This morning the San Jose Sharks broke the bank and extended Patrick Marleau and Joe Pavelski 4 years each. The long time San Jose captain gets $6.9 million per and young Pavelski and his RFA status get $4 million a year after his playoff heroics and twin 25 goal seasons.
The question that gets asked every time someone gets extended to a multi-year deal is how it compares to deals made recently, and how it might set a precedent for deals needing to be made. James Neal's contract situation has not received much attention this off-season with the Modano issues, Richards negotiation, and ownership transfer taking place, but the time may be fast approaching. Neal's numbers don't compare exactly to Pavelski's, but they're close enough to at least take a look at:
Games Played: 155
Games Played: 275
Pavelski is a couple of years ahead of Neal in his development having played 2 seasons prior. I left them out just for the sake of comparison of the last two years only. Goals, assist, points, time on ice...They're not far apart. Where Joe sticks out is the playoffs, and consistency over a greater period of time.
Pavelski, when he was 22 (or 23) years old signed a 2 year deal worth a total of $3.275 million dollars as a kind of bridge deal to his next big pay day, which he earned this morning. The Stars would likely prefer that Neal go the same route rather than jumping to the 4 year deal and the big money. The working theory there is that you give the player a bump, but make them prove it consistently for two additional years before they get "the big one."
Loui Eriksson did the same thing with a 2 year, $3.2 million dollar contract prior to the 2008-2009 season. Then he got his big pay day. Let's look at some players a little more comparable to Neal than Pavelski...
There appears to be a ton of precedence here in how to handle a player at this stage, but Neal could get some handsome offer sheets to look at if he has his heart set on the longer deal. Perhaps he could go the Rene Borque route and sign an even longer deal to cut down the cap hit a little. Borque signed a six year deal worth $3.3 million a year toward the end of last season. Both players put up similar numbers but Borque is 28 years old while James is only 22. Does he want to wait that long to get to his first UFA contract?
Other players that will be watching all these proceedings closely are Mason Raymond of the Vancouver Canucks, and of course the RFA Bobby Ryan in Anaheim is probably looking for something closer to "the big one," according to Anaheim Calling. Ryan is possibly the cream of the RFA's looking for a deal right now having scored 35 goals last season. Check out Anaheim Calling for a description of what could possibly be difficult negotiations in SoCal.
Raymond, meanwhile, (25 goals, 28 assists, 53 points last year) is 24 years old and find himself in a similar situation. The Cancucks Hockey Blog says he's likely to file for arbitration, but could avoid it with a deal similar to Ryan Callahan's (2 years, $4.6 million).
For another comparable, see Kris Versteeg. (20-24-44 last year). He signed a 3 year, $9.25 million deal last year, and will retain his RFA status when it expires according to Cap Geek.
With Nick Grossman in need of a raise as well, whatever it is will likely be back-loaded like all of the other GM Joe contracts negotiated so far. My official guess is a 2 year deal worth a total of in the neighborhood of $5 million, most of it gets paid next season.
So what do you think? A four or five year deal for the Real Deal? Or a nice two year bridge contract with a raise to get this franchise onto firmer financial ground? It seems obvious what the Stars would prefer...What is James Neal thinking?