Earlier this month I wrote about just how big Johnny Gaudreau’s new contract is going to be with the Calgary Flames. Well, in case you’ve forgotten, there’s another high profile forward in need of a new contract, as well. Just like Gaudreau, Sean Monahan is negotiating his second contract and is in line for a rather sizeable raise. There seems to be a sentiment, however, that Monahan’s deal is going to come in noticeably lower than Gaudreau’s. I’m not convinced that’s going to happen, however, and I’m going to tell you why.
I get why some think Monahan’s contract might end up costing the Flames less than Gaudreau’s. First off, Gaudreau’s numbers have been better than Monahan’s in their season and a half together. But Gaudreau is also a far more noticeable player on the ice, mainly because everything he does seems to be exciting. But even though Monahan’s numbers haven’t been quite as impressive as Gaudreau’s, I really feel like the new contracts they sign will end up looking very similar. It’s important to remember that Monahan does have an X factor in this conversation.
The centre bump
The centre position is perhaps the most valued in the NHL these days, and for good reason. A franchise centre can set a team up for years and is the most sought after commodity each year at the draft. Monahan plays the position, Gaudreau does not. For that very reason, Monahan’s next contract moves closer to Gaudreau’s than the numbers might suggest.
When looking at the 20 highest cap hits in the league right now, nine of them are owned by centres. That compares to four right wingers, three left wingers, and three defenceman, and one goaltender. Teams pay a premium down the middle and that’s going to help Monahan in these negotiations.
Finding a comparable contract for Monahan wasn’t quite as easy as it was for Gaudreau. Vladimir Tarasenko’s eight year contract signed over the summer served as a perfect starting point for Gaudreau because the two players play the same position and had very similar numbers. Monahan’s case is a little bit different.
There hasn’t been a really recent example of a contract that applies nicely to Monahan, so instead, we’ll go back a few years. Ryan Nugent-Hopkins of the Edmonton Oilers signed a seven year, $42 million dollar deal in September of 2013 to kick in the following year. Now more than two years later, I still think there are some relevant areas to compare and contrast.
So, while Nugent-Hopkins performed better as a rookie, Monahan’s totals were better in year two and are on pace to be better in his third year, as well. Nugent-Hopkins signed his deal prior to the start of his third season, and did so after a tough sophomore campaign. Monahan, on the other hand, scored 30 in his second season and looks to be on pace to be in that range again this year. If these two players were both up for contracts at the same time, I think we’d see fairly similar contracts.
In saying that, let’s analyze the money. Nugent-Hopkins had his deal kick in prior to the 2014-2015 season when the cap was set at $69.0 million. That means he accounted for 8.7% of Edmonton’s salary cap in the first year of his second deal. If the cap stays at $71.4 million next season as it’s expected to, Monahan’s deal would need to carry a cap hit of $6.2 million to match the ratio on the Nugent-Hopkins extension.
That math above is if we were putting the two charted players on exact equal footing. In reality, Monahan’s first two seasons were probably more impressive than those of Nugent-Hopkins. To score 30 as a sophomore like Monahan did last year is not easy to do.
If Monahan’s camp were to use this as a comparison, they’d probably be using Nugent-Hopkins’s deal as a starting point and going from there.
A final number
I didn’t find it overly difficult making an educated guess as to what Monahan’s next deal will look like. There are two players that I think are relevant to compare to. The first is Nugent-Hopkins, and I think Monahan’s cap hit should at least be as high. The second player, though, is Gaudreau himself, even though his new deal hasn’t been signed, either.
Let’s just say Gaudreau’s deal ends up carrying a cap hit of $7 million. My belief is Monahan’s deal will end up being lower than his linemate’s, but only by a few hundred thousand dollars. My feel is Monahan ends up being being cheaper by about $500,000 on an AAV. Yes, his offensive totals haven’t been quite as impressive, but Monahan should get a nice little boost because of the position he plays. That should even things out a little bit when the two contracts eventually get signed.
I think Monahan gets a max deal or something close to it. I ballparked Gaudreau at $56 million over eight years for an AAV of $7 million. Knowing that, I’ll put Monahan at $52 million over eight years which works out to a $6.5 million cap hit. For this team’s potential number one centre for years to come, those numbers don’t seem far fetched at all.