With all quiet on the Andrew MacDonald contract extension front this winter, the writing has been on the wall regarding the New York Islanders defenseman's future -- enough that we've been dreaming of trade returns for the pending unrestricted free agent.
Now comes word of exactly where those contract extension talks reportedly stalled, and the level of commitment the Islanders were willing to reach might surprise you. Via Brett Cyrgalis of the New York Post:
A month a half ago, the Islanders defenseman turned down a four-year, $16 million offer, The Post has learned.
MacDonald and his agent had previously asked for a four- or five-year deal at $5 million per, and even got the Islanders to come up from their original starting price of $3.5 million per.
These days in the NHL market place, somewhere between $2.5 million and $4 million for a UFA defenseman is the "at least you know what you're getting with this guy" rate.
MacDonald is a really interesting case -- a sixth-round pick who took near-minimum salary on a four-year deal for the sake of a regular NHL job, he ran with it all the way to the point of leading the Islanders in minutes this year and logging key minutes (and contract-goosing points) on the team's number one power play unit after Lubomir Visnovsky was injured.
However, underlying on-ice stats paint him to be one of the Isles' least effective defensemen at net shot generation vs. shot prevention. His hyped "shutdown" pairing with partner Travis Hamonic ends up not shutting enough opponents down nearly often enough. While every traditional number paints him as a guy who can and will command a contract in the range of $5 million per year, those underlying stats put a "buyer beware" tag on him.
Beware, at least, if one plans to pay MacDonald (and use him) commensurate with the role he's played with the Islanders this season. But that's for the summer. In the meantime, many teams could use a minute-logging, shot-blocking defenseman with some offensive ability on a league-minimum salary.
The Post published thoughts from MacDonald on the uncertainty, with the usual "I want to be an Islander" sentiment followed by, "but at the end of the day, Garth has a decision to make and it is what it is."
ESPN's Katie Strang followed with an agent quote:
Agent for A. MacDonald hasn't had any recent discussions w/ #Isles but said: "They know where we are with wanting to remain on the Island."— Katie Strang (@KatieStrangESPN) February 6, 2014
Obviously, it's not happening. Could a trade be in the works before Friday's Olympic break trade freeze -- or will all the rumblings of teams handling business before that break amount to nothing?
At least one NHL GM thinks there is smoke, but no fire. Peter Chiarelli at CSNNE:
"...I don’t think there will be much action before the roster freeze," said Chiarelli. "I’ve talked to some teams, but I don’t think anybody is in any hurry. You hear stuff about some guys going before the roster freeze, but you also know teams don’t want to take on the salary for an extra couple of weeks..."
That seems to be the poker surrounding trade talks this year -- a low cap, with many teams squeezed to the ceiling, and an Olympic break offering a window where teams will pay players one paycheck while not playing.
But for MacDonald's $550,000 per year cap hit, that's not an issue.
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