Lou Lamoriello is signing all unfamiliar New York Islanders players to short-term deals. The question becomes, would Jordan Eberle accept a deal shorter than market expectation?
I questioned last week whether Anders Lee would accept a short-term deal from the New York Islanders (spoiler: he would), and now it’s time to touch on the next impending 2019 unrestricted free agent priority, Jordan Eberle.
Like Lee, Eberle is also 28 and would be 29 entering free agency – still young enough to produce at a high level for several years.
Why He Wouldn’t Accept
A “lesser” deal.
Unlike Lee, Eberle is currently playing on a 6-year $36 million contract. It would be a hard pill to swallow a contract half the length for only a minor increase.
He has been a proven NHL player for nearly a decade.
Jordan Eberle has also been a 20-goal scorer since he entered the league (only 2 seasons under, but those were in shortened seasons – 18 goals in 69 games in 2010-11 and 16 goals in 48 games in a strike-shortened 2012-13).
Resistant to aging.
Also unlike Lee, Eberle’s goals are predicated on skill, not size and strength. Strength fades, but skill is more resistant to age. You could argue that Eberle is a safer long-term investment.
Eberle is also new to the Islanders, having only come over last year while fleecing the Oilers in the trade for Ryan Strome. At the end of this deal he’ll be two years into his tenure with the Isles – not long enough to build a true love and loyalty to a franchise.
The chance to win.
Perhaps most importantly, Eberle has only been in the playoffs one time in his eight years, and with the option to choose at 29, he may prefer the flexibility of choosing a guaranteed contender.
Why He Would
Again, like Lee, the first reaction is that he wouldn’t. But there’s more to it than meets the eye.
For one, he is joined at the hip with one of the best young centers in the league in Mat Barzal. There is significant long-term value in that, and there are not many better players to hitch your wagon to for the next three years.
Playing on the top line.
That tandem will also bumped up to the top line this season, and will have a more skilled, consistent, full-season answer at left wing than Andrew Ladd – likely either Anders Lee or the continuation of successful Beauvillier experiment.
The Islanders are his best chance to be a top line right wing with an incredible playmaker centering the line.
The Isles invested in a five-year deal with one of the winningest coaches in the NHL, who just last month hoisted the Stanley Cup. If winning and making the playoffs is important to Eberle, he may see potential in this managerial change.
An open checkbook.
Ownership has spent big on management and has the cap space to do the same with the players. By making reasonable deals with players like Pulock, Kovar and Filppula this offseason, they have the funds and cap space left to pay Eberle well.
He would see an immediate raise this year of $1.5-$2 million.
The next contract.
As mentioned with Lee, there is value in having the ability to sign another contract before you hit your sharp decline. Signing a contract at 31 instead of 34 or 35 gives leverage.
Paul Stastny just signed a three-year deal with Vegas for $6.5 million AAV at the age of 32 after a 53-point season. Think he would have gotten that much money in 2-3 years? No chance.
Again Lou would make the offer above market value in order to shave 2-3 years from the end of the deal.
For comparison, look no further than his likely left wing, Anders Lee. The same three-year $7.5-$8 million AAV offer that was outlined for Lee would be comparable for Eberle.
- 28 years old (29 at time of UFA)
- Career 0.75 points per game played
- Career 0.32 goals per game played
- 28 years old (29 at time of UFA)
- Career 0.60 points per game played
- Career 0.36 goals per game played
No short-term deal for Eberle.
In the end, he has the leverage. The pressure is on the Islanders to not botch this, not Jordan Eberle.
As much as Eberle will benefit from playing with Barzal, ownership should learn from past mistakes made with Matt Moulson, P.A. Parenteau, and Kyle Okposo – don’t alienate the face of your franchise. It doesn’t end well.
Pay his friends and linemates, keep him happy and not daydreaming of playing with his hometown team.
What is free agency if not the opportunity to find the offer that pays the most and gives the best chance of winning? I believe Eberle will sign with the Islanders, but not for a three-year deal and not before playing out this season and listening to offers.
If there’s another 25-plus-goal season for him this year, he’ll get his James van Riemsdyk deal with the team of his choice.