Rewind back to the 2008 Draft. Steven Stamkos was the consensus #1 pick and was expected to be followed by four promising defenseman. Drew Doughty, Zach Bogosian, Alex Pietrangelo, and Luke Schenn were all expected to be top-notch defensemen for any club lucky enough to draft them. Doughty, Schenn, and Bogosian all earned spots on the respective NHL teams only months after taking the draft stage Scotiabank Place in Ottawa. They’ve all had their individual ups-and-downs as professionals, but they share another trait that their organizations wish to remedy: they’re all restricted free agents in the middle of contract disputes.
The major difference between the Bogosian contract negotiations and that of Doughty and Schenn is how much quieter the talk has been. Part of it is because Winnipeg isn’t the same type of media market that Los Angeles or Toronto can be. Part of it is that Jets GM Kevin Cheveldayoff isn’t known for the same types of quotes that Leafs GM Brian Burke and Kings GM Dean Lombardi are known to drop to the media. But mostly, it’s because Bogosian isn’t quite the same type of player that Doughty and Schenn have been over the course of their first three NHL seasons.
Bogosian did his part to keep the talks out of the limelight as he was mum on the subject of his contract negotiations:
“Things are good. We’re talking. That’s about all I will say. You’ve just got to sit back and let the agents and GM deal with all that kind of stuff.”
While he’s at it, he might as well say that he plans on “taking it one day at a time” and “he’s just hoping he can help out the team any way he can.” Regardless, it looks like Bogosian is toeing the company line with the team and his agent Bob Murray as all sides are keeping the negotiations out of the media.
Bogosian is an interesting case-study in NHL economics because of the potential he possesses vs. production on the ice. Coming out of the draft, most scouting services had Doughty and Bogosian ranked neck-and-neck with Pietrangelo having a high-ceiling (but needing more time in the OHL) and Schenn being the best stay-at-home defenseman. Today, Bogosian still has the most question marks surrounding his game. Doughty has already been a Norris Trophy finalist and won an Olympic Gold Medal with Team Canada. Alex Pietrangelo is showing signs that he could become a Norris candidate in the next few years and Luke Schenn has already made a name for himself as a nasty defenseman with the Maple Leafs.
Gary Lawless from the Winnipeg Free Press spoke to an NHL executive about the three restricted free agents:
“They were comparable players in junior but haven’t been to date as pros. It’s difficult to know what Winnipeg has in Bogosian at this point. He may very well turn into a fine player but that has only been demonstrated in flashes so far.”
Bogosian is a different deal all together. He’ll show flashes of the talent that made him one of the most sought-after prospects in a great draft; then he’ll regress and look lost on the ice. It certainly didn’t help that he and defensive partner Johnny Oduya were buried with defensive zone starts more than anyone else on the Thrashers, but his points per 60 was the second worst among Atlanta blueliners. Not exactly the kind of statistic a player wants going into a contract negotiation. Going further with advanced stats, Bogosian’s zone finish was the worst Thrashers defenseman as well.
What does all of this mean? Former coach Craig Ramsay had Bogosian starting in his own defensive zone a lot and he finished his shift in his own zone more than anyone else. He spent a ton of time in his own zone and he scored less than every defenseman on the Thrashers NOT named than Mark Stuart.
There are two ways to look at it—either one can look at it that Bogosian was never put in the position to succeed; or Bogosian hasn’t blossomed into the type of top-tier defenseman that can bail his team out of trouble. The best defensemen in the league can start anywhere on the ice and help their team generate scoring chances. Clearly, Bogosian isn’t at that level yet—and it’s unfair to expect him to be.
The troubling part for Atlanta’s Winnipeg’s management is how to pay the player who could be a very good defenseman down the road, but is currently just an average blueliner. Do they want to gamble on a long-term contract hoping to lock him at a reasonable cap hit? Do they want to sign him to a short-term contract to see how he develops over the next season or two? As much as money is a factor in the negotiations, the term can be just as crucial in a negotiation like Bogosian’s.
Once someone starts talking, we’ll have an idea which way each side is leaning. Of course, we’ll keep you updated with any developments.