Ottawa’s top defender, Erik Karlsson is nearing the end of his 3 year entry level contract, and the way he is playing this season is primed to cash in big time. His current deal is worth a base salary of $875,000 plus the possibility of another $425,000 in performance bonuses. He will still be a restricted free agent after the season, meaning other teams can sign him to a contract, but Ottawa has the right to match any offer. And I don’t think there is a team out there who can and would offer him more than what Ottawa would be prepared to match.
Offer sheets are few and far between in today’s NHL, so basically it comes down to what he wants and what the Senators are willing to do to make him happy. So what is that number?
Could Karlsson be in line to be awarded the biggest contract in Senators’ history? That title currently belongs to Jason Spezza and the 7 year, $49 million deal that kicked in in 2008-09.
In the last few years, the closest comparable to a young defensemen coming off their entry level deals to earn big money are Drew Doughty and Karlsson’s draft-year compatriat Tyler Myers, but there were also a couple of other highly touted players in recent years who cashed in after their entry-level deal expired.
Here is a quick comparison of 5 such players, including Karlsson, and their stats accumulated during their 3 year entry level contract period.
|Doughty||239||33||93||126||16||178||8 yr/$56 M (2011-12)|
|Myers*||224||29||82||111||-5||100||7 yr, $38.5M (2012-13)|
|Phaneuf||243||54||105||159||27||373||6 yr/$39 M (2008-09)|
|Green||174||21||50||71||-12||116||4 yr/$21M (2008-09)|
*Myers and Karlsson’s stats include projections for this season derived from the “on pace for” section for the respective players NHL.com player pages.
Although all 5 players have made their impact, only Myers (Calder) has won a season ending award, and only Green has put up a 70 point season, which Karlsson seems destined to do.
So Bryan Murray has a big decision to make in the coming months, made all the more difficult because he has no idea what the new CBA is going to look like. Does he go long term big money like Doughty, or shorter term, less money like Green? He is in the driver’s seat somewhat, but he also wants to ensure that he keeps his franchise defenseman happy for years to come.
If it was me, I would come in just below the Doughty deal, maybe something like 7 years, $49 million, matching Doughty’s cap his and also Spezza’s Sens-high contract. Then you have your cornerstone forward and defenseman signed long-term and can go about filling in the space around them going forward. Karlsson would be happy for a long-term deal at comparable value and can go about becoming a Norris Trophy winner (if he isn’t already), and leading the Sens deep into the playoffs.
The days of the mid-level “second contract” before unrestricted free agency are gone the way of the dinosaur, especially for elite players, which Karlsson has become this season. This deal would buy a couple years of UFA status (at least as it is defined in the current CBA) and take him to around his 29th birthday. Then he would still have the chance to sign another big contract before age starts to creep up on him.