Before I get into the meat of this blog let me just say I liked that the Ducks brought Ryan Kesler in last summer. I thought he could potentially be the right fit for their need at center. But the contract extension Anaheim just gave him is obnoxious.
Last week Ryan Kesler signed a six-year $41.25 million contract extension. 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. This new ridiculous contract extension won’t even kick in until next year when he’s 32, starting the 2016-2017 season. What’s worse, 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. Not even close. The NHL continues to get faster and younger by the season yet 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, Anaheim would not have extended him.
And for those comparing Patrice Bergeron’s 8-year contract extension when he was 29-years-old, for the same cap hit, can get out of my face with that. Bergeron just won his third Selke Trophy as best defensive forward in the league. They’ll eventually need to rename that trophy after him when he retires. Bergeron’s 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 way of overpaying aging players for their reputation and not what the actual results have been. More often these types of deals happen in free agency, 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’re starting to learn to have more restraint than they’ve had in the past.
To win 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, David Krejci, or Brad Marchand.
By extending a lengthy and extremely lucrative contract to Kesler, who’s clearly 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, Sami Vatanen, and Hampus Lindholm. Those are players who should be extended the money Kesler is eating up.
Even if an extension had to be offered to Kesler now, which it didn’t even need to be, it should have been four-years max and much closer to $6 million per.
Some players are worth more risk. Kesler’s new contract is a huge risk that likely doesn’t get you the reward. This contract is headed down the tracks on a buyout train and you can’t stop it.