The NHL’s most dangerous contract, a brief history of the Shiny New Toy deal

It’s been a fascinating offseason to date. The Flames and Panthers pulled off one of the greatest blockbusters of the final decade, a actually surprising late-night swap that noticed Matthew Tkachuk head to Florida for a bundle that included Jonathan Huberdeau and MacKenzie Weegar.

The Blackhawks are brazenly tanking whereas the Senators are loading up, with each conditions highlighted by the deal that despatched Alex DeBrincat to Ottawa. The Golden Knights dumped Max Pacioretty on Carolina for next-to-nothing, whereas the Wild needed to transfer Kevin Fiala to the Kings. We might not even be performed as commerce rumors swirl round guys like Patrick Kane, Jonathan Toews, Pierre-Luc Dubois, JT Miller and David Pastrnak.

All of these strikes have been gorgeous in their very own method, or can be. But that is not the most vital factor they’ve in widespread.

We want to speak about the Shiny New Toy state of affairs.

It’s dangerous. It’s doubtlessly unhealthy information for followers in Ottawa, Calgary or Carolina, in addition to whichever crew is perhaps tempted by guys like Miller or Kane. It additionally makes it really feel considerably doubtless that we’re about to see at the least a few groups make cap-crushing errors that they’re going to remorse for years to come back.

Let’s clarify what is going on on, the way it’s performed out in the previous, and what we are able to study from that.


What is a Shiny New Toy?

Negotiating a contract in the NHL is all about leverage. Sometimes the crew has it, like when a younger participant’s entry-level contract expires and his rights are nonetheless underneath crew management for years to come back. Sometimes the participant has it, like when a longtime star hits free company, or a beloved franchise stalwart is on an expiring deal and desires an extension earlier than he walks away for nothing. In these circumstances, groups typically overpay, as a result of they might really feel like they’ve little alternative.

As a huge fan of debating unhealthy contracts, I do not say this calmly: There is probably not a extra dangerous set of circumstances for a crew or a extra advantageous one for a participant and his agent, than the dreaded Shiny New Toy. It’s a class of unhealthy contract that I first proposed in a piece I wrote six years in the past. I do not know when you learn that one or not, however I’m fairly certain that NHL GMs did not, as a result of if something the listing of errors has been getting worse.

The state of affairs is in play when a crew acquires a star participant in a main commerce, normally to nice fanfare, after which has to instantly cope with an extension. The participant they’ve simply acquired both wants a new contract instantly or has a deal that is about to run out, making them eligible for an extension.

That places the crew in a bind. Sure, it is nice that they added a new participant, however now they should maintain him. Their followers are excited. The GM is studying media protection about what a nice job he is performed. They might even be promoting a few extra season tickets. But all that positivity disappears in the event that they let this new star stroll away for nothing in a yr or so.

The crew must signal the participant to a long-term deal. And the participant, and his agent, completely realize it. That’s why they’ve all the leverage.

Put your self in a GM’s sneakers. You’ve simply held a press convention to indicate off your new acquisition, and brag to the world about how great he’s. You in all probability gave up priceless belongings to get him. Are you actually going to sit down down at the bargaining desk and act such as you’re not bought?

You cannot. You should pay up. And fairly often, that results in catastrophe.

What are some examples of Shiny New Toy disasters?

OK, so that you perceive what the Shiny New Toy seems like. But how typically does it actually find yourself being as unhealthy as I simply described?

Let’s begin with a latest instance. Last summer time, the Blackhawks traded for Seth Jones on July 23, giving up a bundle of excessive picks and Adam Boqvist. Jones was heading into the final yr of his deal, with UFA standing looming, so the Hawks instantly signed him to an eight-year, $76 million extension. That contract raised eyebrows at the time, and a yr later it seems like one of the league’s worst, with Dom rating it quantity two on his listing of unhealthy offers.

We do not should scroll very far down that listing to seek out extra Shiny New Toys. The Sabers traded for Jeff Skinner throughout the 2018 offseason, figuring out he had one yr left earlier than UFA standing. They finally paid as much as maintain him, giving him eight years and $72 million, which Dom ranks as the third-worst contract in the league proper now.

We can discover a good larger instance a bit additional down the listing in Erik Karlsson. The Sharks traded for him in 2018, heading into the remaining yr of his contract, and finally gave him a whopping eight years and $92 million to stay round. Now carrying the greatest cap hit for a defenseman in NHL history for 5 extra years, he is been harm and solely sometimes efficient ever since.

Let’s maintain going. How about the Rangers buying and selling for Jacob Trouba in June of 2019, then handing him seven years and $56 million a month later? The Sharks gave up a first-round decide for Evander Kane in 2018, then gave him seven years and $49 million a few months later. Jonathan Drouin landed six years and $33 million from the Canadiens on the identical day they gave up Mikhail Sergachev for him.

