In a salary cap age, the difference between being a deep team vs. a top-heavy squad often comes down to signing players at discount rates before they blossom.*
With that notion in mind, the Edmonton Journal’s David Staples argues that the Edmonton Oilers should lock up Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Justin Schultz and Jeff Petry long-term right now instead of waiting for their current deals to expire next summer.
Nugent-Hopkins, Schultz and Petry are all restricted free agents next summer. They all had just OK seasons in 2013, if you go by the traditional NHL statistics like points and goals plus-minus. Their value and salary expectations will likely be higher next summer.
How much more will Nugent-Hopkins cost if he puts up a point a game, if Schultz gets 55 or 60 points, and if Petry thrives against tough competition in a two-way role?
Staples estimates that Nugent-Hopkins and Schultz might draw eight-year, $42 million deals while Petry could fetch $24 million over six.
There’s no doubt that the Oilers would be rolling the dice by signing young players without much of a sample size, but as Tuukka Rask showed with the Boston Bruins, a promising young talent can make a team pay big time in a “show me” season.
* – The Los Angeles Kings reaping cheap years from Dustin Brown and Jonathan Quick stands as a great example, although both players are finally approaching big paydays.