This week's Capped discusses the fallout of the new Brock Boeser and Clayton Keller contracts.
Let’s start this off by saying that if you have not heard of Vancouver’s Brock Boeser or Arizona’s Clayton Keller then you may want to call your real estate agent so you can move out from that rock you’re living under. As of last week, these were two of the top prospects on the planet that had yet to play a game in the NHL. Now they have both signed their first NHL contracts, and played in their first games.
In a salary cap league, success is based upon having this type of entry-level contract on your team to supplement the stars. Boeser’s deal is for the maximum $925,000 per year, while Keller’s weighs in at $916,667 per year (both over three seasons). The most interesting part of their new contracts however, is not how much they are getting paid, but the fact that by playing in one game this season, they are both burning one year off of their entry-level contract. This means that both of them will be up for new deals come July 1st, 2019.
The Intricacies of the Signing
So what does it mean that Boeser and Keller both lose a year off their rookie deals? Well there are a few impacts, some positive and some negative for both parties. Looking at the players first, the incentive to sign a contract is pretty simple. Boeser and Keller get into game action right away, and burn a year off of their entry-level deals. This means they start getting paid an NHL salary right away, as well as being a year closer to their next contracts. Their next contracts will certainly be more lucrative than their current entry ones as well.
On the other hand, the owners and general managers are always trying to spend less money; where they stand to benefit is a little more complicated. By signing after the end of their college seasons, then playing right away in the NHL, Boeser and Keller push back their arbitration rights for a year. This means that they have a lot less leverage when signing their first NHL contracts, and the team can re-sign them to a more cap-friendly contract down the line. With Vancouver and Arizona both being teams in transition, the money right now is not as big a deal. Down the line when they can have their second, and maybe even third contracts come out to slightly less, the respective teams will reap the rewards. The team would be rewarded both by having to pay less, and by having the extra salary cap space to allocate elsewhere, allowing them to put together a more competitive team.
Getting into game action right away can be big for these players going into next season. There are so many positives they can draw from it. First and foremost, they will have experienced the NHL, and next season will be able to focus right away on becoming impact players. The transition period is now, so getting comfortable with a coach, with teammates, and with the daily schedule of a professional hockey player is not something they will have to adapt to. Going into training camp in the fall, Boeser and Keller won’t have to worry about simply making the team. At this point, they can worry about playing their best hockey, and building off of their development thus far.
Boeser has now played three games for the Vancouver Canucks. Alongside fellow youngsters Bo Horvat and Sven Baertschi, he has looked like he belongs. With two goals on nine shots thus far, we are getting a glimpse of what kind of player the Canucks have on their hands. Getting 20+ goals and 200 shots out of Boeser next season is definitely not out of the question, and it may even be the floor. Assists and plus-minus will likely be lagging behind a little due to the fact that he’s playing on a Canucks team which lacks some offensive punch.
Really the top two lines in Vancouver right now are Boeser’s current line with Horvat and Baertschi, while the other line is composed of Daniel Sedin, Henrik Sedin and whomever cycles through their right wing slot on a given night. Overall it is a very thin forward group, and there is lots of room for Boeser to stick in the top six starting now and continuing into next season. Even with some cold streaks next season (as is expected with rookies) there isn’t really a large selection of other wingers to push him down the depth chart.
Keller, on the other hand, has only played one game at the time of writing (though he did play again last night for those reading this Thursday). Keller received just over 14 minutes of ice time in the game, with almost two minutes on the power play. He managed to be held completely off the score-sheet though, with not even a shot, a hit or a block. Arizona head-coach Dave Tippett did say that Keller’s game was “solid”. We should really give him a few games to get acclimatized before jumping to any conclusions here.
In Arizona there is a great collection of young players, so Keller will have some competition for playing time come next season, especially with Dylan Strome likely making the jump to the pros. Though with a few players offloaded at the deadline, as well as Doan and Vrbata likely leaving in the offseason, there is a lot of opportunity open for the taking. Keller may even have a step up on Strome heading into camp next fall, having gotten into games more recently, as well as having dominated the level below this past season. In the end, the opportunity is there, and if Keller seizes it, he can run far with it.
The Bottom Line
Down the line, both players project to be top line players for their respective teams, and should be treated as such in fantasy leagues right now. The added bonus of their lower salaries over the first few years of their careers will mean that right when they are coming into their own 3-4 years from now, they will be at the biggest bargain point of their careers. It is exciting to have young players like this coming into the league, especially ones that have dominated every level along the way like Boeser and Keller have. This may be the last chance to get them on your team at a bit of a discounted rate, so take a swing at them while you still can.
You can find me on twitter @alexdmaclean
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