The Dallas Stars announced that they have come to terms with center Cody Eakin on a four year contract extension that will pay him close to $16,000,000, Eakin is a key component of one of the best center groups in the NHL in Dallas playing on the third line behind Tyler Seguin and Jason Spezza.
The Stars have bought out, by my possibly flawed math, one year of free agency.
More importantly, the Stars have quite a large amount of cost certainty in their forward group for the next two years. The Stars already have eight forwards under NHL contracts for the 2016-17 season plus restricted free agents Val Nichushkin and Brett Ritchie. Unless things go poorly, we can with reasonable accuracy say that this forward group is the one they're going to war with in the two years before the Jamie Benn free agency.
What are the Stars getting for the premium they are agreeing to pay? A pessimistic view of the deal asks the question "Why are the Stars paying four million dollars a year for a third liner?". As a general principle teams will usually not be able to pay that price for their third center, but most teams will not be in the position to be able to pay their backup goaltender four million either.
They have the money, so why not?
Selling Eakin as just a third liner is probably underselling his value too. Eakin wins 52% of his faceoffs. He gets his hands dirty playing tough minutes against quality competition in his own zone, allowing the Seguin and Spezza lines to not have to do it. He's a fairly successful penalty killer. As is, he's already a very good player who is a big part of the team.
His age can't be ignored either. The upcoming season will be his age 24 year. This isn't a 30 year old player who simply is what he is. Upside is still present with Eakin. Sometimes we forget that Eakin was a prolific scorer in juniors. In his last season in the WHL Eakin recorded 83 points in just 56 games. He had 40 points last year in the NHL in 78 games, 28 of which were at even strength. It isn't realistic to expect him to turn into Benn, but it does make sense to wonder if there might be some more offense in his game.
If there is more offense to be found, the length of Eakin's contract matches up very well with the Stars future needs. His extension runs exactly one season after Spezza's deal expires which maintains the Stars forward depth in the event that Spezza isn't retained. If Spezza is too expensive, Eakin slides right in.
But now we're talking way into the future. There is no way to know how things will look with any certainty five years from now. Usually in the NHL it's impossible to even look reliably at next season. For now we should just appreciate what is in front of us and enjoy what should be some very good hockey.
Eakin doesn't get the press, and as long as he's behind Seguin and Spezza who all play on a team with the reigning Art Ross Trophy winner he isn't going to. He's a key part of what the Stars are trying to do, and this contract says that the Stars know how important he is to the success they hope to have. Congrats are in order for both the Stars and Eakin on what should be a good deal for both teams. The reign of the Ginger Ninja appears to not be ending anytime soon and we're all better for it.