The Boston Bruins signed 21-year-old David Pastrnak to a six-year contract extension worth $40 million ($6.67 million AAV). This is big news for Maple Leafs fans as Pastrnak will be a close comparable when Mitch Marner and William Nylander eventually sign extensions.
Pastrnak was drafted 25th overall in 2014 and showed great promise in his first two NHL seasons before exploding for 34 goals and 70 points in 75 games for the Bruins in 2016-17. After a brief holdout leading up to training camp, he signed a very reasonable deal that ended a string of escalating salaries for young players.
Prior to the Pastrnak signing, the three big contract extensions handed out went to:
- Evgeny Kuznetsov leveraged the threat of leaving for the KHL to score an eight-year, $7.8 million AAV contract, despite a lackluster season in 2016-17.
- Ryan Johansen also secured an eight-year contract but for an even $8.0 million AAV.
- Leon Draisaitl, who at just 21 years 0ld signed an astounding eight-year $8.5 million AAV contract.
All of the above players are centres, which is a notable difference from Pastrnak, Marner and Nylander. Kuznetsov and Johansen are also both 25 years old and are now on their third NHL contracts. Still, the escalation of salaries handed out to each player was a concern for Leafs fans given the upcoming negotiations with Nylander, Marner and Auston Matthews in the next two years.
Full List of Comparable Forwards
The full list of forwards 25 years old and under that have been signed to long-term deals over $5.9 million AAV since 2015 is as follows:
Here are some key notes on the comparables:
- There has been no mention of Connor McDavid so far on purpose. Unless Nylander or Marner score 100 points and win the Hart Trophy next year, McDavid’s record breaking $12.5 million AAV contract is completely irrelevant.
- Leon Draisaitl is overpaid by as much as $1 million per year. It’s hard to justify paying him $2.15 million more than Sean Monahan for an extra 12 assists, particularly when his production is boosted significantly by playing with McDavid. For Draisaitl, one could have started with Johnny Gaudreau as a comparable since they have almost the exact same numbers, then added for a year of salary cap inflation, a longer term and the fact that he’s a centre which generously gets him to $7.5 million, but not $8.5 million.
- The combination of Pastrnak and Gaudreau sets up a nice ceiling for wingers. One would need to reach 35 goals and/or 80 points in order to reasonably request more than they make (adjusted for cap inflation).
- The previously signed contracts closer to six years at $6 million (Mark Scheifele, Filip Forsberg, Alex Barkov) look like bargains by comparison and it’s only been a year since they were signed.
Predicting Marner & Nylander’s Contracts
Two big unknowns that work into this prediction are how Marner and Nylander will produce in 2017-18 (and potentially 2018-19 for Marner) as well as how much the salary cap will increase. Assuming reasonable improvement levels (let’s say 25-30 goals and 70 points), I predict that both Marner and Nylander’s contracts will fall in the range of $6.5-$7.0 million AAV over eight years.
What About Auston Matthews?
Auston Matthews is a unique player. He’s not quite as good as Connor McDavid, but he’s far better than any of the other comparables listed above. None of them reached 40 goals before their big contract extensions and Matthews already managed that feat in his rookie season. Realistically, Matthews’ contract will land somewhere between Jack Eichel’s and Connor McDavid’s, so Maple Leafs fans should be very interested in the deal Eichel signs with the Buffalo Sabres next summer.