Today the Montreal Canadiens have announced that Raphael Diaz has re-signed for 2 years at 1.225 million a year.
This deal avoids the player elected arbitration hearing later this month. As Diaz is 26 years old this summer, the deal holds commits Diaz to the Canadiens for one RFA and one UFA eligible season. A 1.225 million cap hit is a typical cap hit for a number 6 or depth defenseman (see Boullion’s 1.5) and is a total that Diaz should have no difficulty out performing over the next two seasons.
Diaz played at essentially a third pairing level in his rookie season but, along with Emelin, was the most commonly used option for the team’s second pairing. This failure to play up to the level thrust upon him is reflected by his -7 in 59 games as well as his -3.9 CorsiRel per 60 minutes and -4.08 Corsi per 60 minutes. Despite playing more difficult minutes on average, Diaz outperformed Kaberle, Campoli and Weber on even strength last season.
Diaz also put up relatively good offensive totals with 17 points in 59 games, the statistics that earned him a 2nd rookie all-star team nod. However, this was more the results of the minutes Diaz played than a particular offensive flair, Diaz’s .70 points per 60 minutes even strength is relatively average for the Habs last year as was his 2.49 points per 60 minutes on the power play.
Diaz stands today as a relatively average third pairing level puck moving defenseman who is decent defensively and not physically imposing (although quite willing to block shots). The relative market price for that compared to a toolsy defenseman with major upside who already has an excellent physical game in Emelin is reflected in the kind of contract the Russian defenseman got (2 million for 2 years) at the same age in the same situation on the same team.
Keeping Diaz with the team may mean trouble for fellow Swiss native Yannick Weber, as they both project to the same role as a bottom pairing puck moving/offensive defenseman, especially with a host of younger talent in the Habs’ pipeline coming up behind him.