Arizona Coyotes GM John Chayka described Clayton Keller as “elite in every sense of the word” in Wednesday’s press release. Considering the eight-year, $57.2 million extension Keller was handed, the Coyotes certainly are paying him as such.
This means that Keller, 21, will carry a whopping $7.15M cap hit beginning in the 2020-21 season, as he’s about to enter the final year of his entry-level contract.
“Clayton is elite in every sense of the word,” Chayka said. “He is not only an All-Star and one of the premiere offensive playmakers in the league, but he is equally special as a person with his drive and determination to be great. We are thankful to Clayton for believing in our future and look forward to him playing a vital role on this team for many years to come. We are also very appreciative of Mr. Meruelo’s willingness to invest in our future and solidify one of our core players here in Arizona for a long time.”
Keller’s agent confirmed details, including the structure (cue ominous music for lockout protection):
After bursting onto the NHL scene with a 23-goal, 65-point rookie campaign, Keller suffered through a sophomore slump in 2018-19, sinking to 14 goals and 47 points. Clearly, that regression — and any other potential pitfalls – did not sway the Coyotes from making this bold investment.
Chayka continues to be a fascinating GM, as while he has something of an analytics background, he also seems to walk to the beat of his own drum. In many cases, that means making sometimes surprising investments, like signing Christian Dvorak through 2024-25.
The analytics community has not been kind to handing Keller such a massive deal, some going as far as to call it “disastrous.”
Evolving Hockey doesn’t love Keller’s chances of justifying a $6.4M cap hit, let alone a $7.15M mark:
Of course, Keller is very young, and could see growth that makes criticisms look unfair in retrospect. Maybe Keller would have driven his leverage through the ceiling by combining his splendid playmaking skills with Phil Kessel‘s elite sniping?
Again, the Coyotes are spending big while hoping that they’re right, and others are wrong.