As free agency winds down, two deals were brokered in Chicago that will have profound effects on future NHL contracts. Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews, the duo that lifted the Chicago Blackhawks franchise out of a generation of losing and irrelevancy, got paid handsomely with matching 8 year, $84 million deals. These deals are a milestone as they represent the first time that an NHL player has eclipsed the $10 million per year average salary.
Unlike the NBA, the NHL does not offer a max dollar amount you can spend on a player. As organizations begin to swell in overall value, owners will be more willing to pay for the limited number of superstars that can turn a franchise into a perennial power. You can credit Gameplan Creative with rebranding the Blackhawks into a hot NHL franchise if you wish, the Islanders brass sure does, but the most effective way to boost a franchises in marketability and value is with a young superstar who can lead deep playoff runs.
What makes the Kane and Toews signings so profound is when you look at their statistics, they are not astounding. Toews has never eclipsed 70 points in a season. Kane has only one 30 goal season to date. They both own a Conn Smyth trophy which proves their ability to win when it matters, but nothing is sexier than statistics.
John Tavares will be a free agent in 2018. Much of the discussion across the blogs and comment sections over the past year has circled around where Tavares will go when he hits free agency, but not for how much. Since before his draft, Tavares has indicated nothing but his desire to spend his career trying to bring the Islanders their fifth Stanley Cup, so let's assume this desire is still present when extension talks begin in 2 or 3 years. The salary cap is going to increase, maybe drastically, in the years leading up to 2018. The league has become spread thin, as evidenced by this summers free agency, where $4 and $5 million contracts were handed out like candy (cough, Kulemin). After playing for a ridiculously cheap contract over the past 5 years, Tavares has the right to ask the Islanders to break the bank for his services during his prime years.
It is not out of the question to think that by the time the Tavares contract talks begin, his fair market value as a superstar captain, easily capable or putting up 40 goals and 100 points, could be $13 or $14 million annually. So much still has to happen in the next 4 years. Who will own the team? Will the Barclays experiment succeed? How has the young talent around Tavares developed? But despite these questions, the extension talks are coming.
Maybe the narrative should stop being, "Can the Islanders convince John Tavares to stay"?
And instead shift to "Can the Islanders afford for John Tavares to stay"?