The extensions signed by Roman Josi and Slava Voynov this offseason raised some eyebrows. The two young defensemen signed extensions totaling 13 years and 53 million dollars after playing a mere 202 combined NHL games. The pair of signings seemingly came out of nowhere.
Both defensemen are young and very talented. The deals come with risk though. Being young, neither player has much of a track record to suggest that they were ready for such large commitments. The Los Angeles Kings and Nashville Predators are assuming a decent amount of risk by giving out these contracts. There are countless examples of young players flaming out after a year or two. Players get injured and lose ability. It happens. It could happen to either player and make these deals absolute albatrosses,
On the other hand these two contracts present tremendous potential for value for these two clubs if both players continue down the development path they are currently taking. Blueliners developing this early are rare. Both players are in line to be key pieces for their teams for a long time. If they reach their ceilings, and the teams gambled right that they have high ceilings, they will see tremendous value in two to three seasons.
The value comes from the salary cap ramifications. What both clubs have done is combined "bridge contracts" with what traditionally is a player's third deal to create a longer deal to spread the cap hit from the two contracts around. The first two years of Voynov's contract would call for a 2,875,000 cap hit. The final four years would levy a cap hit of 4,810,0000. The combined deal makes the cap hit in total 4,166,700.
The savings of 600,000 per year on the cap over the back side of the deal might not seem like much, but for a team like the Kings who can plan to have a payroll that will push them close to the cap every little bit helps. Just ask the Philadelphia Flyers about that. The Kings can afford the increase right now, so why not pay it now to save for later?
The Predators had different motivations to get Josi under contract. They are in no danger of pushing the cap, but Josi gives them cost certainty over a seven year period. The Predators can pencil in the cap hits of Shea Weber and Josi for the foreseeable future. There is definitely value in cost certainty.
These deals are the natural progression from the cap circumvention deals that became en vogue over the early years of the salary cap. Those deals were viewed negatively because the spirit of the contracts was to circumvent the cap by loading years on the back end of deals with low salary figures to drive down the cap hit. These deals are going to continue to be viewed more and more favorably because they are constructed in the spirit of good modern contracts. GMs are realizing that it makes cap sense to combine the bridge contract with the second contract to secure a lower cap hit for the right player.
Handing out a big contract to a player without extensive NHL experience has been viewed as risky until recently.. There is definitely some risk, but there also exists a fair amount of upside. Locking up a young defenseman right as he enters his peak ages (late 20's through age 35) at a less than market rate is a great way to manage the salary cap if it works out. It wouldn't be shocking to see this trend continue as more young players seek bridge and third year contracts under the new collective bargaining agreement.
These contracts will have a direct impact on a player like Brenden Dillon when he comes free after this season. The Stars will have the chance to sign Dillon to a bridge contract or a longer extension in the mold of the Josi and Voynov deals. It's a risky decision, but as we have seen, NHL GMs have been more willing to take risk to secure more favorable cap hits. It will be interesting to see what kind of impact these contracts have on Dillon in the near future.