Blake’s Takes: The Marner Bomb Drop and Other Extensions

How many synonyms can I use for the word extension? You will have to keep reading to find out because this edition of Blake’s Takes is all about extensions. Mitch Marner finally signed an extension. Many of the other big-name RFAs followed suit, making last week one of the most memorable weeks of the summer in the hockey world.

1. Mitch Marner Finally Signs

[Photo Credit: NHL]
The news we have been waiting for the entire offseason, Mitch Marner has signed an extension with the Toronto Maple Leafs. After months of clearing cap-space to sign Marner, he and the Leafs agreed on a six-year deal with a $10.893 million AAV with most of the money coming in the form of signing bonuses. Marner is coming off his breakout season, where he scored 26 goals and totaled 94 points while playing in all 82 games. With Marner locked down for another six years, the Leafs now have their four of their superstars signed for at least three more seasons. That includes Marner, Auston Matthews, John Tavares, and William Nylander.

The two sides agreed on the deal during training camp. There was a clear desire for both sides to the deal done before the season started, especially after Nylander’s hold out caused him to miss games last season. The deal was reported by TSN’s Darren Dreger on Friday night. Dreger’s series of tweets about the extension lit the hockey world on fire. Dreger first tweeted about the extension early on Friday morning.

Dreger continued to tweet on Friday night with live updates on the extension.

It was comical because he claimed nothing he reported was official, leaving the door open for him to be incorrect.

After the dust settled, Marner and the Leafs had agreed on the extension. What is most interesting about the deal, is that Marner’s camp was pushing for a short-term deal, preferably three years.

Marner’s camp wanted a shorter term for the same reason as Matthews and the many other young superstars that can cash in after their Entry-Level Contract expires. They know that they can sign for more money again in their late twenties than they can in their mid-thirties. Had Marner signed a three-year deal, he could have hit free agency again at 25-years-old. If you assume he will still be one of the league’s brightest stars, he could sign a huge eight-year deal with an $11 million AAV. Every team in the NHL would sign Marner to that deal in a heartbeat. If Marner had signed that eight-year contract today, he would hit free agency again at 30-years-old. That would allow for more opportunities for Marner’s play to decline and opportunities for injury. Most teams wouldn’t be offering him an eight-year deal then. It’s a gamble. Sign the big-ticket now and risk giving up earning potential down the road, or bet on yourself now and get big money later. The Leafs obviously wanted Marner to sign for eight years so they could keep him for his prime and hope his contract becomes a bargain. The two sides split the middle and agreed on six years.

This is a great deal for Marner. He’s going to make a boatload of money now and will have a chance to sign another big contract at 28-years-old. If he stays healthy, I don’t think many teams will hesitate to sign him to another big deal. For the Leafs, what else could they do? There is no chance they could risk losing him to another team. GM Kyle Dubas did what he was supposed to do, sign him before the season started.

2. McAvoy Re-Ups with Boston

After Marner agreed to his extension, it was only a matter of time until other players followed his lead. Charlie McAvoy and the Boston Bruins agreed to a three-year extension with an AAV of $4.9 million. McAvoy will be a 24-year-old RFA when his deal expires. The contract made sense for both sides as the Bruins are currently capped out and McAvoy can cash in again with the club at the end of the deal.

Like Marner and Matthews, McAvoy decided to bet on himself now, signing for less money. There’s no doubt he is worthy of a long-term deal in the $6.5-$7.5 million range. However, with the little cap space the Bruins have, this deal made sense for both sides. The deal is similar to the one Zach Werenski signed with the Blue Jackets last week.

This is a great deal for McAvoy and the Bruins. It clearly makes sense for Boston because they get to keep one of the best young stars in the game on their team for another three years, and will make a push to sign him to another extension in two years. For McAvoy, what could be better? He got a hefty raise and is going to be contending for Stanley Cups each year in Boston. I like this deal more for McAvoy then I did for Werenski because it’s easier to take less money when you’re playing for a contender. Betting on yourself is easier and more worthwhile when you have a shot to win a Stanley Cup.

The only issue for Boston is figuring out what to do with Torey Krug. Considering McAvoy is seven years younger, the Bruins will have to decide if they’re willing to pay him and McAvoy big money. They don’t have much time to make that decision seeing as Krug will become a UFA when his deal expires at the end of this season.

