Random Thoughts on the NHL – June 7, 2021
The Ottawa Sun’s Don Brennan floated the theory that the reason Colorado Avalanche center Nathan MacKinnon didn’t get enough votes for the Ted Lindsay Award was his peers are pissed at him because his salary is so low. MacKinnon has an annual average value of $6.3 million on his current contract, ranking 92nd among the highest-paid NHL players.
As for his salary, he signed his current deal on July 8, 2016, following his entry-level contract. At the time, he was coming off a 21-goal, 52-point performance in 2015-16. Even by today’s standards, he got a healthy raise for a young player yet to reach his full potential.
Sure, folks were a little puzzled over why the NHLPA membership passed over MacKinnon for his good friend Sidney Crosby. No offense to the Pittsburgh Penguins captain but his fellow Cole Harbour, NS native had a better season. Whatever the reason, it had nothing to do with a contract MacKinnon signed nearly five years ago before he became a superstar.
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: The Toronto Maple Leafs wouldn’t be in the mess they’re in now if they hadn’t signed John Tavares in 2018.
That’s not a knock against Tavares. He didn’t hold a gun to the collective heads of Leafs president Brendan Shanahan and general manager Kyle Dubas. They reached out to him. They gave him the opportunity to play for his hometown team. They had no problem ponying up $11 million annually for seven years.
For the most part, Tavares has held up his end of the bargain, averaging a point per game over the last three seasons. The problem is they invested big money in a player they didn’t need.
When the Leafs signed Tavares, they were coming off a season that saw them finish fourth in the league in goals-per-game average (3.29). Meanwhile, their shots-against per game (33.9) was the fourth-highest.
Everyone knew the Leafs’ defensive game was their Achilles’ heel, and yet they went out and blew big bucks on a scoring forward.
The Tavares contract leaves the Leafs squeezed for cap space. It’s the reason why Dubas and Brandon Pridham, the Leafs’ trusty capologist, had to make cost-cutting moves to free up long-term cap space to re-sign Auston Matthews, Mitch Marner and William Nylander. It’s why they settled for cheap veteran quick fixes last fall that didn’t pan out. And it’s why this team struggles to find the right chemistry to end its 17-year streak of postseason failure.
Trading Tavares is the easiest way to free up the dollars to resolve that issue but it’s not going to happen. His full no-movement clause puts an end to that notion. Even without it, his annual cap hit for the next four seasons is as good as a no-movement clause in this flat-cap environment.
Everyone expects the Columbus Blue Jackets to trade Seth Jones after the 26-year-old defenseman stated his intent to test next year’s unrestricted free agent market. They cannot go through next season with his impending departure becoming an unnecessary distraction for his teammates.
Jones will draw plenty of interest in this summer’s trade market. He’s a big, minute-munching, all-around right-side blueliner. He had a down season in 2020-21 which affected his stats and analytic numbers, but there’s isn’t a general manager in the league who wouldn’t want him on their roster.
The Blue Jackets will probably try to get a significant return heavy on futures (draft picks, prospects) as they attempt to rebuild and change their culture. However, his contract status will affect his trade value. The Jackets could get a better deal if he agrees to a contract extension with the acquiring club.