$5.25 Million For A 34-Year-Old Defenseman Is A Major Risk; Even One As Good As Alec Martinez

After the regular season and playoffs he had with the Golden Knights in 2020-21, it seems almost unfathomable for Vegas to let Alec Martinez walk away for nothing.

In the playoffs, he was arguably the most consistent player on the roster, led the postseason in blocks despite playing fewer games than two other teams, was VGK’s most dangerous weapon on the power play, and averaged more than 22 minutes a night. Oh, and he did this all while playing on a broken foot that happened a few games before the playoffs even started.

A day after his 34th birthday, Martinez inked a three-year deal worth $15.75 million. That means he is now contractually tied, for $5.25 million per year, to the Golden Knights through 2023-24, when he will play the entire season at the age of 37-years-old.

Currently in the NHL, there are nine defensemen making at least $5 million over the age of 33. They are Brent Burns, Shea Weber, Kris Letang, Marc-Edouard Vlasic, Brent Seabrook, Mark Giordano, Johnny Boychuk, Ducan Keith, and Anton Stralman. Weber is reportedly out for the entirety of next season and his career is in jeopardy, Seabrook and Boychuk, and didn’t play a single game last year, and Vlasic, Stralman, and Keith were each shells of themselves, two of the three being moved in cap relief trades this offseason. Heck, even Giordano, who was good last year, was left unprotected in the Expansion Draft and was ultimately selected by the Seattle Kraken.

Simply put, it takes an ultra-rare specimen to succeed in the NHL as a defenseman at the age of 34, let alone 35, or 36, which the Golden Knights just committed to with Martinez.

Last year, Martinez posted some gaudy numbers in his 12th season in the NHL. He averaged 22:34 of ice time per game, scored nine goals and added 23 assists, blocked 162 shots, and added an amazing 7.2 point shares to a team that nearly won the President’s Trophy. Plus, he did it in a shortened 56-game season.

That was all at the age of 33. So, we wondered, how many d-men have met any of those criteria at the age of 34, 35, or 36 in the past decade (since 2010-11)? We head to the Stathead! Hockey-Reference.com’s incredible tool that allows us to easily look up stuff like this.

We’ll start with time on ice. Of course, last year was a truncated season in which Martinez played in 53 of the 56 games amassing 1196 minutes of ice time. Doing that math, that comes out to about 1600 minutes in a regular 82 game season. So, how many defensemen have reached this after the age of 34?

1600+ minutes At least 34 – 55 of 272 (20.2%) At least 35 – 38 of 194 (19.6%) At least 36 –22 of 130 (16.9%)

1000+ minutes At least 34 – 166 of 272 (61.0%) At least 35 – 116 of 194 (59.8%) At least 36 –73 of 130 (56.2%)

Martinez was an offensive weapon for the Golden Knights, especially on the power play where he chipped in six of PP goals. His total was 32 points in 53 games which projects to an impressive 47 points in 78 games over an 82 game season.

47 points At least 34 – 12 of 272 (4.4%) At least 35 – 7 of 194 (3.6%) At least 36 –4 of 130 (3.1%)

30 points At least 34 – 41 of 272 (15.1%) At least 35 – 27 of 194 (13.9%) At least 36 –19 of 130 (14.6%)

20 points At least 34 – 86 of 272 (31.7%) At least 35 – 63 of 194 (32.5%) At least 36 –42 of 130 (32.3%)

Moving on to blocks, which is Martinez’s calling card. Alec blocked an insane 168 shots in 53 games which rounds to 246 had he played 77 games of an 82 game season. In the past decade, not a single defenseman has ever done that after the age of 34. In fact, only three D at all in the past 10 years blocked that many shots in a season. Kris Russell blocked 283 in 14-15 for Calgary, Francois Beauchemin blocked 256 in 15-16 for Colorado, and Josh Gorges blocked 250 in 11-12 for Montreal.

So, let’s lower the number to a more reasonable, 200, which Martinez reached easily adding just the first seven playoff games.

200 blocks At least 34 – 2 of 272 (0.7%) At least 35 – 2 of 194 (1.0%) At least 36 –1 of 130 (0.8%)

100 blocks At least 34 – 51 of 272 (18.6%) At least 35 – 37 of 194 (19.1%) At least 36 –20 of 130 (15.4%)

.25 Million For A 34-Year-Old Defenseman Is A Major Risk; Even One As Good As Alec Martinez

On to the final number, and maybe the most impressive one Martinez amassed in 2020-21, his 7.2 point shares. Throw that in the calculator and had he played a full season he would have racked up 10.5 point shares, with about 60% coming on the defensive side of the game.

10.5 point shares At least 34 – 4 of 272 (1.4%) At least 35 – 2 of 194 (1.0%) At least 36 –1 of 130 (0.8%)

7.2 point shares At least 34 – 23 of 272 (8.5%) At least 35 – 15 of 194 (7.7%) At least 36 –12 of 130 (9.2%)

5.0 point shares At least 34 – 61 of 272 (22.4%) At least 35 – 46 of 194 (23.7%) At least 36 –31 of 130 (23.8%)

2.5 point shares At least 34 – 153 of 272 (56.3%) At least 35 – 112 of 194 (57.7%) At least 36 –74 of 130 (56.9%)

For those not familiar with point shares, last year Theodore led the team in the regular season with 8.2, Marchessault and Pietrangelo were at 5.4, and Tomas Nosek put up 2.1.

Add it all up, and in the past decade, not a single defenseman has had the season Alec Martinez just put up over the age of 34.

There are two ways to look at this, and it depends what kind of person you are. The optimistic says, “Alec Martinez is a legend and is doing things at age 33 that no one before him has done, why can’t he do it again at age 34, 35, or even 36.” Or, the pessimist says “what he just did was in the top 10 to 20 percent of all 34+-year-old defensemen, there’s no way he’s going to repeat it once he turns 34, let alone his older years.”

Personally, I have to say I lean a bit towards the second one. Don’t get me wrong, I love everything about the player the Golden Knights have gotten in Alec Martinez over the past season and half, but expecting him to continue playing at the level he has seems a bit outlandish as he heads into the final years of his career. Paying him at a cap value that expects him to keep up the performance is complete madness.

Losing Martinez would have hurt, a lot, but keeping him at the price the Golden Knights agreed to will probably hurt even more… unless Alec Martinez can defeat the undefeated Father Time.

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