBrincat and Claude Giroux - the two players who Stützle is projected to start the season with on his wings. As I joked on Twitter this afternoon, this upgrade is like going from drinking Old English to enjoying a freshly poured pint of Guinness from a pub in Ireland.
Giroux’s presence in particular should only help develop Stützle’s game further. Where Stützle struggled in the faceoff dot, Giroux was one of the best in the game last season thanks to his 60.3 percent success rate. The Senators can simply mitigate one of Stützle’s weaknesses by having Giroux take this line’s draws, which will hopefully lead to more puck possession opportunities and sustained control for them in the offensive zone.
As the team improves around him and the rest of the young core, the forwards’ underlying numbers should improve as well — especially if the blue line takes a massive step forward with the presence of Jake Sanderson.
Looking at the Senators’ cap situation, four of the team’s best young forwards — Tkachuk, Norris, Batherson, and Stützle — are now locked in through the 2025-26 season at a combined cap hit of $29.48. Mix in an escalating cap situation as the league revenues continue to rise coming out of the Covid pandemic and the Senators are in a situation where their roster construction looks really healthy moving forward. Most, if not all, of these deals, will only continue to look better over time.
Just like Jimmy Stü.
Another important consideration to make out of today’s announcement is how the vibes around the Senators are just so positive of late. With this young core locked up and all this enthusiasm around this team swelling, it will hopefully bode well for convincing Alex DeBrincat that this is a place he would like to raise his family.