PHOTO CREDIT: CANDICE WARD-USA TODAY SPORTS
In his end of the year press conference, Oilers general manager Peter Chiarelli talked aboutthe offseason signings he has to make in response to a question from the Edmonton Sun’s Terry Jones.
Terry Jones: “Last year you made the Taylor Hall-Larsson trade, are you going forward with an idea of wanting to pull off something resembling that again and where are you at in terms of prioritizing, for example, the signing of Draisaitl and McDavid and the salary cap?”
Peter Chiarelli: “I can’t tell you, Jonesy, if we’re going to do a deal like that again. That was a tough one and I maybe want to take a break for a summer on that one. I say that because I don’t want to delve too much into moving the team’s roster around just because we’ve had some success and you’d like to see it evolve a little bit. Again, order of events is, and we can’t officially sign Connor till July 1st, but it’s going to be Connor then Leon and then we’ve got a cluster of other guys I’d like to have back but I got to get through those. Cap wise we’re ok next year. We could basically stay the same and it’s the following year when Mr. McDavid’s contract will kick in, so I have to be cognizant of that. But we’ve got a lot of different rosters we’ve looked at in the sense that at numbers for specific guys terms but caps expected to stay flat or raise a little bit, so we’re working off a 73, 74, 75 [cap] to see where it’s at. We certainly will have the resources to put another contending team in place.”
Chiarelli’s order of signings goes Connor McDavid first and foremost, then Leon Draisaitl, and then everyone else after that, rightfully so. McDavid is the Oilers’ most important player. Figuring out how much he’ll be paid long-term means Chiarelli knows how much cap room he has to build a championship-caliber team around his team’s generational talent.
In order to find out how much McDavid will be making, lets go back and look at players that compare to McDavid and their second contracts since the salary cap was implemented back in 2005-06.
McDavid scored 1.17 points-per-game through his first two seasons in the NHL, so we’ll narrow it to players who scored within 25% of McDavid to find a reasonable number for his second contract. We’ll also use points-per-game rather than raw totals since McDavid’s rookie year was cut short due to injury.
First thing first, McDavid doesn’t have a lot of comparables.
McDavid’s closest company is Evgeni Malkin in terms of centres. Although, McDavid’s first two seasons were played in a time where 10% less goals were scored than in Sidney Crosby’s first two years and 4% less than Malkin’s. Thanks to hockey-reference’s Adjusted points feature, which adjusts a player’s scoring in terms of schedule and goals scored, McDavid and Crosby’s rookie seasons adjust to be neck-and-neck, while Crosby’s second year remains the best out of the three.
Crosby’s second contract had the highest cap hit in terms of the percentage of the salary cap, with Ovechkin’s massive deal coming second. Ovechkin signed for a lower percentage a year later, but for much, much longer. Ovechkin’s contract gave him the highest cap hit in the league, surpassing Jaromir Jagr’s 9.24 miillion, and Crosby’s deal slotted him third overall.
Most signed a five-year second contract after their entry-level contract. This took them right to unrestricted free-agency and allowed them to sign a big-money, long-term deal around the age of 25.
Crosby’s third contract was 12 years. Kopitar’s was seven years. Washington opted to sign both Alex Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom to 13 and 10 year deals respectively coming out of their entry-level contracts.
There’s been a lot of talk of McDavid signing for the maximum eight years, but the difference between him and Crosby and Malkin is the lockout was on the horizon and the salary cap was rapidly rising. A lot of these players were able to sign a second contract then another deal that wouldn’t have been possible after the new Collective Bargaining Agreement limited contract lengths to eight years.
If the salary cap hovers around $74 million like Chiarelli is projecting, McDavid will likely hold the highest cap hit in the league, besting Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane’s 10.5 million. A cap hit around 15-17%, similar to other elite players, of the salary cap would be $11-12.5 million, and potentially more depending on the number of years Edmonton ultimately signs McDavid.
Even a max-salary and term deal would only be $14.8 million per year. Easily still worth having Connor McDavid on your team, but it makes things a little more difficult for Peter Chiarelli in terms of roster composition in the future. McDavid has a lot of elite company and could demand the moon, but I wouldn’t be surprised if he comes in well under the max salary as well.
The Oilers will sign Connor McDavid this summer. The only question is whether it’ll be a four or five-year bridge to unrestricted free agency, or a massive eight-year deal. McDavid’s contract will likely set a new bar in terms of the cap hit like Ovechkin and Crosby did years before, but it’d be difficult to overpay Connor McDavid. Peter Chiarelli will know how much his top centre will be making, and can then focus on signing Leon Draisaitl and the rest of his free agents.
Stats and contract information from hockey-reference.com and nhlnumbers.com