Brenden Dillon is heading to restricted free agency this off-season unless he and the Stars come to terms on an extension. There is no reason to expect him to test the market or to even be allowed to hit the market. Dillon and the Stars are a perfect long term match. Given the perfect match an extension seems likely in the near future.
Coming up with potential contract terms for Dillon is problematic though.
Dillon recently turned 23 years old, and is the Dallas Stars' best defenseman. He has less than one full year of NHL game action. In 69 career NHL games over the shortened 2013 season and the current 2014 season Dillon has 16 points while averaging 21 minutes a night. In 37 games in the AHL to begin last season Dillon had 14 points. His calling card is his defense.
He is a prime candidate to continue the trend of younger defensemen signing long term extensions. The sticking point is that 69 game part. As great as Dillon has been, with no injuries, he will be sitting at 131 games played looking for a contract. A sizable, but likely not exhaustive, list of the bigger contracts handed out to young defensemen lately is below:
The average contract for the players above is six years and about 4.54 million dollars annually. The bigger contracts on this list were handed out after significant amounts of NHL ice time. Or, at least, a decent amount more than Dillon will have when his time comes. Edler had 431 games. Bogosian had 297. Vlasic had a staggering 511 games prior to signing his extension. The long term extension Dillon could command is in the range of their deals, but given the experience of some of these players they might not be the best fits as comparables.
The group we want to focus on are the guys with under 200 games when they signed their deals. This list includes Ekman-Larsson, McDonagh, Voynov, Hjalmarsson, Fowler, Josi. Carlson, Hamonic, Cowen, and Spurgeon. Ekman-Larsson is clearly superior to Dillon, but the collective group should give us a good gauge of what to expect from Dillon's contract. The average contract for this group is rounded up to 6 years and 4.1 million dollars annually. If you don't include the Cowen and Spurgeon extensions the average contract is exactly six years.
The question to consider when estimating a value for Dillon's contract is how he compares to that group of players.
|Dillon (82 game pace)
Offensively, Dillon is on par with most of this list at the time they signed their extensions. A few players stand out for their offensive contributions. Ekman-Larsson, Voynov, Carlson, and McDonagh in particular stand out. Defensively, only Carlson and Ekman-Larsson were handed more responsibility. Josi and Hamonic were comparable. The main takeaway from this information is that DIllon isn't going to set the bar for these contracts, but he also can expect to get a deal on the upper end of this spectrum.
If you don't include Cowen and Spurgeon the midpoint of the contracts is six years and 24 million dollars in total value. It would make sense for Dillon to shoot for higher than that, particularly given that he is only 23. Compared to his contemporaries he has enough experience to warrant a larger deal, and he should continue to improve. A realistic prediction for Dillon's extension would be something in the neighborhood of six years and 30 million dollars for a cap hit of five million per year if he wants a longer deal.
If he wants a shorter deal he is probably looking at something within the framework of a bridge contract. Given recent trends though it wouldn't be at all surprising to see the two sides hammer out a longer term deal that benefits both sides greatly. If the Stars feel he is a long term member of the core then locking him up long term would be very beneficial and help them manage the cap down the line. As we saw with the Josi and Voynov contracts earlier, the cap hit can be drawn down long term by finding a fair value deal that combines the bridge contract with the third contract.
If the Stars are able to put together a deal similar to the ones signed by Josi and Voynov both sides would benefit greatly. It seems to make a lot of sense. Thus, the official prediction here is six years and 27 million dollars.