The Detroit Red Wings have few elite-level talents in their lineup. It’s the main reason why they clinched the league’s worst record in the first half of March. However, of those high-octane options, Anthony Mantha stands out as their most dangerous offensive winger.
Mantha has the ability to assert himself on the ice using his skill and his physicality. With a wicked wrist shot, he can score almost at will. When he’s not in the heads of defenders as a shooting option, he’s in their face, challenging them physically.
Mantha will be a priority for the rebuilding Red Wings this offseason because his contract is up and there’s bound to be some serious negotiations. As the team’s most lethal winger, he should demand a hefty raise from his $3.3 million salary. However, the Red Wings aren’t just going to give the 25-year-old a blank check and call it a day.
The problem with drawing up a new deal for Mantha is that the Red Wings don’t have a clear idea of what the player is due to his history of injuries. The 80 games he played during the 2017-18 season is his highest total. Every other season that he’s been a full-time Red Wing, Mantha has missed at least 15 games.
With that being said, one player from an Eastern Conference rival could provide a view of what to expect with Mantha’s next deal: Jake Guentzel of the Pittsburgh Penguins.
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Guentzel is roughly a month younger than Mantha and he is a key part of the Penguins’ offense. Through 243 regular-season games, the high-scoring winger has 200 points. Last season was the most successful of his four-year career, with 40 goals and 76 points.
The Crosby Effect
There are other factors to consider when comparing the two players. First, Guentzel plays for a team that won the Stanley Cup in his first season and is a perennial contender. He’s had the luxury of playing alongside Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, and Kris Letang. No disrespect to Dylan Larkin and Tyler Bertuzzi, but the Red Wings just don’t have that kind of talent.
After three seasons of proving he is a top-six winger on the Penguins, Guentzel signed a five-year extension with a $6 million cap hit. This extension sees him get paid well in the grand scheme of the Penguins’ salary structure. It also sees his deal expire right at the (likely) ends of Malkin and Crosby’s careers. From there, they can use him to begin a rebuild or they can retain him as a legacy player.
For Mantha, he has never obtained the kind of personal success that Guentzel has. However, despite the fact that Guentzel clearly has talent of his own, he’s had world-class players to help inflate his totals. While Guentzel has better raw totals (including a 40-goal season last year), Mantha has the bigger impact on his team.
According to Corsica Hockey, Mantha has a relative-Corsi (the impact a player has on his team’s overall Corsi%) of 18.78 – the highest on the Red Wings. Meanwhile, Guentzel’s relative-Corsi is an equally impressive, though not as strong, 12.31. Furthermore, Guentzel’s average time-on-ice (TOI) for his career is up at 18:01 – nearly a full minute longer than Mantha’s career TOI of 17:09. This shows that Mantha typically generates more with less, but Guentzel has the production to show for it.
Given their close ages and similar roles on their teams, Guentzel represents a fair comparable for Mantha’s next deal, with Mantha possibly making an argument that he deserves more.
Get it Done
The Red Wings are at a crossroads with their contract situation. They are going to receive a ton of cap relief this summer due to many expiring contracts, but they have some key players to lockdown, like Mantha.
Mantha and the Red Wings aren’t likely to sign a short-term deal. The negotiating should start at four years. However, given that Mantha has only played in 249 of a possible 317 games (79%) over the last four seasons, and his lack of premium production because of it, management is probably reluctant to go as high as seven or eight years. The sweet spot is four or five years to keep the cap hit lower and without restricting either party.
Dylan Larkin, the likely next captain of the Red Wings, has a $6.1 million cap hit until the end of the 2022-23 season. Exceeding that value would be a win for Mantha and his agent, but general manager Steve Yzerman will likely keep the value slightly lower than Larkin’s. Matching Guentzel’s five-year, $30 million deal seems the likely outcome here.
The Red Wings shouldn’t be afraid to throw some money at a player of Mantha’s caliber. However, the money has to make sense; the Red Wings and their rebuild will only be successful if they avoid the mistakes of their past. Signing Mantha to a Guentzel-esque deal would not be a mistake.