The lone unsigned player on the Ottawa Senators roster continues to be Jared Cowen, the defenseman who is just coming off his entry level deal and has been in negotiations with the Senators over the past couple of weeks on a new contract.
Rumors are circulating that the Senators have anted up an 8 year, $28M offer, or an average annual value of $3.5M. While I am sure Cowen appreciates the long term security, I am sure the value of $3.5M on the long term is a little low for what he would like, and he is probably right.
Cowen could be looking for a shorter “bridge” deal to take him a little deeper into his career before signing a long-term deal like the club has offered.
For comparable bridge deals, you need only look as far as P.K. Subban, who signed a 2 year, $5.75M contract after the 2013 season had started. Dmitry Kulikov also took a 2 year deal worth $5M. Michael Del Zotto (2 yrs, $5.1M) and Nick Leddy (2 yrs, $5.4M) are also in the ballpark to what Cowen could expect in such a contract.
The reason for this is he looks around the league and sees what some other comparable defensemen have garnered coming out of the bridge contract. While the cap hit might be lower for the first couple of years, if he proves himself and meets expectations he could be in line for something along the likes of Zach Bogosian. The Jets defenseman completed his(2 yr, $5M) bridge deal and netted a 7 year, $36M contract.
Victor Hedman, for example, essentially skipped the bridge deal and signed a 5 year, $20M contract after his entry level deal expired, as did Oliver Ekman-Larsson, who Phoenix signed to a 6 year, $33M contract. Those two names are relevant because they were the two defensemen drafted ahead of Cowen in 2009. However, they have also played 3 times (Hedman) or twice as many (Ekman-Larsson) games as Cowen has in the NHL. Cowen hasn’t yet earned, or really shown that his is capable of earning, that level of contract.
The other extreme is Drew Doughty, who made an immediate impact in the NHL and after his rookie contract he managed an 8 year, $56M contract from the Kings.
So while the 8 year security for Cowen might be tempting, the $3.5M average seems to be about the minimum of what a player of his pedigree will make over the longer term, and with a couple of good solid seasons could net a Ekman-Larrson type contract, which could top out at $38M over 8 years if you count the next two at $5M and then a longer term 6 year deal at $5.5M.
Looking around, its a matter of how much he believes in himself and his health, and his ability to put himself in that level. Its a $10M+ gamble that he must think is worth the risk.