Estimating Ryan McDonagh’s next contract

Ryan McDonagh is going to be the trickiest RFA to sign.
Ryan McDonagh is going to be the trickiest RFA to sign.

 When news broke yesterday of Roman Josi’s new contract with the Nashville Predators ($28 million over 7 years), focus immediately shifted to Ryan McDonagh. After all, McDonagh and Josi are very comparable players. They are both coming off their ELCs. They are both top-pairing defensemen. They are both arbitration eligible. Most importantly, they are both likely to receive some attention on the RFA market.

However, that is where the similarities end. Josi has just one lockout-shortened full season, and 52 games in his rookie year last year. He has put up lines of 5-11-16 and 5-13-18 in each of those seasons respectively. Meanwhile, McDonagh has an extra full season under his belt, and has a 30 point season as well. On paper, McDonagh is the more credentialed defenseman.

Another factor here is the contract Josi received. Slats never gives out second contracts of that length. In fact, the last time he gave out a second contract that was longer than two years was Marc Staal. Staal is the exception, not the rule.  Now, if there’s anyone worth breaking that rule again, it is Ryan McDonagh. His career path and current accomplishments are even better than Staal’s at the time of his deal.

Since there is such a difference here, more comparable contracts need to be found. Victor Hedman of the Tampa Bay Lightning comes to mind when his ELC expired, and he $20 million over 5 years, which is the same AAV as Josi. Kris Letang of the Pittsburgh Penguins had similar numbers to McDonagh at the time his ELC expired, and he got $14 million over 4 years ($3.5 million AAV). The problem is that both of those guys signed after the 2009-2010 season when the cap was actually lower than the $64.3 million it will be this season. Those contracts may be a bit outdated, even if they do stay consistent with the market value set by Josi.

The wrench in this is the Oliver Ekman-Larsson contract out in Phoenix. OEL’s contract expired at the end of this season, and Phoenix signed him to a whopping six-year $33 million contract ($5.5 million per season). OEL had very similar numbers to McDonagh, but he has never dipped below 20 points in a season.

When it comes to McDonagh, finding a comparable contract isn’t as easy as it was with Derek Stepan. OEL is definitely the high-end of market value, but his individual value to his team is about equal to McDonagh’s value to the Rangers. Letang is probably the low-end of the spectrum, but he has a different career path than McDonagh. Josi and Hedman are the two that really steer market value to the lower-$4 million range.

One other factor to consider: Any deal over two years means that at the expiration of the new deal, McDonagh will become a UFA, not an RFA. McDonagh is currently 23 years old, and turns 24 in two days. The UFA age is still set at 27 years old, so a deal of three years or longer means buying UFA years on McDonagh. Slats is actually stuck between a rock and a hard place with McDonagh.

If he sticks with his two-year bridge deal, then Slats still gets McDonagh as an RFA when the deal expires. The problem is that McDonagh will likely command a higher AAV for a shorter deal, especially when his agent is looking at the Josi deal and thinking: “If Josi gets $4 million over seven years, and the Rangers want to sign McDonagh to a two-year deal, then Ryan should get more money because he is taking less term.” It’s just the business of the game. (For the agents in the house, the counter argument for this is that the Rangers aren’t buying UFA years. It’s tricky.)

Now if McDonagh is to sign a long-term deal, then the Rangers are buying UFA years, which is a very pricey proposition. McDonagh isn’t going to command Shea Weber or Ryan Suter money, but he is in the $6 million range if he continues to progress the way he has. In a deal like this the money is likely to be back-loaded, again like the Josi deal, to compensate for the UFA years.

For a few weeks now, I’ve been predicting McDonagh gets between $4 million and $4.5 million. That prediction stands if McDonagh gets a Slats bridge contract of two years. If he gets more years, I’d expect the AAV to be between $4.5 million and $5.5 million, depending on the number of UFA years bought out. Considering the cap crunch for next season, I’d expect McDonagh to get a bridge deal and then sign his big deal at the expiration of his second contract.

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  1. Very strange circumstances indeed, considering next year’s cap crunch. Good analysis, Dave.

    My guess- he gets 4 yrs with a cap hit of 4.75 mil (19mil deal). 2 years of RFA, 2 years of UFA for a year to year break down of 3.5 mil, 4.5 mil, 5.25 mil, 5.25 mil.

    ^all within the rules of the new CBA in regard to year2year $ variance

      1. Absolutely. I have the benefit of not being a contributor here, so it doesn’t really bother me to throw out as-specific-as-possible estimates. Very small chance I nail the terms exactly, but it’s a fun game to play.

  2. Slats doesn’t give long term contracts coming off of ELC, well this is the exception, mark my words. Mac Truck earned it, will get 5 years at $5 mil per, and he will be happy.

    Look at the situation with Filthadelphia, they went after Shea Weber, forcing the Preds to match the terms. They are hard up for a quality d-man, and knowing that low class organization, they will target McD. We just can’t take that risk!!

  3. Do you think McD’s camp wants a lengthy deal at a set price? If I’m him, I taker shorter bites, as his potential seems to be unlimited, and higher seasonal contracts will follow Lidstrom-type performance.

    1. I agree with you, but injury risk is something for Camp McD to consider. Which is why I think he will get in between a short 2 yr deal and a longer 6-7 yr deal.

  4. I think that a 5 yr/25 mil would be hard for him to turn down. Any fan favorite in the Garden will have a hard time going elsewhere, especially philly, but i still think the Rangers should offer him what he deserves. However, I seem to keep repeating myself in saying that, because now Cally, Step, and Mac all are getting huge paydays in my world. With that being said, those are the guys that have to come back (and Hank). We can’t afford to lose any of them, so the contracts must be handled the right way.

      1. So…8 years $40m? I don’t think he will take 8 years at only $5m a year. That’s a deal I’d sign in a heartbeat though.

  5. I like the bridging deal, seems like once a player starts making the huge dough their play diminishes.
    I just read the last spiel on Boyle. You need players to perform different roles in order to ice a good hockey team. Boyle is a checking center who played his role very well in the playoffs. Torts had him playing against the others team’s top line game in and game out. We shut down your topline so our topline can score, that is how the game is played. If the Rangers lost Boyle in the offseason he will be missed big time. You don’t have to rack in a bunch of points to be an effective player in the |NHL. Brian Boyle is an effective player.

  6. keep up the estimations, mine were based entirely on EA sports NHL 13 so we know how accurate those are since they predicted the rangers would win the cup

  7. Out of all our “need to sign” players, I rate him ahead of Stepan and feel he needs to get $5M a year for 3-4 years.

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