Capped: Assessing post-deadline contract extensions
Along with a very entertaining trade deadline day came a handful of contract extensions. Some were players re-upping with their current teams, while others were players signing with a new team mere minutes after being traded there. These players are setting the market for July 1st, and give us a little extra time to plan for next season's cap management in our salary cap leagues.
Jake Muzzin (D) – Toronto Maple Leafs
Expiring Cap Hit: $4,000,000
New Cap Hit: $5,625,000
Projected Cap Hit: $4,862,690
The Leafs re-signed Muzzin to a four-year extension, at 1.4 times his previous cap hit. All told, it is a reasonable deal for the 31-year-old, but based on the reaction from Leafs fans, you would think he was turning 35 at the beginning of this contract, not the end. As a player who seems set in the production range of 35 points, 150 shots, 170 hits, and 130 blocks, he will have similar value to player such as Jeff Petry and Jared Spurgeon over the last few years, but without the powerplay production. The lack of PPPs is concerning for fantasy owners, and even though Tyson Barrie is leaving in the offseason, between Morgan Rielly and Rasmus Sandin, both power-play units are accounted for. Under Sheldon Keefe, the Leafs have almost solely been running out four forward units, which means that only an injury or two could bring Muzzin's powerplay totals back to life. We know what we are getting in Muzzin, and whether he is worth his contract next year will be up to your league settings.
Jean-Gabriel Pageau (C) – New York Islanders
Expiring Cap Hit: $3,100,000
New Cap Hit: $5,000,000
Projected Cap Hit: $3,797,766
After a torrid start to the year, Pageau has put up rather pedestrian numbers of late. His even strength points in each quarter have decreased from 14, to 10, and in the third quarter only six. It seems unlikely that he will be featured in a prominent role on the top powerplay in New York, so maybe a sub-10-point pace is what to realistically expect from Pageau across the final quarter of the season (also much more in line with his career averages). Pageau's expected contract range of $3.8 million puts him in the same category as Connor Sheary, Wayne Simmonds, and Alex Galchenyuk – not exactly the who's who of top fantasy performers. Despite a strong first game, buyer beware on the rest of the season for Pageau when the new team adrenaline wears off, but especially so next season once that new cap hit kicks in.
Chris Kreider (LW) – New York Rangers
Expiring Cap Hit: $4,625,000
New Cap Hit: $6,500,000
Projected Cap Hit: $6,071,849
All of the comments surrounding Chris Kreider's contract extension focused on the fact that by the end of the contract, the cap hit will likely be a burden to the Rangers, and that this shows the team is beginning to have thoughts of turning the ship towards the playoffs. This means that in the short term we may also see Kreider surrounded with a little more talent, and that his plus-minus may improve as well. As mentioned with Muzzin above, we know generally what to expect from Kreider at this point. For those of you in cap leagues where you have the flexibility to drop Kreider without penalty closer to the end of his contract, and can make use of the multi-category prowess, this contract represents one worth hanging on to. On the flip side, in points-only leagues, and/or those that have buyout penalties to drop unwanted contracts, you will want to think twice about keeping Kreider past this offseason.
Nick Holden (D) – Vegas Golden Knights
Expiring Cap Hit: $2,200,000
New Cap Hit: $1,700,000
Projected Cap Hit: $1,632,071
Nick Holden's contract won't affect many fantasy leagues, but in the deeper dynasty leagues where he is relevant, his value went up from this past season due to the cut in his salary. He can provide a useful level of hits and blocks (averaging a combined total of 3.35 per game), plus almost two shots per game. Even in my shallower leagues where shots, hits and blocks are counted, my bar for defencemen is that they must have at least a per-game average of five shots, hits, and blocks combined. Holden actually hits this bar, and as such, he becomes a guy that I would be very happy with as my fifth defenceman or so in leagues with those categories (assuming more depth to the league than your average 12 teamer).
Rocco Grimaldi (RW) – Nashville Predators
Expiring Cap Hit: $1,000,000
New Cap Hit: $2,000,000
Projected Cap Hit: $3,340,984
Rocco Grimaldi's projected cap hit shows that the numbers appreciate him more than it seems that NHL executives and fantasy owners do. His 30 points in 59 games is respectable on its own, but the fact he has done it with only 12 minutes of ice time per game is impressive. His points per/60 is on par with players like Elias Lindholm, Tyler Seguin, Claude Giroux, and Bo Horvat, among others. However, what those players have that Grimaldi doesn't is power-play time. All of Grimaldi's production has been at even strength, and his points per 60 minutes of even strength time put him in the same range as names like Leon Draisaitl, Sidney Crosby, Jack Eichel, and Elias Pettersson. Quite the company for someone only being paid $2 million this season and next, and who will likely see an uptick in ice time with the impending departure of UFA wingers Craig Smith and Mikael Granlund.
As a last point, it bears mentioning that the Maple Leafs took advantage of actually having cap space at this point in the year. They put $1.4 million of Robin Lehner's salary on their books for the cost of a fifth-round pick. Since Lehner's contract expires this summer, and the Leafs can't put their cap space to other use until then, they're basically buying a fifth-round pick, which they can do because the owners have such deep pockets. A strategy to think about in cap leagues where we don't have to worry about actually paying the players.
If you have questions, comments, or article requests, you can find me on Twitter @alexdmaclean.
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