With Montreal’s roster looking pretty much close to full at the moment, GM Marc Bergevin may want to turn his focus towards a possible extension for Alex Galchenyuk. What would a long-term deal for him cost?
Before you can really look at comparable players to get an idea of a cost, there are a couple of key questions to ponder. The first is how does each side expect Galchenyuk to perform not only next season but well beyond and how willing is Galchenyuk to trade off a guaranteed deal now over a potentially bigger one next offseason?
Last year, the 22 year old had a career season, collecting 56 points in 82 games while displaying that he appears to be ready to step into the #1 centre role. Of course, potentially clouding his numbers was his play at the end of the year, where he had 22 points in his last 22 games, mostly as that top line centre. Was that level of performance a sign of things to come or him racking up some points as the games mattered less and less?
If he stays in that role for at least most of next season, Galchenyuk should be able to surpass the 60 point mark; I can’t see him maintaining a point per game pace all of next year. Personally, I’m not as bullish on his overall offensive upside as I see him capping out as a 70 point player in his prime in this system more than a one that will push for the top ten in league scoring down the road.
If the Habs are pondering an extension, I think they’ll be forecasting him in the 65-70 point range moving forward. If they thought he’d be closer to 80 down the road, I suspect that they’d have skipped the bridge deal last summer and locked him up long-term at that time.
As for Galchenyuk’s side, at what point does it make sense to pursue an extension now versus letting next year play out? It makes little sense for him to sign long-term at money comparable to 55-60 point players; if that’s all Montreal wants to offer, he’s better off playing out next season and hoping for a better year to get more money then. Everyone figures that 56 points isn’t his ceiling so why sign long-term for a salary comparable to that level of production? On the other side, if he sees himself as more of a 75-80 point player in his prime, he’s also going to want to skip the extension (unless the Habs want to approach the $7+ million range this summer which doesn’t seem likely) and hope for a big year to loosen up the purse strings.
Basically, there’s only going to be a narrow window where there won’t be much risk for Galchenyuk to sign now over playing out next year and hoping for a bigger pay day at that time. I think for him, the point range where it makes sense to sign now is in the high 60’s/low 70’s. If he outplays that, he leaves a bit of money on the table but will still be on a significant contract which isn’t a bad spot to be in.
So, assuming both sides are willing to work out a deal to pay Galchenyuk close to a 70 point player, how much is that going to cost? Here are some comparable players.
Filip Forsberg (Nashville): Six years, $36 million. Forsberg has put up two straight 60+ point seasons and it’s expected that he’ll hit the 70 point mark before too long. Worth noting here is that this contract skipped the bridge deal; it bought out four RFA years and only two UFA seasons. Because Galchenyuk will only have two RFA years left after next season, a contract for him using this as a comparable would have to come in higher than $6 million for a cap hit.
Mark Scheifele (Winnipeg): Eight years, $49 million. Another deal that was signed this summer, Scheifele has eased into a bigger role each season like Galchenyuk and now is primed to make a run at the #1 centre role. He hit 61 points last year and should push for 70+ in the coming years. Like Forsberg though, this deal bought out four RFA seasons so again, a Galchenyuk deal using this as a comparison would have to come in higher than the $6.125 million cap hit.
Logan Couture (San Jose): Five years, $30 million. At the time this deal was signed, Couture already had 56 and 65 point seasons under his belt so he was a bit more proven then than Galchenyuk is now. But the future expectations and projections as a top line player are comparable. This contract came off a bridge deal so only two RFA seasons were bought out like a Galchenyuk deal will but this was also signed in June of 2013 and the cap is over $9 million higher now than it was then. As a result, you guessed it, that means Galchenyuk’s extension should be coming in above this.
Derek Stepan (NY Rangers): Six years, $39 million. Stepan was coming off two straight mid-50 point seasons while playing at a 66 point pace in the platform season leading into the new deal. The Rangers were hoping that pace was a sign of things to come when they gave him this deal, one that, like Galchenyuk, only bought out two RFA years. Stepan’s all-around game is a bit better than Galchenyuk’s but the latter has more offensive upside which sort of balances that out.
From another perspective, these contracts when signed accounted for roughly 8-9% of the salary cap. The cap has been going up a little bit each year and since it’s way too early to project where HRR will go next year, let’s suppose it will be somewhere between $74-$75 million to start 2017-18 when this new contract would begin. (The Las Vegas expansion fee doesn’t count towards HRR so that won’t result in a big jump.)
Looking at the comparable players, going a bit over the AAV’s for Forsberg, Scheifele, and Couture would put a cap hit in the $6.3 million range (after adjusting up a couple hundred thousand for the factors noted earlier). On the percentage side, since we’re estimating, let’s look at the midpoints of the two ranges, so 8.5% of a hypothetical $74.5M million cap for 2017-18. That yields $6,332,500, so pretty much the same.
Strictly giving that cap number the eyeball test, I think a six year extension would fall around that range. That would work out to $5.5 million and $5.9 million in the two RFA years and $6.6 million on average in the four UFA seasons. Going beyond that towards years seven or eight would likely take the AAV closer to $6.5 million or towards Stepan’s deal with the Rangers.
Is that a deal that’s good enough for the Habs to lock him up early? Is it good enough for Galchenyuk to give up the prospect of more money if he were to wait until next summer? I personally think it’s a decent compromise but I wouldn’t say it’s a guarantee either side would feel the same way. On the surface, the Habs extending Galchenyuk now may seem like a no-brainer but there doesn’t seem to be a big window money wise where it makes sense for both sides to get something done now versus next summer.