The biggest story this past offseason may have been the number of restricted free agents currently without contracts. Mitch Marner is currently awaiting an extension from the Toronto Maple Leafs and this is having a ripple effect on other restricted free agents. If you look around the league you will see plenty of good free agents are still waiting to sign their deal.
This makes sense of course. Players are compared to similar players when it comes to contract negotiations. Knowing how much one player is making gives other players a benchmark to negotiate from to make sure that they are getting a fair deal that represents their market value.
Any player that signs early before the market rate is set risks leaving money on the table, potentially a lot of money. This can not only lead to hold outs a la Marner and others but also to larger contracts. Luckily the Arizona Coyotes aren’t going to need to worry about that with the deal that they signed Clayton Keller to.
Opinions are mixed on contract Clayton Keller signed. While some people have praised the deal, others don’t believe that Keller has earned a contract that long and that expensive. While he was great his first season, he hit a slump last season, and conventional wisdom holds that the team should have waited to see if he can recover next season.
What can’t be disputed is that the rest of the league has taken notice. A quick Google search shows several websites wondering what this means for their restricted free agents.
Broad Street Hockey, Bleedin Blue, and Pucks and Pitchforks have all broken down how this affects players on their teams. Specifically, the effect this is going to have on the contracts Travis Konecny, Brayden Schenn, and Nico Hischier, who can all point to this deal as a starting point.
If you look at those articles you see a common thread, Keller’s contract can be used by players and agents negotiating their next deals. Every player going into negotiations with management is going to be able to point to eight-years, $57.2 million deal and say “I want more than that.”
The fact that General Manager John Chayka was able to set a market price is impressive, especially if the price ends up going up. If the team decided to wait to sign Keller not only could his stock gone up after a successful third season, but the market may have been set higher by another player signing a similar deal.
That’s not to say this deal isn’t a gamble, it is. But looking at the potential impact this will have on the price for players Keller’s age and skill level it was good to get in on the ground level. If nothing else GM Chayka may have seriously messed with the plans of a few other general managers around the league looking to sign their RFAs for cheap.