Capped: Projecting Player Salaries (Part 3)

Alexander MacLean

2018-01-18

 

This week's Capped continues our series looking into how to project player salaries by focusing on bridge deals and extensions.

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The toughest part of projecting salaries is not the big free agents, we know that they are going to get paid (and in fact they are usually overpaid). The hardest contracts to project are the first ones after the entry level deal, before a player has really proven themselves. The discrepancy stems from the player and the team having very different ideas of where the player’s career may go, with both wanting to cover themselves from the worst. This is where the bridge contracts usually come in.

Bridge contracts are a nice compromise for both the player and the team, allowing for more certainty with a future contract. Players avoid getting locked in for less than they are worth, and teams avoid possibly carrying an anchor contract on their books down the line. When it comes to the actual negotiations, everyone is a little different. Looking at two examples of star players, we have P.K. Subban and Mark Scheifele. On one hand, you have Subban situation, where his contract ideas differed greatly from those of the Canadiens management, leading to a short bridge contract ($2.875 million each year for two seasons), where he won a Norris trophy as the league’s top defenceman. His next contract which he signed in 2014 was highest for a defenceman at that time, deservingly so. To this day Subban remains the top defenceman in the league when ranked by cap hit.

Mark Scheifele took a different route. After a successful third year in the NHL, where the Jets centre topped the 60-point plateau for the first time, Scheifele decided to cash in then and there, inking a long-term deal, of $49 million over the eight years. Over the next season and a half, Scheifele has massively outperformed that contract, and may currently be on the most team-friendly contract.

To give you a leg-up come July 2018, here are some model projections for bridge-contract candidates for this year.

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Sam Reinhart (C/RW) – Buffalo Sabres

Projected Cap Hit: $2,576,103 

 

Projected Number of Years: Two

 

Sam Reinhart is falling well short of expectations in a contract year. The third year forward has struggled to find a niche on a team that really doesn’t have many top end forwards. His ice time is down to 15:48 minutes per game, lower even than his rookie campaign. The underlying percentages are a little lower than in previous seasons, but not exceptionally out of line. What kind of player do we see in the future?

The 22-year-old former second overall pick is a perfect example of a player in line for a shorter “prove it” contract. The two-year, $2.6 million per season contract predicted by the model is not too far off the two-year $1.95 million deal signed by Sam Bennett last offseason. Bennett was drafted two slots later than Reinhart, and has gone through some s