On August 12th, Tom Poti was awarded a two year contract worth $5.9 million by an arbitrator. Poti will make $2.8 million next season, and $3.1 million the following. I have heard mixed reactions to these terms, and that brings along the question, is Tom Poti a $3 million dollar player?
There is no question, the answer is yes.
Poti and his 48 points ranked 7th among all defenseman last season. His precise passing and skating skills are often overlooked by hockey fans. What fans around the league tend to focus on is his exaggerated defensive mistakes and soft defensive play.
Some Ranger fans often refer to him as "Poke-check Poti". This is supposed to be a negative term. However, in my opinion, Poti is at his best when he plays physical sparingly and uses his long reach more often. Physical play is not a strength of Poti so why give the courtesy hit? Imagine an eighty-foot long stick lying across the opposition's blue-line. This would make it difficult to enter the zone, right? For the same reason, so does Tom Poti when he is on his game, breaking up plays and deflecting passes. He may mkae some bad decisions and his positional play may not be ideal, but Tom Poti doesn't get enough credit for his defensive play.
Poti played most of last season playing with the offensive minded Brian Leetch or, when Leetch was injured, Joel Bouchard. Although, Leetch is very responsible defensively, he still got caught up in the play occasionally, which meant that Poti would have to take on a new role and play more responsible himself. The experience of playing with Leetch was good for Poti, but for the good of the Rangers, we have probably seen the last of the pairing. It seems like Sather plans on pairing Leetch with the newly acquired Greg de Vries, meaning Poti would have a new partner. Poti stills needs to prove he can play without Leetch, nevertheless, few people gives his defensive play enough credit.
Many people question whether Poti is worth the $2.95 million/year contract he was awarded.
Here's a look at a few comparable defenseman and their, Games Played, Goals, Assists, Points, Points Per Game, +/-, Team's +/- and 2003-04 salary. All stats are from the 2002-03 season. Players who have gone through un-restricted free agency and players who haven't signed a new contract in a long time, were not considered.
The above shows that although making the least next season, Poti lead the 4 in goals and points, was 2nd behind Ed Jovanovski in assists and points/game. His +/- was low, but that can be more credited to the Rangers than Poti. He had a higher +/- than Niinimaa despite playing for the worse team.
Tom Poti faces an important season. He can determine if last year was a break-out season, or a one-time thing. He will make a full million more than last season, but he's earned it with his All-star season. Is Tom Poti overpaided? If you ask me, no.