One of the most remarkable stories in all of sport has cashed in on his unlikely season.
The St. Louis Blues handed goaltender Jordan Binnington a two-year, $8.8 million bridge deal late Saturday, locking up the restricted free agent and avoiding arbitration with the man who began the season in the American Hockey League only to lead his team to their first Stanley Cup in franchise history last month.
The deal has a $4.4 million average annual value, $50,000 more than Jake Allen‘s $4.350 million.
“I’m happy to get this deal done with the St. Louis Blues,” said Binnington in a release from the team. “To the city of St. Louis, thank you for welcoming me in and trusting me to do me. I’m excited and motivated to keep doing my job and keep bringing success to the St. Louis Blues organization.”
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Binnington, 26, will become an unrestricted free agent at the end of the deal.
Binnington made his first career started on Jan. 7, posting a 25-save shutout. While it would have easy to blow it off as a flash in the pan, Binnington would go on to produce a 24-5-1 record to close out the year, with an impressive .927 save percentage and five shutouts as a rookie.
“We are pleased to have Jordan signed for two more years,” GM Doug Armstrong said. “His play was outstanding and we look forward to seeing him continue to be a major contributor for our team.”
Binnington’s run lift the Blues from the basement of the NHL, briefly putting them in first place in the Central Division near the end of the season.
While they’d have to settle for third, Binnington and the Blues dispatched the Winnipeg Jets, Dallas Stars and San Jose Sharks to book their ticket to the Stanley Cup Final.
They’d go the distance against the Boston Bruins, with Binnington making stopping 32 of 33 pucks sent his way in a 4-1, Stanley Cup-clinching win in Game 7.
Binnington became the first rookie goaltender in NHL history to record 16 wins in a single postseason. Binnington posted a .914 save percentage in 26 playoff appearances.
Binnington finished second in the Calder voting for the league’s top rookie.
Quick analysis: Bridging Binnington makes sense for both sides.
For the Blues, it comes with less risk than signing him long-term. If he turns out to be a flash in the pan and can’t re-create what he did last season, they only have to deal with it for a couple of seasons rather than the next six or seven.
For Binnington, it’s a chance for him to prove he’s the real deal (he sure seems to be) and cash in on a much more lucrative deal at the other end of it. He’ll be a UFA at the end of the deal, and teams will be lining up with truckloads of cash to entice if he only gets better from now until the contract expires.
Allen’s contract will come off the books at the same time, so a hefty raise against will be up for grabs.
It’s a win-win for both sides. Binnginton made just $650,000 last year. That’s a handsome raise for a half seasons’ worth of work.
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Scott Billeck is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at email@example.com or follow him on Twitter @scottbilleck