Justin Faulk acquired seven years and $45.5 million from the Blues on the day he was acquired from the Hurricanes in September 2019, regardless of having a full yr left on his deal. Finally, the inflated Ryan McDonagh contract that the Lightning simply needed to dump on the Predators was signed simply months after they acquired him from the Rangers for a bundle of picks and prospects, proving that even good groups can fall sufferer.

This will not be a latest phenomenon. We can look again at different questionable contracts from years in the past, like the Hurricanes giving Jordan Staal a 10-year contract value $60 million in 2012, simply days after buying and selling for him on the draft ground. The Senators traded for Bobby Ryan in the aftermath of shedding Daniel Alfredsson to the Red Wings, then needed to give him seven years and $50 million over the life of the deal a yr later.

Those identical Senators despatched Jason Spezza to Dallas in 2014, then watched the Stars give him 4 years and $30 million on a deal that just about instantly felt like an overpay. Cory Schneider’s disastrous seven-year, $42-million extension got here a yr after the Devils traded for him in entrance of the hometown followers.

We may maintain going, even reaching again into the pre-cap days, the place arguably the worst trade-and-contract ever seen was a basic Shiny New Toy state of affairs. But I’m guessing you get the level. When a crew pulls off a commerce for a huge title that wants an extension, they’re in very dangerous territory.

Does a Shiny New Toy contract ever work out?

If you are a Flames fan who’s made it this far into this publish, there’s a good likelihood you are terrified proper now. So that is the half the place I ought to give you some optimism, with a listing of Shiny New Toy contracts that labored out wonderful.

The drawback is, I’m not fully certain there are any.

Certainly, none of the contracts which might be generally talked about amongst the league’s nice bargains fall into the Shiny New Toy class, though these are sometimes ones signed by elite younger gamers proper earlier than a breakout, and people guys are not often traded. Besides, we need not discover a nice contract as a counter-example — simply a respectable one would do.

Are there any candidates? You may make a case for Mark Stone, who acquired eight years and $76 million from Vegas a few days after they pried him out of Ottawa. That deal appeared cheap at the time for a man who was thought-about amongst the elite wingers in the league, however accidents have diminished Stone’s worth lately. The jury remains to be out, however Stone would possibly nonetheless find yourself figuring out properly.

It’s too early to inform on guys like Kevin Fiala in Los Angeles (on a deal that most of us appeared to suppose was OK) or Hampus Lindholm in Boston (which could possibly be a little dicier). If we return additional, we are able to discover a pair of team-friendly 2015 contracts like Dougie Hamilton in Calgary and Ryan O’Reilly’s deal with the Sabres, which finally labored out higher for the Blues, however nonetheless matches our standards.

But possibly the greatest counter-example for Flames followers is one which will probably be bittersweet: Matthew Tkachuk’s eight-year, $76-million extension with the Panthers. Technically, he signed that deal with Calgary as half of the league’s first sign-and-trade, however I believe we are able to enable it as being in the spirit of the factor. Tkachuk hasn’t performed a sport underneath that contract but, but it surely’s already getting rave evaluations.

If the Panthers may hand over as a lot as they did for Tkachuk and nonetheless get him signed to a cheap contract, possibly there’s hope for different comparable conditions. Or possibly Tkachuk is simply the exception that proves the rule, the place a crew circumvented the Shiny New Toy curse by figuring out the contract earlier than the commerce was consummated. Look, I wished to depart Flames followers with some optimism, and that is the greatest I can do.


Mark Stone. (Ethan Miller/Getty Images)

So what have we discovered?

Would “do not commerce for stars who want extensions” be oversimplifying? I believe it is perhaps. And given how a lot time I spend complaining about GMs not making trades, I do not actually wish to rule out a entire broad class of them.

So let’s go along with this: While a star participant’s expiring contract could also be the solely purpose that they are obtainable to commerce for in the first place, groups must be extraordinarily cautious relating to making these offers.

That’s a cautionary story for the Flames, with each Huberdeau and Weegar. It’s value remembering for the Senators, with DeBrincat. It could possibly be a drawback for the Hurricanes and Pacioretty, though that deal could possibly be extra of a designed rental. It’s a crimson flag to anybody who is perhaps fascinated about pulling the set off on Miller, Dubois or Kane, or every other stars who grow to be obtainable in a comparable state of affairs, even when the trades themselves appear to supply sturdy worth.

Buyer beware. Because the observe document right here is totally abysmal.

(Top photograph of Seth Jones: Christopher Hanewinckel / USA Today)

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