In years past, once the free-agent market cools down, teams turn to their own players, and look ahead to who needs an extension before next summer. Last year, we saw some big names re-signed soon after they were eligible for contract extensions. Connor McDavid, Carey Price, Marc-Edouard Vlasic, Jaccob Slavin, and Martin Jones to name a few, while Jack Eichel waited until October before signing his extension. These players were all ingrained well with their teams, and weren’t likely to see their value change enough to warrant waiting another season before putting pen to paper. Looking back now on those contracts, some look better than others. For fantasy purposes, we probably even saw it coming. Let’s try and get out ahead of that for next season.
All the players listed below are either restricted or unrestricted free agents as of July 1st, 2019. This week we look at the older crew, and next week we will dive into those going into the last year of their entry-level contracts (ELCs).
Erik Karlsson & Matt Duchene – Ottawa Senators
Current Cap Hit: $6,500,000 & $6,000,000
While Erik Karlsson is likely to be traded, we know he is looking for a long-term extension with a new team, along the same lines as the recent Drew Doughty extension (eight years at an AAV of $11+ million). Also factoring in is that the contract year should have no effect on Karlsson. He is going to be god-like no matter where he plays, and will always be worth the cap-hit.
Matt Duchene is a whole different story. Duchene is also unlikely to be with Ottawa long term, as the reason he was traded out of Colorado was his desire to not play on a rebuilding team. The star winger has also had his share of ups and downs over the last few years, and this upcoming season will certainly dictate what kind of contract he is owed. Don’t expect an extension soon, but do expect him to play well this season, earning himself a shiny new contract on the free-agent market next July.
Tyler Seguin – Dallas Stars
Current Cap Hit: $5,750,000
When Jaime Benn signed a long-term extension with Dallas in 2016 (a year before he was to become a free-agent), it was expected Tyler Seguin would follow when he became eligible. There have been no big events to change that line of thinking, so seeing Seguin sign an extension similar to Benn’s before the end of July should catch no one off-guard. Benn’s contract is worth $9.5 million per season, through to the summer of 2025. A similar contract from Seguin would make a lot of sense, as the pair seem to do a lot of things well together, both on and off the ice.
Joe Pavelski – San Jose Sharks
Current Cap Hit: $6,000,000
Joe Pavelski is the elder statesman of what could conceivably be called the core in San Jose, and the rest of them have all recently signed extensions. At 33 years of age, Pavelski won’t be getting a long-term extension like his teammates, but a four or five-year contract could certainly be in the works at a similar cap-hit to what he is making now. Pavelski may start to drop off fantasy-wise, but with how many ways he finds to score goals, he should be able to keep up a nice floor over the next handful of years.
Nikita Kucherov & Yanni Gourde – Tampa Bay Lightning
Current Cap Hit: $4,766,667 & $1,000,000
Kucherov’s new Cap Hit: $9,500,000
Here’s what I had written by Monday of this week, before Kucherov’s extension was announced:
Kucherov has to be the best bargain in fantasy cap league circles right now (ELCs excluded). Yanni Gourde however, could give him some competition. Gourde was actually ahead of Kucherov in cost-per-point, and provided better peripheral numbers in plus-minus, penalty minutes, hits, blocks, faceoff wins, and short-handed points.
No one is denying that Kucherov is the better player, but they both have significant value in cap-leagues right now. With new contracts due to both, what can fantasy owners expect for either? Well Tampa GM Steve Yzerman already had Steven Stamkos test the free-agency waters on him, so don’t expect him to let the same thing happen with a similar star in Kucherov. Kucherov will likely be looking at Stamkos and Connor McDavid as the best comparables. Expect a long-term deal worth something in the range of $10 million per season. He has earned it.
Now with the $9.5 million AAV known, we can marvel again at how Steve Yzerman may be an even better general manager than he was a player (which is saying a lot). Really, he is aided by the taxes in Tampa, as well as a good team culture that has allowed him to grow talent, while keeping the important players locked in on long-term deals. What matters most in the here-and-now though, is that Kucherov will remain one of the more valuable players in cap-leagues, flirting with 100 points for many seasons to come.
As for Gourde, he is a little bit more of a wildcard, and likely won’t be signed to an extension before the season starts. The diminutive winger will be eager to prove that last season was not an anomaly. Expect his high shooting percentage and other statistical corrections to drag him down a little, however reaching the 60-point plateau again is certainly not out of question in a contract year. Use the Alex Killorn contract as a comparable for what Tampa does with depth scorers like Gourde who are reliable up and down the ice.
Andres Lee – New York Islanders
Current Cap Hit: $3,750,000
With John Tavares having left town, expect much of the focus to shift to Anders Lee, and his contract status with the team. A UFA at the end of the 2018-2019 season, new General Manager Lou Lamorello will not want to lose another top forward. The Islanders also have more salary cap space than they know what to do with at the moment, so an extension shouldn’t be too far off.
Over the past two seasons, Lee is tied for fifth in total goal production, with the other five names being a who’s who of the top scorers in the league:
Alex Ovechkin – 82
Patrick Laine – 80
Nikita Kucherov – 79
Evgeni Malkin – 75
Auston Matthews – 74
Anders Lee – 74
Now, Lee won’t get paid as much as the rest of these players, however he does have some high negotiating power. If James van Reimsdyk can get $7 million per season, then if I’m Lee, I’m asking for at least that as well.
Andre Burakovsky – Washington Capitals
Current Cap Hit: $3,000,000
Burakovsky is fresh off of a disappointing season, both regular and playoffs (though it can’t be that disappointing if you win the Stanley Cup, so it’s all relative). He has one more year left in his $3 million AAV bridge deal after which he was likely expecting to be in a position to be signing a lucrative long-term extension. The Washington Capitals would like nothing more than to have him break out and be part of the next Russian wave after Ovechkin and Evgeny Kuznetsov. Both sides are likely going to wait this one out until closer to the end of next season, with this season heavily correlating to his next AAV. Bank on the young winger being at least one player on the Capitals that does not suffer from the Stanley Cup hangover.
Ryan Ellis – Nashville Predators
Current Cap Hit: $2,500,000
While Nikita Kucherov is labeled as the best cap-league forward bargain in fantasy hockey right now, Ryan Ellis has a good case for the defenceman label. Though Ellis has never cracked the 40-point plateau, the past two seasons he was on pace to do so if he hadn’t missed any games. Last season, after missing the first half recovering from surgery, Ellis spent the second half of the season scoring at a 60-point pace. If he is healthy again this season, there’s no reason he shouldn’t push for 50+ points.
The Predators know this, and after dealing with their remaining three RFAs this summer, Ellis will be their top priority. GM David Poile has generally liked to get his top players under contract long-term, and doesn’t wait around until the last minute. An extension of six-plus years being announced before the seasons starts would be very typical of the Predators. As for the cost, Poile has a good history of keeping the AAV down, but where does the bar even start here?
As a comparable, Ryan McDonagh recently signed a seven-year deal worth $6.75 million per season. Last summer, Vlasic signed an extension worth $7 million per season over eight years. Ryan Ellis likely fits into that salary range, so a $7 million contract would make sense (The prediction model also lists his expected AAV at a shade over $7 million). However, taking into account the Nashville factor (contender, low tax rate, team that drafted him, etc) we could see a contract matching the value of teammate Filip Forsberg (AAV of $6 million per season), which would keep everyone involved very happy.
Recent Capped articles:
Reviewing the Free Agent Frenzy
Looking Ahead to Free Agent Frenzy
That caps off another Thursday.
If you want to talk hockey, salary caps, or anything even remotely related, you can find me on twitter any day of the week @alexdmaclean