The Colorado Avalanche rolled their dice and locked up whirling defenseman Samuel Girard for an additional seven-years. It was a good move that will only get better with time. Why, you ask?
The New Contract
It’s a solid contract for both player and team. The deal goes for seven years with a total of $35 million, breaking down to a straight annual average value (AAV) of $5 million. It will kick in after this upcoming season, taking effect as the final year of his entry-level contract (ELC) expires. The new deal will secure Girard’s services at a reasonable price through the 2026-27 season
The Avalanche lock up a key asset through his development and into his prime. Girard gets a guaranteed payday which may be a little more than his current performance merits but will keep him cost-controlled through his anticipated development to elite status.
- There are no signing bonuses.
- It’s a fixed cost for the contract’s duration.
- The contract secures Girard’s services until he’s 29.
- It covers three of Girard’s unrestricted free agent (UFA) years.
- There’s a nine-team no-trade list for the final 3 years (during his UFA tenure).
More than 50 other NHL defensemen make more this season than Girard will in 2020-21. Other young defenders are already making similar money to the amount Girard will after the final year of his entry-level contract.
|Jaccob Slavin||25||Carolina Hurricanes||$5.3 M||2024-25|
|Hampus Lindholm||25||Anaheim Ducks||$5.205 M||2021-22|
|Shea Theodore||23||Vegas Golden Knights||$5.2 M||2024-25|
|Noah Hanifin||22||Calgary Flames||$4.95 M||2023-24|
|Michael Matheson||25||Florida Panthers||$4.875 M||2025-26|
|Jakob Chychrun||21||Arizona Coyotes||$4.6 M||2024-25|
The salary cap will only go up, making the future cost of the deal even more equitable. The upcoming Seattle expansion and the anticipated television renewal should help raise substantially raise the cap in the next few years.
The “little tornado” (after his slick spin move) has proven to be a solid defenseman and an excellent puck mover, especially for someone who just turned 21.
Girard Whirled His Way to Respect
Girard racked up some solid statistics during the 2018-19 regular season.
- Played in all 82 regular-season games.
- Earned 27 points (4 goals, 23 assists).
- Earned a plus-eight.
- Averaged 19:54 per game in ice time.
- First in dump-out rate/game among defensemen.
- Fifthh in zone exits/game among defensemen.
- 27th in zone entries per game among defensemen
Girard played in all of the 2018-19 regular-season games as well as all 68 regular-season games after being acquired by the Avalanche in the Matt Duchene trade in 2017-18.
While small (he stands at 5-foot-10), Girard’s 150 consecutive regular-season games for the Avalanche is the longest streak of any active Avalanche member. Girard’s consistency proves that smaller defensemen aren’t necessarily more prone to injury. His 27 points last season made him the second-highest scoring defenseman on the team.
He competed in nine of the team’s 12 playoff games (he returned for the San Jose Sharks series after suffering a shoulder injury in the Avalanche’s matchup against the Calgary Flames). He’s already contended in 12 playoff games over the last two seasons.
Girard earned only three minor penalties over the course of the entire season despite averaging 19:53 in ice time. Only one other NHL player skated in every regular season contest and had so few penalties. However, that player averaged a mere 14:09 minutes per game on the ice and played center.
Girard plays the fast and skilled defensive role the NHL is moving towards.
The Tyson Barrie Comparisons
Remember great scoring defenseman Tyson Barrie? Yes, he was traded to the Toronto Maple Leafs this summer. However, three years ago when he was 25-years-old, Barrie signed a four-year deal after going through arbitration for $5.5 million per year. It was contentious. The hearing was ugly. The two sides signed a contract just as the arbiter’s ruling was going to be released.
A week after being traded to the Maple Leafs this summer, news leaked out that Barrie was seeking at least an $8 million per year contract at the end of next season.
The Avalanche knew Barrie would be looking for a substantial raise. The team learned a few things about securing promising young talent early in their careers since that pesky arbitration. It’s a significant help when trying to acquire talent and manage the salary cap.
Girard doesn’t score like Tyson Barrie. Don’t expect it. But he does a fantastic job feeding the puck to the forwards, spinning away from opponents, and managing the puck.
As one can see in the table below, Girard’s development ranks him above or near Barrie in a number of key areas.
Girard eclipsed Barrie in puck possession on both zone entries and exits last season. Meanwhile, Girard was not as effective as Barrie when it came to shots and breaking up opponents’ entries. Barrie beats Girard in scoring, including his impressive power-play points, ranking seventh among all defensemen.
Girard spent substantially less time on the power play, averaging only 2:02 minutes per game compared to Barrie’s 4:03. Girard earned nine assists while on the power play compared to Barrie’s 25 points (2 goals, 23 assists). Of course, Barrie was also on the ice with Nathan MacKinnon (fourth in NHL power-play points), Mikko Rantanen (10th in NHL power-play points) and Gabriel Landeskog (22nd in power-play points), all on the top power-play unit, which may have helped Barrie’s numbers.
Keep in mind, Barrie only played 10 NHL games by his 21st birthday. Girard’s already played in 155 games. Barrie started as a forward, Girard as a defenseman. They took different paths to the NHL. But Girard is poised to take over the first pairing defenseman role.
The Avalanche Struck Gold
The Avalanche found a quality player in the “little tornado” and they were smart enough to lock him up long term for a reasonable price.
Colorado took a risk when they signed MacKinnon to his seven-year, $6.3 million per year deal. For those who have forgotten, that was before his breakout season in 2017-18. Now, the team showed a willingness to invest in future potential, again.
The new Girard contract brings a two-fold return for the Avalanche. Yes, they secure the young defenseman’s services through 2026-27 at an affordable price. But they also signal to their younger players that effort will be rewarded, regardless of age.
The Avalanche are serious about icing a competitive team for years to come. Locking up Girard is just one piece of a complex salary cap puzzle. Yet, the Avalanche proved to be proactive by paying a little extra at the front of the contract for an expected upgrade in the near future. It’s a good message to send to a young team.
It’s a dangerous message to send to their competitors. Look out, NHL. The Avalanche aim to be dangerous for years to come.
J.D. has followed the Colorado Avalanche since the days of Joe Sakic and Peter Forsberg. Blessed to cover the team for nearly 5 seasons, 3 of those at other venues, J.D. enjoys working with the Hockey Writers. Proud parent of three humans and two dogs, you can follow all the escapades @JDKpirate.