The market for teams re-signing or adding top-tier defensemen increased significantly this past off-season.
No one topped Erik Karlsson’s league-leading $11.5 million cap hit among defenders. Heck, their new contracts didn’t even reach double figures. But a handful of those valuable commodities earned massive increases during the summer.
Columbus’ Zach Werenski ($9.525 million AAV for eight years), Chicago’s Seth Jones ($9.5 million over eight years) and Edmonton’s Darnell Nurse’s ($9.25 million AAV over eight years) all signed contract extensions that begin in 2022-23. Cale Makar ($9 million AAV over six years) and Miro Heiskanen ($8.45 million AAV over eight years) re-signed with the Avalanche and Stars, respectively, after their three-year entry-level contracts expired. And Dougie Hamilton signed a lucrative deal with the New Jersey Devils ($9 million AAV over seven years) on the first day of free agency.
The massive deals for top-tier blue-liners left some Bruins fans wondering what Charlie McAvoy’s next contract could look like. While praising his peers’ payday, McAvoy remained mum on his contract situation during his first media session at training camp.
“No, just playing hockey. That’s it,” the fifth-year blue-liner said. “You see all those D-men, I’m very happy for them. I know quite a few of them, and I couldn’t be happier for them. They’re all very well deserved. But I’m excited about this year, excited about the group we have.”
McAvoy knows his payday will come. It could’ve happened earlier, but a tight salary cap forced GM Don Sweeney and McAvoy’s camp to settle on a three-year, $14.7 million bridge deal in the 2019 off-season.
Brandon Carlo entered the same scenario as McAvoy that summer. Sweeney and Carlo’s camp agreed to a two-year, $5.7 million bridge deal. Carlo earned his long-term contract in July, signing for six years and a $4.1 AAV.
The Bruins could have a hare over $20 of projected salary cap space to work with this off-season. Only five players from the projected main roster, including McAvoy (RFA), Jake DeBrusk (RFA), Jakub Zboril (RFA), Patrice Bergeron (UFA) and Curtis Lazar (UFA), enter the 2021-22 campaign in the final year of their respective contracts (via CapFriendly). Despite another off-season with a projected flat cap, the Bruins have themselves set up well to finalize a new deal with McAvoy.
McAvoy’s development into a bonafide top-tier defenseman suits him well for a payday in the $8-$10 million range. Werenski, Heiskanen and Heiskanen, all serve as fair comparables for McAvoy’s camp.
Yet, there’s an interesting wrinkle here with Sweeney’s track record of inking notable core players to new deals.
For instance, the Bruins benefited from Sweeney’s negotiations with Brad Marchand (in 2016) and David Pastrnak (2017). The top-line wingers make a hare over $6.1 million and $6.66 million, respectively. Both Marchand and Pastrnak came off of the first 30-goal campaigns of their careers before signing their new deals.
McAvoy hasn’t reached his prime yet. But Sweeney and Boston’s front office can point the Pastrnak and Marchand deals as examples of two talented players who chose a stable, winning culture over cashing in on their worth. With Pastrnak scheduled for UFA status after the 2022-23 campaign and, to a lesser degree, Bergeron’s expiring contract, Sweeney will once again have to maneuver around future cap space in his discussions with McAvoy.
Certainly, McAvoy deserves to sit near the top of the league’s highest-paid defensemen. Whether that develops into reality whenever the two sides meet is anyone’s guess. Yet, every indication points to McAvoy entering next season as the highest-paid Bruin.
Tim Rosenthal serves as the Managing Editor of Bruins Daily. He started contributing videos to the site in 2010 before fully coming on board during the Bruins' Stanley Cup run in 2011. His bylines over the last decade have been featured on Boston.com, FoxSports.com, College Hockey News, Patch and Inside Hockey. You can follow Tim on Twitter @_TimRosenthal.
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