Before I get into the meat of this blog let me just say I loved that the Ducks brought Ryan Kesler in last summer. I think he is a great fit at center for their club. But the contract extension Anaheim just gave him doesn’t make a whole lot of long-term sense.
Ryan Kesler signed a six-year $41.25 million contract extension last week. That works out to an annual cap hit of $6.875 million per year. However, he still has one year left on his current deal so the contract extension won’t kick in until next year when he’s 32 and starting the 2016-2017 season. What’s worse is he has a no-movement clause for the first five years. He’ll be 37 years old when his nearly $7 million cap hit is still on the books.
I just don’t get extending a contract with him now for that kind of dough. He obviously has leadership, toughness, and great face-off skills. But his 47 points last season and overall effectiveness going forward doesn’t project upward like his contract extension does. The NHL continues to get faster and younger by the season; but Kesler continues to trend toward a third line center. I’d even argue that if Anaheim had beat Chicago this spring and won the Stanley Cup they would not have extended Kesler even though they say he is what they need in their second line center.
Those comparing Patrice Bergeron’s 8-year contract extension when he was 29-years-old for the same cap hit are out of their minds. Bergeron just won his third Selke Trophy as best defensive forward in the league, his offense and face-off skills are better, and he’s arguably the best two-way forward in the world with no sign of slowing down. Kesler’s contract reeks of the old NHL of overpaying players for their reputation and not what the actual results have been. More often these types of deals happen in free agency and not when a player is already on the books for another year at 31-years-old. General managers showed in free agency this summer they’ve learned to have more restraint than they’ve had in the past.
It’s clear in the salary-cap NHL you need to manage the books and draft well to be a prolonged contender. Develop young homegrown talent, utilize them on their cheap rookie entry-level and second contracts, and have the money available to extend them if they’re going to stick long-term like a Patrice Bergeron. By extending a lengthy and extremely lucrative contract to Kesler who’s showed he’s slowing down the Ducks are taking a huge risk here. Next summer Anaheim will have to take care of those younger players ready to potentially break out in John Gibson, Frederik Andersen, Sami Vatanen, Simon Despres, and Hampus Lindholm. Those are players who should be extended and are in the position to have contract years for the money Kesler is eating up. Even if an extension had to be offered to Kesler now, which it didn’t need to, it should have been four-years max and closer to $6 million per.
Some players are worth more risk. And as much as I do like Ryan Kesler, I really don’t think the risk outweighs the reward.