As we approach the start of NHL free agency, the Islanders have several players who will soon become free agents. One of the most important is defenseman Scott Mayfield, who's been a regular with the Islanders for six seasons. It would be great to keep Mayfield, who is an important part of the defense and the penalty kill, but he might command a higher price than the Islanders can afford. What will his next contract look like?
His current contract, which ends in a few weeks, was signed before the 2018-19 season, and lasted for 5 years with an average annual value of $1.45 million. This contract was signed when Mayfield was 25 years old, and hadn't really become a regular NHLer yet (he played only 47 games in 2017-18). Since then, he's blossomed into a very good defensive defenseman, and has seen his usage rise - from an average time on ice of 17:51 in 2017-18 to 19:46 in 2021-22, and all the way to 21:02 last season.
Mayfield doesn't score many points. Last season, he had 6 goals and 18 assists for a total of 24 points. This was actually a career high - before that, he had never scored more than 5 goals or 19 points in a season. Based solely on points, we wouldn't expect him to make much money. But, of course, he's a defensive defenseman whose primary job is to shut down the opponents.
When starting a shift with a faceoff, Mayfield was used in the offensive zone just 26.5% of the time, less than any other Isles defenseman, and in the neutral or defensive zone 73.5% of the time, the most of any Isles D-man. Despite this usage, when Mayfield was on the ice, the Islanders scored 51.9% of the expected goals (an advanced metric taking into account shot location and quality, among other factors) and 51.0% of the actual goals. In other words, he's a trusted defensive defenseman who can sometimes transition into offense. (All stats courtesy of EvolvingHockey.)
It's difficult to predict the contracts of defensive defensemen. Sometimes they get a lot more money than anyone expected, sometimes they sign bargain deals. Lou Lamoriello and other GMs are unpredictable, but a good way to see what Mayfield's next contract might look like is by examining similar players.
Adam Larsson signed a 4 year contract with Seattle for $4 million per year two years ago, when he was 28 years old, coming off of the COVID-shortened season where he had 4 goals and 10 points in 56 games. Similarly to Mayfield, Larsson was primarily used as a defensive defenseman in Edmonton (his team before he signed with Seattle), starting only 23% of his shifts in the offensive zone. His results weren't quite as good, with only 49% actual goals and 50.3% expected goals, but he was also two years younger than Mayfield is now. Interestingly, since moving to Seattle, he's been used very differently, with 42% offensive zone starts (the most of any Kraken defenseman last season), which has translated into more points (8G, 33P). 2020-21 Larsson is probably a pretty good comparable for Mayfield.
Vladislav Gavrikov has often been spoken about as a similar player to Mayfield. He scored 6 goals and 13 assists (19 points) last year, and was rewarded with a contract extension worth $5.875 million in LA, a number which might make Islanders fans nervous. But Gavrikov is also three years younger than Mayfield, and played very well after being traded to LA (3G 9P in just 20 games). His offensive zone starts also jumped from 25% in Columbus to 35% in LA, so it's safe to say the Kings will be paying him as a two-way player, not the defensive defenseman we might have thought he was.
Trevor van Riemsdyk had an almost identical statline to Mayfield (7G,16A, 23P) for the Capitals this year. Like Mayfield, he kills penalties but doesn't play on the power play. He's used more offensively by Washington, though, starting 38% of his faceoff shifts in the offensive zone (compared to Mayfield's 26.5%), so his offensive numbers are less impressive - and despite much more offensive deployment, his points and expected goals are almost identical to Mayfield's. In other words, he's a worse player, and he's also one year older. He recently signed an extension with Washington for 3 years, at $3 million per year.
Colton Parayko signed a longterm deal after the 2020-21 season, which paid $6.5 million per year for 8 years. When he signed that contract, he was being used as a two-way defenseman, starting roughly equal shifts in the offensive, neutral, and defensive zones. It is safe to say he hasn't lived up to the contract, though, with only 4 goals (and 23 assists) last season. While his zone deployment was similar to Mayfield's last year, with 23.6% offensive zone starts, his results were much worse, as the Blues only scored 41% of the goals, and 45% of the expected goals, when Parayko was on the ice. But he was only 27 when he signed that contract, so I don't expect the Islanders to give that many years (or that much money) to an older Mayfield.
To summarize, there are a wide range of contracts that wouldn't be surprising for Mayfield to get. I'd be surprised by anything under $3 million or anything over $6m, but anything between that wouldn't be shocking. My best guess would be between $4 and $4.5 million. And for what it's worth, The Athletic's player cards (subscription needed) say that Mayfield is worth $6.6 million - although it's worth noting that that's an estimate of actual value, not a predicted contract, as NHL GMs pretty consistently undervalue defense. Also, keep in mind that the Islanders don't have a ton of cap space, so if some other team offers Mayfield $6m, the Isles probably won't match it.
How much do you think Mayfield is worth? Let me know on Twitter: @BrianWeinberge7