The Philadelphia Flyers recently locked up their dynamic young defenseman, Shayne Gostisbehere. The recently-turned 24-year-old Floridian agreed to a six-year, $27 million extension that carries an average annual value of $4.5 million.
A team a little bit further south than Philadelphia was probably paying close attention to this contract negotiation, as the Hurricanes have not one, not two, but three young defensemen who could be considered Gostisbehere’s peers in Jaccob Slavin, Brett Pesce, and Noah Hanifin.
Each member of that trio will see his three year, entry-level contract expire following the upcoming 2017-2018 season, meaning that all three will become restricted free agents.
With Gostisbehere’s contract, the basis for the market value for those three appears to be set.
However, Slavin, Pesce, and Hanifin are all unique players different from Gostisbehere in their own ways.
Let’s take a look at each of the three individually, break down their numbers, and take a guess at where their contracts may check in when the time comes.
Slavin is the only player of the three who is a definitively better player than Gostisbehere. He’s a much better driver of possession, and this past season he produced 5-on-5 points at more than double the rate that the Flyer did.
Gostisbehere has a clear advantage on the power play, but Slavin’s advantage all over the ice at even-strength tilts this comparison clearly in his favor.
However, there is a possibility that Gostisbehere’s breakout season with Philly in 2015-2016, which earned him an insane amount of league-wide notoriety, inflated his monetary value beyond what it would have been if he were the same player in a market with less exposure.
I would posit an educated guess that Slavin is the defenseman that the Hurricanes are most eager to lock up for the long haul. As such, he’s probably the most likely of the three to get the same term that Gostisbehere did.
Though Slavin is a better and younger player than Gostisbehere, Gostisbehere’s reputation around the league probably has means their contract values will be in similar neighborhoods dollar-wise.
I wouldn’t be surprised at all to see Slavin sign on for six more years in Raleigh next Summer, and I’ll put my guess on the price tag in at $3.9 million, though really anything under $5 million would be a ridiculous steal for what he brings to the table.
Brett Pesce and Gostisbehere represent each end of the spectrum of modern-day, effective defensemen.
Gostisbehere is a dynamic play-driver with elite puck carrying ability and a strong shot who is better than you would guess in his own end. His critics, usually the type of people who insist that offensive effectiveness from defensemen must come with deficiencies.
Pesce is elite in his own end, but he’s the type of player that subtly makes all the right plays in the neutral zone that lead to strong possession numbers while he’s on the ice. He’ll never put up particularly impressive offensive numbers, but he’s extremely good at limiting the chances of each team’s best forwards on a nightly basis, and more often than not, he’ll beat them in terms of possession, too.
Fortunately for Carolina, the type of player that Pesce is usually commands less on contracts than the type of player that Gostisbehere is does.
That’s likely due to the fact that their positive contributions to their teams are much more visible, but I wouldn’t be stunned to see this even out a bit as the usage advanced stats starts to become more and more normalized in contract negotiations.
I think there’s a chance that Pesce and Slavin sign twin contracts, but I think the gap between the two is, while small, noticeable enough for their earnings to differ a bit.
I’ll say Pesce stays with the ‘Canes on a five or six year pact in the range of $3.5 million on an annual basis.
Of the three Hurricanes’ defensemen, it is Hanifin who is by far the toughest to read when it comes to predicting what his next contract could look like, he’s also the hardest to compare to Gostisbehere, given the wide gap in age between the two.
The Massachusetts native hasn’t quite lived up to the hype that he came with when the Hurricanes made him the fifth overall selection in the 2015 draft, but that’s not to say that he’s been bad by any stretch.
Essentially, this coming season for Hanifin could go one of two ways. Scenario number one is that he has another season of small incremental progress from last year, just as he did in his sophomore campaign. In practice, this would look like Hanifin doing a fine job as the team’s number four defenseman, but nothing more and nothing less.
Scenario number two is that with an actual opportunity to spend a full season with a high-end defensive partner, Hanifin breaks out in a big way and establishes himself as an average number two or high-end number three type defenseman while showing flashes of the potential to become a number one in the years following.
If reality follows the first scenario, or if he misses significant time with injury, it is almost a certainty that Hanifin would be offered a two year bridge contract with an AAV in the ballpark of $2.5 million. That’s pretty standard for a solid defenseman with upside coming off of an entry level deal.
On the other hand, if Hanifin has his breakout season this year, improves in his own end, becomes more confident in the neutral zone, and adds consistent offensive production, there’s a chance that his price tag could be the highest out of the three defenders.
If Hanifin has that sort of season, I would imagine that the Hurricanes would feel highly compelled to lock him up possibly even longer than the standard six-year deal that most great young defensemen sign. That would mean going seven or eight years and likely in the range of $5-5.5 million on an annual basis.
The 20-year-old possesses both the highest ceiling and the lowest floor out of these three players, and that is what makes him so difficult to project in comparison to Gostisbehere. It’s also why there’s such a range in terms of what his next contract could look like.