Around the NHL: Big money going out to big name defensemen

Photo credit:Sam Navarro
Scott Maxwell
2 years ago
It seems since the NHL brought in the salary cap in 2005, it seems like the league goes through a pretty consistent process every five or so years. The cap is lowered, teams spend two or three seasons trying to clear out all of their bad contracts, and the second they all do and the cap finally goes up, they waste it all again on even bigger contracts, until the cap is eventually lowered and they repeat the process all over again.
The league has once again reached that point of throwing a lot of money at players, which is incredible considering that just last season teams were in cap crunches. But hey, what’s the point of learning from past mistakes anyways.
It seemed a lot of these big deals were given to defensemen this offseason, as a lot of “big name” blueliners found themselves either being free agents this offseason, or needed an extension for next season. I say big name loosely, as there are a few big names that have value in name only, but we’ll get those.
So, we’re going to take a quick look at these contracts, and see where they stack up to the rest of them.

Miro Heiskanen

Age: 21
Contract: $8.45M AAV, 8 years
Heiskanen is admittedly a weird one to evaluate, because his underlying numbers don’t jump off the screen at you, but you also see where he provides value in his deal. Maybe the Stars could have seen if they could low ball it a bit more, but considering his age, there’s a very good chance he’s worth it very soon.
Verdict: Not an amazing deal, but far from the worst on this list.

Seth Jones

Age: 27
Contract: $9.5M AAV, 8 years
Oh, how the mighty have fallen. Jones was once considered one of the best up and coming defensemen in the game, and while he still is one of the best depending on who you ask, it doesn’t take too much research to realize his game has fallen off. He has the skill, but it can never translate to good microstats or underlying stats, which is a big cause for concern. Considering that this is his prime, that deal isn’t going to age well, and considering the early reviews in Chicago, it hasn’t even aged well now.
Verdict: Yeah, this one’s an albatross. Maybe it ages well, but most of the signs point to no.

Cale Makar

Age: 22
Contract: $9M, 6 years
Do I really need to tell you this one’s a good deal? He’s in just his third season, and he’s already emerged as one of the game’s best. He’s one of those players you could give a ton of money to and it’d still be worth it.
Verdict: Elite defensemen gets elite defensemen money, I don’t see a problem here.
Apr 22, 2021; Sunrise, Florida, USA; Carolina Hurricanes defenseman Dougie Hamilton (19) controls the puck against the Florida Panthers during the first period at BB&T Center. Mandatory Credit: Sam Navarro-USA TODAY Sports

Dougie Hamilton

Age: 28
Contract: $9M, 7 years
This is a tough one purely because of age. He’s one of the best defensemen in the league right now, and is definitely worth $9 million, but will he be worth that at 32? Still, gamebreaking defensemen rarely end up in free agency, so the reward is well worth the risk.
Verdict: Good deal now, but probably won’t age well.

Zach Werenski

Age: 24
Contract: $9,583,333, 6 years
Much like his former partner Jones, Werenski probably isn’t nearly as good as his reputation implies, but he’s still miles better than Jones. He’s mediocre defensively, but has consistently driven play in spite of Jones being more of an anchor these past few years. It’s still a pretty bad deal, but considering age, skill, and term, I’d definitely take it over Jones.
Verdict: Could be a lot better, could be a lot worse.

Darnell Nurse

Age: 27
Contract: $9.25M, 8 years
I give the Jones deal a hard time, but at least that one didn’t surprise me. This one came out of nowhere. I knew he was overrated, but I didn’t know people thought of him THIS highly. Apparently being an average defenseman that puts up a ton of points because he plays with McDavid is worth $9.25 million, good to know.
Verdict: This one isn’t going to look great when he’s 35, especially after McDavid leaves for Toronto.

Colton Parayko

Age: 29
Contract: $6.5M, 8 years
This one is significantly cheaper than most of the deals on here, so it’s not going to hamstring the Blues, but considering Parayko’s play has already dropped off these past few years, and he’s going to be 30 when this deal starts, it probably won’t be pretty.
Verdict: Fine now, but will probably start looking ugly in a couple seasons.
Dec 10, 2019; Vancouver, British Columbia, CAN; Toronto Maple Leafs forward Zach Hyman checks Vancouver Canucks defenseman Quinn Hughes (43) into the boards during the second period at Rogers Arena. Mandatory Credit: Anne-Marie Sorvin-USA TODAY Sports

Quinn Hughes

Age: 21
Contract: $7.85M, 6 years
If we’re using the Makar deal as a comparison, it’s probably a fair deal. Hughes has struggled a bit more after a strong rookie season, but he’s still got loads of potential, and some of his struggles can probably be attributed to being on the Canucks. He’s probably still worth that money right now, and will certainly be worth it by the end.
Verdict: Fair value now, and can (probably) only get better.

Ryan Pulock

Age: 27
Contract: $6.15M, 8 years
I’m sorry, I didn’t know Lou Lamoriello was capable of signing good players to great deals. This might actually be the best of this whole list, if not for being one of the league’s best defenseman, but also because this is the cheapest deal. It’s not going to be the same in the back half, but even then, $6.15 million is much better than $9 million when their value drops off.
Verdict: The best of the bunch.

Charlie McAvoy

Age: 24
Contract: $9.5M, 8 years
It’s nice to see Boston sign an elite player to a contract that’s fair value as opposed to a steal like the top line. Despite him being worth half of the top line there, McAvoy is still well worth this deal, as he also has emerged as one of the leagues best, and signing it at 24 means that he’ll still provide surplus value in the late years.
Verdict: A very fair value deal.

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