One Fat Cat

by Chris Pudsey on January 28, 2016

What is the cap league impact of Barkov's new contract extension?

Earlier this week, it was announced that Aleksander Barkov, the second overall pick from the 2013 NHL draft, had signed a new six-year contract extension worth a total of $35.4M, a team cap hit of $5.9M over the term. For the Panthers, this was a way to show their fans that they are ready to lock up their cornerstone pieces long-term instead of going the bridge-deal route and worrying about a squabble down the road, earlier than needed. I had read rumors that the Panthers actually wanted to go the maximum and sign him to an eight-year deal but Barkov’s camp only wanted to go six years. That means he will be eligible for UFA status when he’s turning 27-years-old; assuming he doesn’t re-sign again before this new deal expires. This new deal will in fact buy up two years of his UFA eligibility.

 

For the Panthers, it’s not about paying Barkov for what he has done over his three years with the team; it’s more about what he’s working towards. He has shown a steady improvement each and every season he’s been in the NHL. In his first NHL season, he scored eight goals, last season he improved to 16 goals and this year, he’s already at 13 goals in just 39 games. If this was about paying him for what he’s done then this deal is a dud but everyone knows why they signed him for the money they did, and for the term they did. More than likely, it’s an overpayment in the first year or two of the contract, but by year three, assuming he continues his upward trend, this new deal will eventually turn into a bargain for the Panthers.

 

With this new deal, Barkov will become the highest paid Panther next season, passing the abysmal contract handed out to David Bolland a couple seasons ago. He also becomes only the second player from the 2013 draft to sign his second contract, coming off his ELC. Elias Lindholm from the Carolina Hurricanes, the former fifth overall pick from that draft, signed a bridge contract back in August; two-years, $5.4M total ($2.7M cap hit). 

 

Just for fun, let’s take a look at how Barkov has fared offensively so far in his career compared to the other top picks from the 2013 NHL draft. I will limit it to the top 10 picks from that year. In order of their respective draft positions:

 

Name

Age

Team

GP

G

A

Pts

PPP

SOG

Nathan MacKinnon

20

COL

197

55

86

141

39

605

Aleksander Barkov

20

FLA

164

37

54

91

21

305

Jonathan Drouin

20

TB

89

6

34

40

8

95

Seth Jones

21

CBJ

209

15

54

69

26

315

Elias Lindholm

21

CAR

190

33

50

83

28

350

Sean Monahan

21

CAL

203

67

58

125

32

442

Darnell Nurse

20

EDM

43

2

6

8

1

76

Rasmus Ristolainen

21

BUF

162

18

37

55

23

291

Bo Horvat

20

VAN

118

22

25

47

8

176

Valeri Nichushkin

20

DAL

134

20

32

52

4

211

 

 

 

Obviously looking at this list, not everyone has started in the NHL the year they were drafted.  Horvat, Nurse and Drouin were sent back to their Junior clubs for another year of seasoning while Lindholm and Ristolainen, since they were drafted out of Europe, were able to spend some of their initial rookie season in 2013 between the NHL and the AHL.

 

Barkov has played with the Panthers since day one of being drafted but has missed some time due to injuries. His rookie year was limited due to a shoulder injury before even being drafted and also missed some games after his shoulder issue was cleared. He also missed time after suffering a knee injury at the 2014 Olympics during a preliminary-round game while playing for his home country, Finland. This season, he missed time after blocking a shot with his hand. For most Panthers fans, I think that is their biggest concern early on with Barkov; his ability to avoid the injuries. He’s no good to the team if he’s not on the ice.

 

While Barkov is the first from this group to sign a long term deal, it’s unlikely he will be the last.  One has to wonder how Barkov’s deal will affect the negotiations for a couple others players from this top ten who are also due for restricted free agency at the end of this season; namely Nathan MacKinnon and Sean Monahan. Like Barkov, both have been key factors on their respective teams since they NHL careers have started just a few short years ago but are producing at a better rate than Barkov when we look at their points-per-game ratios. Barkov is currently on a 0.55 ppg pace, while Monahan is putting up 0.62 ppg and MacKinnon leads this entire group with a 0.72 ppg pace respectively.

 

Nichushkin is also expecting to deal with contract negotiations at the end of this year. His role is still fluid with Dallas Stars. Like Barkov, he’s had to deal with injury issues that have slowed his progress, but unlike Barkov, Nichushkin has yet to really start to find his stride after returning from those injuries.

 

The interesting one from that list that I can’t wait to see how is handled is Seth Jones. Since going to Columbus in the Ryan Johansen deal, Jones has been playing a lot more minutes than he was in Nashville, nearly five more minutes each game, and his offense is up slightly as well. We all remember how well the negotiations went between the Blue Jackets and Ryan Johansen as a restricted free agent so it will be interesting to see how this plays out. You have to think that current Blue Jackets GM, Jarmo Kekalainen, feels he has just acquired his pillar on the backend for years so we will see if he is ready to reward him that way, or try and play small ball with Jones and look for the short-term, bridge type deal they ended up signing Johansen for.

 

In the end, this is a deal for the Panthers that just makes sense. They could have gone the bridge type of contract like they did with teammate Jonathan Huberdeau but they wanted to lock up a piece they felt was worth the chance. Florida is still trying to bring in the crowd and locking up a key-piece like Barkov is a step in the right direction.

 

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Thanks for taking the time to read.  Before I forget, I wanted to say thanks to Scott Maran, who took over for me for the past three weeks while I was away for work.  Great job Scott and thanks again.

 

You can follow me on Twitter here @chrispudsey where I tend to tweet and retweet almost everything and anything hockey, and then some.