Sunday, 24 June 2018

Money Trending Up

No, this isn't a Reebok ad with Terry Tate, but the image to the left is one that speaks volumes to what the Washington Capitals and John Carlson did today. If you missed the news, John Carlson and the Capitals agreed to an eight-year, $64 million deal that sees the defenceman get a decent little signing bonus and a whole bunch of monster deposits in his back account. My concern isn't whether Carlson was worth it - he would have received that on the open market had he gone to free agency - but rather what it does to the market for every other defenceman who plays a top-pairing role for his team. Suddenly names like Karlsson, Doughty, and Trouba have a benchmark to which they can compare themselves that carries a massive dollar amount.

Carlson has set the mark for future discussions regarding elite defencemen. He led the league in scoring in the regular season among defencemen, setting a career-high with 68 points this season. That's way up from his non-lockout career average of 44 points, and some will say that he's becoming a more complete defenceman as he matures. The 28 year-old's poise in the playoffs was unmatched, and he looks like he could be a career Capital if this contract plays out in its entirety.

That's good news for the likes of Karlsson, Trouba, Doughty, and any future top-pair defenceman because their agents will be singing all the way to the bank when it comes time for comparisons to be made. If the players were worried about salaries plateauing, John Carlson just made a lot of people a ton of money.

The obvious name that will benefit from this contract is Erik Karlsson. Karlsson finished last season as the sixth-highest scoring defenceman, but had the highest points-per-game total. His career average not including lockout-shortened seasons is 63 points, some 19 points better than Carlson. Erik Karlsson's defensive game, however, isn't as sound as John Carlson's is, but when it comes to generating offence from the blue line, no one may be better than the Swedish Karlsson. With Karlsson being an impending unrestricted free agent next year, is he worth the $8 million that John Carlson got? Is he worth more? I'd say the latter is entirely possible, and more likely than not. As a two-time Norris Trophy winner, Karlsson could be the NHL's first $10 million-per-season rearguard.

What about Drew Doughty? Doughty finished seventh in NHL scoring by defencemen last season, and has consistently been a top-three points producer in his career. His career average of 58 points in full NHL seasons is a full 14 points better than Carlson, he arguably plays in a tougher conference with more physical play, and is a two-time Stanley Cup winner and won the Norris Trophy in 2015-16. Doughty is at the top of the class when it comes to defenders like Karlsson, and I have a feeling that he'll also get more than the $8 million-per-season that Carlson got based on his body of work.

And that brings us to restricted free agent and top-pair defenceman Jacob Trouba in Winnipeg where he was 79th among defencemen in scoring, but there's no denying his effectiveness as a shutdown defenceman in helping the Jets become the second-best team in the NHL this past season. Of the four defencemen, he's the youngest. He arguably plays as many tough minutes as the other defencemen. If his only draw back is that he doesn't score as many points as the three men mentioned above, there's a lot that happens away from the puck that people aren't seeing.

For the Jets, they've been down the contract dispute with Trouba before, and I'm quite certain they don't want that happening again. Trouba is a major cog in their success, and they'll want to do more than just bridge him out. They'll look for term at a reasonable price, but the term that buy up some of Trouba's free agency period won't come cheap. I'm not suggesting he gets $8 million per season like John Carlson, but there will be some cost for the Jets to keep him on a long-term deal when it comes to the open market.

I'm not an NHL GM nor will I ever attempt to be one. Those guys have spent years learning the business, and I'm sure that Kevin Cheveldayoff put in more hours off the ice in a boardroom than he did on it in order to learn how to be a GM. What should tickle Cheveldayoff a little is that Jacob Trouba has expressed a desire to get a deal done in Winnipeg sooner rather than later. If Kevin Cheveldayoff can land Trouba on a long-term deal for what would reasonable be $6 million per season, I think a lot of fans in the Manitoba capital would be excited for that.

Blue-chip defencemen who become top-flight shutdown players while still contributing offensively are rare in the NHL. Those teams that have them usually lock them up for as long as they can because there's always someone out there who covets them. Trouba's a great player who would be coveted by at least half the teams in the NHL, so this summer's negotiation will be an interesting one for the Jets.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

No comments: