On Friday, the Stars announced a seven-year extension with an annual cap hit of $4.25 million for John Klingberg, a promising defenseman coming off his entry level deal. This offseason, the Bruins would ideally use Klingberg’s contract as a template for Dougie Hamilton’s next deal. Hamilton’s camp will likely have other comps in mind.
One of those comps wears No. 76 for the Canadiens. You may have heard of him.
When it comes to Hamilton’s worth at the end of his entry-level deal, P.K. Subban is a very realistic comparable. Just look at their numbers through each of their first contracts:
In terms of points per game, Hamilton is also in some pricey company:
Hamilton will become a restricted free agent on July 1. The Bruins probably want to give him a long-term deal, but if he takes a shorter deal and gets to sign his third contract soon, he could potentially make a lot more money.
That’s what happened with Subban. The Canadiens were actually unwilling to give him the long-term deal he wanted after his entry-level deal expired, so he took a two-year deal worth just $2.875 million per. Subban shoved that in Marc Bergevin’s face by winning the Norris in the first year of that deal and later cashing in with an eight-year deal with an annual cap hit of $9 million.
The Bruins should avoid that scenario at all costs. Hamilton is already the Bruins’ second-best defenseman and is easily worth $5 million a year, and probably more.
The Bruins should give Hamilton a number that high for as long as he’ll take. Seven years at $5 million-plus per would buy out three years of unrestricted free agency, delaying perhaps Hamilton’s biggest pay day until he is 29.
Because of that, Hamilton’s camp will demand more per year the longer the deal goes. A shorter deal will mean a smaller cap hit, as Hamilton will easily make up that money in free agency sooner if he gets there.
These days, teams aren’t afraid to go long with their young blueliners. The longest contract a player can sign for if re-signing with his own team is eight years.
Drew Doughty got eight years after his entry-level contract expired. Klingberg, Roman Josi and Travis Hamonic all got seven, while Jonas Brodin and Justin Faulk both got six. Going off this season alone (and remember, some of these players are already multiple years into their second deals) Hamilton plays harder minutes than most of them.
(Usage chart courtesy of war-on-ice.com)
Teams can sign restricted free agents away from other clubs, but the possibility of Hamilton defecting for draft picks is highly unrealistic. Why? Because a team would need to plan its offseason around getting Hamilton only to miss out on him anyway.
Offer sheets do not typically come for a while after players reach restricted free agency; think later July, early August. Teams trying to sign players away strategically wait for rosters to begin filling out in an effort to decrease the rights-holding team’s chances of being able to match the contract. Even if Hamilton isn’t signed a couple weeks into July, the Bruins will leave themselves with money to match. That’s why most teams might not even try on Hamilton, as they usually don’t with restricted free agents.
There is not incentive to sign players to offer sheets that could realistically be matched. If a team does so and the original team matches, the interested team has only created inflation, something that will hurt their own cap situation down the road when they go to sign other players.
The Flyers, for example, thought there was no way the Predators would be able to match their $110 million contract for Shea Weber. They made a major play for what would have been the most impactful free agent signing since Zdeno Chara, but it didn’t work. The Weber deal increased the going rate for defensemen, which the Flyers can now use an excuse as to why they overpay their blueliners.
Hamilton will be a Bruin for a long time. Just don’t be surprised when you see what he’s worth.