Nico Hischier’s contract with the New Jersey Devils once again shows that deals can get done during the season. Will that be the case for the New York Islanders and Mathew Barzal?
Friday afternoon the New Jersey Devils and center Nico Hischier agreed to a seven-year, $50.75 million contract extension worth $7.25 million AAV. Hischier joins an impressive crop of 2020 would-be RFA’s who have opted to sign with their respective teams mid-season. That list includes Clayton Keller, Thomas Chabot, and others. So what does this mean for the New York Islanders and Mathew Barzal?
It’s pretty much common knowledge at this point that many first-time RFA’s are looking for shorter, “bridge” deals. Barzal and agent J.P. Barry are well aware of this, as is New York Islanders GM Lou Lamoriello. To ink Barzal to a deal with the term and value of Hischier’s would be hitting the proverbial lottery.
Hottest RFA Commodity
Let’s talk about Hurricanes center Sebastian Aho. This summer, Aho signed a five-year, $42.27 million contract. That’s an AAV and cap hit of $8.454 million, or 10.37 percent of total cap space. But more importantly, Aho has a $700,000 base salary, and a hefty signing bonus of $11.3 million coming to him this year. His total yearly earnings: $12 million. All numbers courtesy of Capfriendly.
The caveat here is that Aho was offer sheeted by the Montreal Canadiens during the summer. This was the deal he was presented by Canadiens GM Marc Bergevin, and he signed it. The Hurricanes matched the offer sheet, and here we are.
So what does all this mean for Mathew Barzal and the New York Islanders? Well, since NHL contracts are so heavily weighted towards offensive production, it gives a good estimate of where Barzal should end up in value. Through his first three seasons, Aho recorded 197 points in the regular season. Two seasons into his NHL tenure, Barzal has 147.
If we ignore Aho’s 49-point rookie season he comes to a total of 148 points.
Most of the talk I’ve seen agrees with the premise that Aho has set the market for RFA centers in this production range. So, Barzal will end up around 10.35-10.4 percent of total cap space. There is one more piece to this puzzle though.
Pierre-Luc Dubois of the Columbus Blue Jackets is the other marquee RFA center available come July 1. The Blue Jackets have around $8 million in current cap space. Should Dubois attempt to hold out for more money, or another big market team submits an offer sheet, (unlikely) it could have a profound effect on where Barzal’s cap hit ends up.
So, what should the main takeaway from all this be? The New York Islanders should do everything (within reason) in their power to get Barzal signed to a long-term deal before this season is out. Our own Michel Anderson opines more on this topic here.
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If a long-term deal pushes the contract’s total value up a bit, so be it. Signing Barzal mid-season will also allow for Lou to focus on Ryan Pulock and Devon Toews, also RFA’s in the coming offseason. So the emphasis should really be on a mid-season extension for the hottest RFA commodity in 2020.