Author’s Twitter: @_MikeLuci_
Former New Jersey Devils general manager Lou Lamoriello once said “when time is on your side, you use it,”. While you can justify its meaning, this isn’t always necessarily the case. There always lies the possibility that unprecedented circumstances can throw a monkey wrench into a general manager’s plan if they wind up taking the time they have for granted. This will definitely be the case in terms of how the contracts forwards Filip Forsberg and Andrew Shaw signed, will impact the direction Ray Shero’s negotiations with right wing Kyle Palmieri are headed. Both sides have expressed confidence in completing a deal prior to July 1st, which means we’ll supposedly see one any day now.
In his first 82-game season, Palmieri set personal highs with 30 goals and 57 points, which will inevitably warrant a substantial pay raise from the $1.6 million he earned in 2015-2016. The 25-year old right wing’s production doubled his previously set goal milestone (14), and exceeded Palmieri’s original career-high in points (31). It’s a common practice in sports to use contract terms and salaries freshly awarded to players of similar positions, age, and point production as leverage in negotiations. When factors like this are brought into the equation, comparing recently awarded contracts to similarly-natured players can make or break talks. Forsberg and Shaw are in the same age range as Palmieri with overlapping similarities in career paths, point production, and NHL experience. The contracts both forwards have recently signed will establish the parameters, in which Palmieri’s new contract will be constructed. His next deal will certainly be in the 5-7 year range and while Palmieri isn’t worth over $6 million, he won’t average less than $3.9 million a year in his new deal. When trying to approximate what Palmieri’s next cap hit will look like, it helps to compare the course of offensive production throughout Forsberg and Shaw’s careers with Palmieri’s.
Shaw completed his fifth season in the NHL where he’s accumulated 70 goals in 322 games with the last 49 coming in his last 237 contests. Much of Shaw’s value lies in his extensive playoff experience that includes two Stanley Cup championships with the Blackhawks in 2010 and 2013. Shaw has only scored 20 goals once (2013-2014) and never exceeded 40 points in a single season, but was largely relegated to a third line role on an offensively saturated Blackhawks roster. It’s conceivable for Shaw to be poised for a Palmieri-type breakout season with the Habs, now that he’s out of the shadow of Patrick Kane, Jonathan Toews, and Marian Hossa. If that’s the case, then $3.9 million could be a bargain for Shaw, who earned a meager but respectable 35.9% raise in salary from the $2.5 million cap hit his previous contract carried.
Nashville’s acquisition of Filip Forsberg may go down as one of the most notorious trade heists in the salary cap era. In two consecutive 82-game seasons with Nashville, Forsberg tallied 59 goals and 127 points. He scored 33 goals in 2015-2016 and has led the Predators in scoring back-to-back years. He’s coming off a contract that carried a cap hit of $1.461 million, so the $6 million AAV his current contract has resulted in a 410% salary raise for the 21-year old Swede. Outside of the last two seasons however, Forsberg’s pro-level experience spanned only 18 games, leaving the young forward 18 contests shy of 200 for his NHL career.
Palmieri’s camp will have a strong argument to demand an AAV in the range of $3.9-6 million. They’ll cite how a more established player like Shaw who already has two Stanley Cup rings, is entering a similar situation in Montreal where he could break out offensively like Palmieri did in New Jersey. He’s signed to a contract with a cap hit close to $4 million after averaging a smidgen over 16 goals in his last three seasons. Palmieri’s representatives will sternly proclaim their client is worth more, considering Shaw was awarded the kind of long term deal a player in Palmieri’s situation should receive after the year he had with the Devils. While Forsberg’s substantial salary raise in his new contract came after his first two full NHL seasons, he respectively scored 26 and 33 goals, led Nashville in scoring both years, and got them back to the playoffs after a brief hiatus. Palmieri’s camp will refer to Forsberg’s back-to-back 25+ goal seasons as leverage to get Palmieri a higher payout, since he also reached the 30-goal plateau as a more tenured, but up and coming offensive asset that his negotiators will argue has “paid his dues”, and is entitled to earning figures similar to Forsberg’s.
If Palmieri receives along the lines of a 230% salary raise (roughly halfway between the salary increases awarded to Shaw and Forsberg) from his $1.467 cap hit in 2015-2016, the New Jersey native’s next contract would have a projected cap hit of $4.84 million, which is slightly below average cap hit in Shaw and Forsberg’s new contracts ($4.95 million). The figure might seem high but when reminded about the glut of cap space the Devils currently have, it might not seem that outlandish. Assuming the stated factors in the article above will truly become a part of negotiations, I could see Kyle Palmieri in line to receive a six-year deal that pays him a lump sum of $29 million ($4.84 million cap hit).