Sunday, 29 July 2018

Tom Wilson Cashes In

If I were to tell you that Tom Wilson is worth as much to the Washington Capitals as Tyler Johnson is to the Tampa Bay Lightning, as much as Reilly Smith is to the Vegas Golden Knights, and as much as Brayden Schenn is to the St. Louis Blues, you'd probably call me crazy. However, the Washington Capitals have decided that Wilson is worth that much as they signed the restricted free agent power forward to a six-year deal worth an average of $5.17 million per season. Needless to say, the Capitals feel strongly about Wilson's contributions over the last season and decided to lock him into a deal they feel reflects Wilson's increased role with the team.

Capitals General Manager Brian MacLellan said in a release, "Tom is an invaluable member of our team and we are pleased that he is committed to sign a long-term deal at this point in his career. Tom is a unique player in this league, in that he plays a physical game, leads by example and contributes in every facet of the game. At 24 years of age, he is just entering his prime and we believe that he will only continue to excel and improve as a player."

Wilson saw his ice-time increase in former head coach Barry Trotz's system, and he responded by posting career highs of 14 goals and 21 assists. The caveat to those numbers, though, is that Wilson also posted a career-high of 187 penalty minutes - something that I doubt factored into the financials of this contract. If one wants to really dig deep, no player has more regular-season penalty minutes than the 806 minutes Wilson has been assessed since the 2013-14 campaign.

In a league where penalties can be the death knell for some teams, Wilson finished second in penalty minutes ahead of third-place Antoine Roussel by a whopping 61 minutes. At 24 years-old, there's still a lot of mileage left on Wilson's tires, but the shift away from hard-nosed power forwards to scoring power forwards is still happening. Washington is banking heavily on Wilson for what he brings today, but can Wilson change his game to keep up with the evolution of the game as a whole?

Playing alongside Nicklas Backstrom and Evgeny Kuznetsov might have been a part of the reason for Wilson's uptick in numbers, so there's no denying that he can keep up with an elite centerman. Wilson will have to continue to produce at a rate somewhat like his playoff scoring if he wants people to view this contract favorably. If he falls back to a seven-goal, 19-point campaign like he had in 2016-17, there will be grumbling about the contract, especially when his modified no-trade clause kicks in starting in Year Three of the deal.

Some have compared this deal to the Milan Lucic deal with Edmonton and/or David Clarkson deal with Toronto when it comes to big, physical power forwards signing lucrative contracts, but I'm not sure those comparisons are just when you consider that Wilson is four years younger than Lucic when he signed his deal and five years younger than Clarkson when he signed his deal. Before we start tossing around bad comparisons, I'm willing to let Wilson play a season under this new deal and under a new coach before I casting doubts on the value of this deal.

All in all, it seems like a lot of money for a guy who has scored 104 career points in 391 career games, but Wilson does do dirty work so that players like Backstrom, Kuznetsov, and Ovechkin don't have to do. If he can stay out of the penalty box and off the suspension list while plugging 20 goals and 50 points, Wilson's deal might actually turn out to be pretty good value in a few years.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

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