3. Provorov Cashes in on the Extension Fun

The Philadelphia Flyers and defenseman Ivan Provorov have agreed on a six-year, $40.5 million deal with an AAV of $6.75 million. The 22-year-old has quickly become the Flyers best defenseman. Provorov’s coming-out party was during the 2017-18 season, where he finished the season with 17 goals and 41 points while playing in all 82 games. He has quickly become the franchise’s defensive cornerstone and will now be paid as such.

I love this deal for both sides, even more than I love Marner and McAvoy’s deal. Provorov probably isn’t the player that McAvoy is so there is a bit more for him to risk by signing a shorter-term deal. Provorov, the Russian man-rocket, could easily sign a big eight-year deal when this one expires. Seeing as defenseman often develop later that seems likely. The contract is great for Philadelphia because Provorov is going to continue to improve. So much so that the last Provorov will be underpaid by the time this deal ends. Also, Flyers’ defensemen Matt Niskanen and Justin Braun will be free agents after this season, so locking up Provorov now was a priority.

4. Mr. Underrated Signs New Deal in Minnesota

The Minnesota Wild and defenseman Jared Spurgeon have agreed to a contract extension worth $53 million that carries a $7.575 million cap hit. The 29-year-old will carry a $5.18 cap hit this season before the extension kicks in next year. Spurgeon is consistently one of the most underrated defensemen in the league. He has spent the entirety of his nine-year career with the Wild. He is coming off another solid season where he posted career highs in goals, assists, and points, with 14, 29, and 43 respectively. Spurgeon will have the highest AAV on the team next year, surpassing Zach Parise and Ryan Suter’s $7.538 million.

I’m not as high on this deal as I was for the players mentioned above. For one, the Wild are quickly approaching the nightmare zone. There are six players on the Wild with four or more seasons left of their deals, they are Zach Parise, Mats Zuccarello, Jason Zucker, Ryan Suter, Matt Dumba, and now Spurgeon. They finished last in the league’s best Central Division last year and are on track to do the same this year as every team in their division improved. They should be looking to start a rebuild rather than locking in good players to extensions. Especially considering they signed Zuccarello to an extension earlier this summer that the rest of the league laughed at.

I’m happy for Spurgeon. He deserves the money and this deal is not going to age as poorly as others we’ve seen. The Wild would have been smart to look to trade Spurgeon to a contender and cash in while they can. He was their only valuable trade chip. Unless Zach Parise becomes a Hart Trophy candidate again and the rest of the Central Division implodes, this was not a smart decision by Minnesota.

5. Morrisey and Winnipeg Agree to Six-Year Pact

The Winnipeg Jets have had a notable offseason. They allowed defenseman Tyler Myers to sign in Vancouver in free agency, traded Jacob Trouba, and have been negotiating with RFAs Kyle Connor and Patrik Laine. They were also negotiating with defenseman Josh Morrissey, another RFA. To the surprise of many, Morrissey was the first and least notable RFA the Jets signed to a new contract. The two sides agreed to an eight-year, $50 million extension with a $6.25 million AAV. Morrissey is coming off his best season as a pro, where he scored six goals, added 25 assists, for 31 points. He has finished as positive in +/- each year of his career. He also finished last season with a career-best 0.53 PPG.

The Jets struck gold with this extension. Morrissey is one of the more promising defensemen in the league. He meets a huge need as the Jets lost two of their top three defensemen this summer, Myers, and Trouba. This deal could also look like a bargain in a year or two if Morrissey meets his potential. That could be a game-breaker for the Jets considering they could get creative with Laine and Connor’s extensions. This contract could also put pressure on the negotiations of those two. Yes, Winnipeg has a ton of cap space, but there is now $6.25 million less available. The Jets could start to put pressure on Laine and Connor to get a deal done before the other and get their money before it runs out. Everything about this deal benefits Winnipeg and it could very well ensure they have the financial flexibility to remain a playoff contender for years to come. ■

Blake Isaacs is a die-hard Red Wings fan that doesn’t go to as many games as he should. He is also a big fan of 7-Eleven Slurpeees, Chipotle, and all things Michigan State. Follow him on Twitter @bisaacs1995.

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