Throughout June, theScore will be projecting contracts for the star-studded restricted free-agent class. In this edition, we forecast Charlie McAvoy's new deal.
Among all the young stars up for new contracts this offseason, Charlie McAvoy is the marquee defenseman.
The burgeoning superstar is only 21 years old, and he's already carved out a top-pairing role on the Bruins' blue line. He's destined to be a foundational piece for years in Boston.
McAvoy has gone through injury trouble, but he's been incredibly effective when healthy while averaging 0.51 points per game over two seasons, which ranks 36th among all regular defensemen during that span. The vast majority of his points have also come at even strength, making his production even more impressive.
McAvoy, who shoots right-handed and is a tremendous skater, led the Bruins in average ice time during the 2018-19 season. He also doesn't shy away from physicality, recording 91 blocks and 92 hits over 54 regular-season games this past season.
He can make a strong argument in negotiations for a significant raise.
McAvoy's RFA case is an interesting one because his six playoff games in 2016 burned the first year of his entry-level deal, making him the rare player up for a new contract without three years of NHL experience.
The Bruins and McAvoy have already discussed a contract extension, with the young rearguard reportedly turning down a long-term offer last offseason, according to Fluto Shinzawa of The Athletic. McAvoy's agent, Michael Curran, told Shinzawa his client wanted to focus on hockey after suffering an injury, pushing negotiations to this summer.
Boston's salary cap for 2019-20 is in good shape, and aside from McAvoy, the organization isn't facing any core players it needs to re-sign urgently. Danton Heinen and Brandon Carlo are RFAs up for new deals, but they won't command contracts as big as the one McAvoy will ink.
The Bruins are projected to hold just over $14 million in cap space, according to Cap Friendly, meaning general manager Don Sweeney won't need to remodel his roster to make McAvoy fit.
Where McAvoy's salary falls on Boston's payroll is another interesting factor in his pending payday. The Bruins have signed Patrice Bergeron ($6.875 million annually), Brad Marchand ($6.125 million), and David Pastrnak ($6.666 million) to team-friendly deals, giving McAvoy a realistic chance to leapfrog David Krejci ($7.25 million) as the team's highest-paid player.
Contract hierarchy is a big part of the Bruins' culture, though, and it's allowed Sweeney to build a competitive roster.
"If you want to try to make every dollar you can, unfortunately that's not going to be with this group," Marchand told Sports Illustrated's Alex Prewitt recently.
Here's a list of notable defensemen since 2015 to sign deals five-plus years in length after their entry-level contracts expired:
|Player (Team)||AAV||CH%||Length||Year signed|
|Dougie Hamilton (CGY)*||$5.75M||8.05%||6 years||2015|
|Aaron Ekblad (FLA)||$7.5M||10.27%||8 years||2016|
|Seth Jones (CBJ)||$5.4M||7.4%||6 years||2016|
|Morgan Rielly (TOR)||$5M||7%||6 years||2016|
|Colton Parayko (STL)||$5.5M||7.33%||5 years||2017|
|Noah Hanifin (CGY)||$4.95M||6.23%||6 years||2018|
|Shea Theodore (VGK)||$5.2M||6.54%||7 years||2018|
CH% = Cap hit percentage, based on cap ceiling when the contract was signed
*Traded to Carolina
Based on that list, McAvoy shouldn't struggle to obtain a six-to-eight year contract, but the average annual value is where the Bruins youngster will likely stand out from the pack.
While McAvoy's career points per game doesn't place him among the top-producing blue-liners in the league, only five other defensemen have matched his output over their first two seasons in the past decade.
Points aren't the only way to quantify a defenseman's value, and McAvoy plays a huge role on an elite team while excelling at other facets of the game not found on the scoresheet. Additionally, most of the deals above are considered bargains, giving McAvoy an opportunity to aim high and set a new bar for young defensemen.
Given the decreasing amount of bridge deals around the NHL and where both McAvoy and the Bruins currently stand, a long-term agreement is the most sensible direction. There's only one player under contract beyond 2023 on Boston's roster (Marchand), leaving the franchise wide open to make McAvoy a central blue-line piece for a long time.
Just 13 NHL defensemen are playing with a cap hit of $7 million or more, and McAvoy appears poised to join that club because of his two rock-solid seasons, limitless upside, and potentially Stanley Cup-winning pedigree, all at just 21 years old.
Verdict: Seven years, $54.6 million ($7.8 million AAV, 10.6 CH%)
Others in this series: