Updated: Feb 16, 2019
Taking a look at some of the best contracts around the league
*All current stats relative from February 14, 2019
With Auston Matthews just inking a new 5-year extension at $11,634,000 per year with the Toronto Maple Leafs, it has many people wondering whether or not the deal was too much considering the term. Times are changing, and Matthews’ new deal may see a lot of the leagues young restricted free agents take a similar route. To agree to a shorter-term deal in the 4-6-year range while allowing them to sign their third contract that would see them become an unrestricted free agent in their “prime,” allowing them to make maximum money. This was not the case just a few years ago where most stars would take a 7 or 8-year deal to be safe, ensuring that they were locked up and paid for as long possible. Some player may have even broke out early on in those long-term deals making them stars after the fact. With a combination of that and the yearly increase of cap space, there are some contracts around the league that are absolute steals. Here are some of those players.
Contract Details: Signed an 8-year deal in 2016 for $6,125,000 AAV
Coming off a career year with 61 points in 71 games in his final season of his entry level contract, the Winnipeg Jets decided to lock up their young centre (centres tend to make more money simply off the importance of their position) to the maximum years allowed. This is one of those deals that at the time made sense, a young centre who averaged 0.86 points per game certainly looked as if he would be the team’s number one centre for the future. The 7th overall pick in 2011 would soon become a rising star during his first season into his new deal. Averaging over a point per game with 82 points in 71 games, Scheifele is making out to be an all-star player for a bargain price. Although he had some injury trouble last season, he was still able to muster up exactly a point per game season. This year he has already surpassed his last season total as he currently has 68 points in just 57 games played.
Contract Comparable: Taylor Hall at $6,000,000 and Jordan Staal at $6,000,000
Contract Details: Signed a 6-year deal in 2016 for $5,000,000 AAV
This one is a little more unusual than the rest. Despite being a 5th overall pick by the Toronto Maple Leafs in 2012, not many would have thought that Rielly would be a 50-point defencemen. The other issue that makes this one a little difficult to gauge is if his outstanding offensive abilities will be consistent from here on out. In his first 4 years with the club, Rielly only once surpassed 30 points (36 in 2015-16), the other three years were below that mark ranging in the high 20’s. Although, the Leafs were in a dark place during those years, but they took a chance on Rielly offering him $5 million for the next 6 years. That gamble is really starting to pay off. Last season he set a new career high with 52 points in 76 games, not too shabby. However, this year puts those numbers to shame. He currently sits with 55 points, already topping his career high with 26 games remaining. He is now on pace for a point per game season and entering the Norris conversation. Even if this year is a one-off offensively, if he can produce 50+ points for the rest of his contract years, this may be one on the best contracts in the league.
Contract Comparable: Seth Jones at $5,400,000 and Andy Greene or Andrew MacDonald at $5,000,000
Contract Details: Signed a 3-year deal in 2017 for $3,500,00 AAV
In some ways, Vasilevskiy is similar to Rielly since the Tampa Bay Lightning decided to take a chance on their young goaltender. In the 2016-17 season, Tampa had a tough decision to make at the trade deadline. They were battling for the last wild card spot with Ben Bishop as their starting goalie, who was set to become an unrestricted free agent at the end of the year. GM Steve Yzerman decided to trade Bishop to the Los Angeles Kings, and although the return was not all that great, it was better than losing him for nothing in the offseason because they knew they would not be able to afford him. Instead, they decided to run with their young goaltender who that same season started 47 games owning a solid 2.61 GAA and .917 SV%. Due to his increased workload and respectable numbers, he was awarded a new 3-year deal along with the starting role. Last season, his first year in his new deal, he posted similar numbers with a 2.62 GAA and .920 SV%, the only difference is he started 17 more games. This year, the Lightning are top of the league by a mile and Vasilevskiy is continuing to prove his dominance on an extremely team friendly deal. Luckily for Tampa, once his deal is up, he is still under team control as a restricted free agent, but the soon to be 25-year old goalie posting Vezina nomination numbers this season (2.45 GAA and a .925 SV% in 34 games started) will most likely get a nice raise when his current contract is up in 2020.
Contract Comparable: Matt Murray at $3,750,000 and James Riemer at $3,400,000
Contract Details: Signed a 6-year deal in 2017 for $6,666,666 AAV
Arguably one of the best contracts in the league, it is pretty easy to see why that is. In 2016-17, his contract year, Pastrnak exploded going from a 26-point season in 2015-16 to a 70-point season just a year later. Boston never had to think twice about getting this deal done and it is already becoming one of the biggest steals in the league. Used by many general managers as reference point (such as Kyle Dubas when trying to lock up William Nylander this offseason), Pastrnak came just 2 points shy of a point per game season in 2017-18 but gave Leafs fans nightmares during the first round of the playoffs that same year. This year, he currently sits in 10th in the league in scoring with 66 points in just 56 games played (he really likes the number 6). Poised to crack a point-per-game this season at just 23-years old, Pastrnak will surely only get better, which is a scary thought. Luckily for the Bruins, they don’t have to worry about paying him for another 4 years after this season. Although losing him for 2 weeks after having thumb surgery is a huge blow, the Bruins will hope to have him back sooner rather than later.
Contract Comparable: William Nylander at $6,962,366 and Ilya Kovalchuk at $6,250,000
Contract Details: Signed a 6-year deal in 2016 for $6,750,000 AAV
After holding out for all of training camp and preseason, Johnny Hockey signed a new 6-year deal just two days prior to the start of the season. Despite asking for $8 million in negotiations, Gaudreau and the Flames decided to compromise, and it is assumed they met somewhere in the middle. Instead of trying to explain how each season panned out for Johnny, just take a look for yourself.
Honestly, I think this one is pretty self-explanatory. 4th in league scoring, 25-years old and 3 years left on his contract after this season. I think Calgary is happy with how things played out.
Contract Comparable: Alexander Radulov at $6,250,000 and Ryan Kesler at $6,875,000
Contract Details: Signed a 7-year deal in 2016 for $6,300,000 AAV
Last on our list is the 23-year old Colorado Avalanche centreman Nathan MacKinnon. The former first overall pick in 2013 never had much trouble finding his footing in the big leagues. After having a sensational rookie year with 63 points in 82 games, he had a bit of a step back the following year. Although, he was able to bounce back with back to back 50+ point seasons. Last year, MacKinnon finished 5th in scoring with 97 points in 74 games played, a tremendous season for the young centreman in just his 5th season in the National Hockey League. Currently sitting 6th in league scoring this year with 74 points in just 56 games played, one point back from teammate Mikko Rantanen, MacKinnon is on pace to surpass his career high. He is currently on pace to finish with well over 100 points for the first time in his career, and it most likely won’t be the last time either. As mentioned earlier, centres are usually paid slightly more than wingers due to the challenges associated with their position. Despite the Avalanche having one of the worst records over the their last 20 games, MacKinnon is still producing at an outstanding pace while matching up against opposing teams’ top lines. So, to have Mackinnon, who is a 23-year old centreman still entering his prime, locked up for 4 more years after this season at just over $6 million is a bargain. It can be argued that this is the best deal in the NHL right now.
Contract Comparable: Sean Monahan at $6,375,000 and Derek Stepan at $6,500,000
Honourable Mentions: Brad Marchand at $6,125,000, Robin Lehner at $1,500,000 and Aleksander Barkov at $5,900,000 and Nikita Kucherov... even on his new deal that has yet to kick in at $9,500,000
Stats from NHL.com
Contract Research from CapFriendly.com