Tim Stutzle Signs Extension

 Andre Ringuette/NHLI via Getty Images

Tim Stützle is a vital part of the Ottawa Senators’ core. The talented German forward was drafted third overall by the Senators in the 2020 draft and is one of the top scorers to come out of that draft class. Recently, the Senators signed him to an eight-year, 8.35 million dollar contract. 

The Senators took a step forward this off-season; they offloaded the horrible Matt Murray contract, traded for Alex Debrincat, and signed Claude Giroux. While their blue line still looks like a mess minus Thomas Chabot and the addition of prospect Jake Sanderson, their forward group and cap situation took a massive step forward. The time is now for the team’s performance to improve. 

The Senators locked up another prominent young piece, their captain, Brady Tkachuk to a seven-year, 8.2 million dollar contract last season. The rest of the core is also locked down in multi-year, multi-million dollar contracts: Chabot makes 8 million, Josh Norris makes 7.95 million, and Drake Batherson makes 4.9 million. Adding Stützle’s contract makes the total cap hit for the Senators’ core around 37. 45 million. Securing all of those player for a modest 37.45 million cap hit is a win for GM Pierre Dorian. However, there is some reason to look at this contract with trepidation. The Senators are under the impression that not only will their young players play up to their ceilings but that this is the group of players to make this team competitive. 

Stützle is a great player, but there is a difference between a great player and a player worth 8 million dollars in a flat-cap era. Stützle is not that player yet, he only has 87 career points, and his underlying numbers are slightly above average. This contract is built upon the assumption that Stützle develops as expected and becomes a legitimate star. If that is the case, this contract will look like a steal. Stützle is undoubtedly talented and probably has the most potential of any of the young core pieces on the roster. Still, this contract is a gamble, especially for a market like Ottawa that does not make the same revenue as other big Canadian hockey markets. 

Now, there is a precedent for these risky contracts paying off. Both Stanley Cup Champion Nathan Mackinnon and fellow German player Leon Draisaitl had underwhelming starts to their careers but signed expensive contract extensions. However, both players developed into top-tier NHL stars that should be making far more. 

Draisaitl has been the most pointed comparison. Draisaitl is a Hart and Ted Lindsay winner and one of the top players in the league. The comparisons seem too easy; both are German players with high offensive upside and have had somewhat pedestrian beginning seasons. Draisaitl was also signed to an eight-year 8 million dollar contract reasonably early in his career. That contract looked a bit excessive at the time, and like yet another mistake made by GM Peter Chiarelli. Now, it seems like a massive underpayment. Despite the seemingly perfect example of Draisaitl, some factors make the Stützle signing slightly different. There is good reason to believe Stützle will have a similar career trajectory and thus be more than worthy of his cap hit and term. However the underlying numbers complicate this assumption.

This is what Draisaitl’s underlying numbers looked like ahead of signing his contract: 

(Jfresh Hockey)

Meanwhile, this is what Stützle’s underlying numbers look like ahead of this signing: 

(Jfresh Hockey)

Draisaitl’s underlying numbers were significantly better than Stützle’s, but maybe that could be because Draisaitl had better teammates than Stützle. There is also no indication that these underlying numbers for Stützle will remain this low as he ages and plays more. 

The Stützle contract relies on the assumption that Stützle will become another Draisaitl. However, there is only one Draisaitl and assuming that a completely different player will follow the same career path as another just because they have similar backgrounds and expectations is faulty logic. Every single player is unique; they have their own strong points and faults. Even though there can players that are easily comparable, every player is different and has a different path. The player’s development also has much to do with a team’s structure and player development system. The Senators’ farm system seems to have churned out good pieces in Chabot, Batherson, and Norris, who all spent time in the AHL with the Belleville Senators. Sanderson and Tkachuk cut their teeth in the NCAA. Unlike those teammates, Stützle was dropped into the NHL with no minor league or college development time, which is not always a negative thing but a factor. So, is Stützle surrounded by the right players and personnel to make him into the next Draisaitl? That is the big question, and the Senators bet on themselves. They believe he will develop into a legitimate NHL star with their system and the core they’ve built around him. 

Contracts like the one Stützle signed have a way of aging exceptionally well or disastrously; hindsight is 20/20, after all. But to provide an answer to whether or not this contract is good, it is a gamble. Senators fans should be happy that a piece like Stützle is locked down, but they should also measure their expectations for this young player. He could have an explosive 2022-23 season, or it could take a couple more years to see that high-value skill; it is a matter of patience. The term more than the money, is what is concerning. This contract guarantees eight years of Stützle, but if he doesn’t develop into the player the Senators expect him to be, that contract becomes a ball and chain. Is this contract good? Assuming Stützle plays up to his ceiling as expected, which all signs point to, this contract is excellent. It is a big bet, and for the sake of the Senators, hopefully, it pays off.

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