Is Slavin’s Contract Skjei’s Ceiling?

In signing top defender Jaccob Slavin to a long-term contract, the Carolina Hurricanes has brought more clarity to the big picture surrounding Brady Skjei’s next deal. While we’ve pontificated about what it might cost to sign Skjei before, Slavin’s contract provides another valuable barometer; one that Rangers’ GM Jeff Gorton will certainly leverage when working to extend Skjei.

While Skjei’s point production was phenomenal last year (1.68 points per 60 minutes (pp/60), 10th among all defensemen and second among rookies), he hasn’t quite reached top-pair status. That means, assumedly, that Gorton will leverage Slavin’s contract as a ceiling, rather than a benchmark. Part of Skjei’s production stems from his favorable oZS of 58.8% and lack of a heavy defensive burden. It’s hard to compare him to Slavin when he played nearly six fewer minutes per game and wasn’t featured on the penalty kill, where the ‘Cane saw more than 3:00 per night.

Those with similar salaries and ages to Slavin—namely Hampus Lindholm and Rasmus Ristolainen—are also their team’s top defender. In that sense, they also represent a ceiling for Skjei’s next contract. That’s not a knock on Skjei, especially since he’s stuck behind Ryan McDonagh on the depth chart, but it does push his value more towards Shayne Gostisbehere, even if he’s a more well-rounded player.

Shayne Gostisbehere by Sarah A

I Ain't Afraid of No Ghost Contract

Neither the term nor the $4.5M AAV should be terribly surprising for a National Hockey League management landscape that is largely adopting the progressive philosophy of awarding young, blossoming talents with long-term contracts in exchange for a team-friendly AAV. Ghost’s extension was announced a little over a month after the Toronto Maple Leafs signed 25-year old defenseman Nikita Zaitsev to a nearly identical contract ($4.5M x 7). As the ink dries, both men will be joining a class of burgeoning rookie blueliners who share much of the same physical traits on the ice, as well as one off it—the forward-looking agreement between front office and player to sidestep a bridge contract. That group is already home to the likes of Hampus Lindholm, Rasmus Ristolainen, Connor Murphy, Aaron Ekblad, Seth Jones, and Oscar Klefbom among others. Not only will Zaitsev and Ghost both join their rank, but so too, hopefully, will Brady Skjei. Perhaps as early as next season.

While there’s technically nothing stopping the Blueshirts from inking Skjei to an extension today (he was eligible to re-sign with the team as of January 1st, 2017), it’s likely they’ll hold off on pulling the trigger just yet as they’re under no real pressure to do so. They could even—though it would be foolish to do so—ride out the entirety of next season before opening negotiations. The risk to that, however, is if Skjei dramatically improves on his rookie campaign, Ghost’s contract will shift from comparable baseline to bare minimum requirement. This is also directly related to why they’d be just as unwise to offer him a bridge deal instead of buying what stand to be his most productive years sooner rather than later. A one- or two-year deal with a mid-range salary of say $2.5M (like they just re-signed Miller to) would grant them a couple seasons of great point-per-dollar value. That value would be fleeting, though, and would cost them much more against the cap in the future when they then had to broach his third contract at the age of 25 or 26. A contract that would inarguably come with an even higher sticker price as even more UFA-eligible years would need to be purchased in the process.


New Faces Can be Rangers’ X Factors

For the underdog Rangers to beat the Canadiens and make a serious run at the Stanley Cup, they’ll need peak performances throughout the lineup. While we know that the Henrik Lundqvist vs. Carey Price battle will have a say in the opening series, the Blueshirts will need elevated performances throughout their lineup.

In 2013-14, we saw Martin St. Louis, who scored three goals in five games, provide a spark when New York topped Montreal en route to the Cup Final.