(Photo credit: Amy Irvin, 38 Photography)
July 1 isn’t just the start of unrestricted free agency in the NHL, it’s also the first day the Flyers can negotiate a contract extension with 2017 RFA Shayne Gostisbehere. After finishing second in Calder Trophy voting, the Flyers will likely have to pay up to the pending RFA, so it’s time to begin answering the question of how much will Gostisbehere’s next contract cost.
With the boxcar stats, Gostisbehere had a great season. The Flyers need to decide, do they sign him now and bank on him getting better or sign him later and hope a sophomore slump drives down his next contract. Gostisbehere’s next contract cost will cost the Flyers, but it’s a gamble one way or another to sign now or later.
In terms of seasons at his age, his comparable players are Dion Phaneuf, Drew Doughty and Ryan Whitney. We can eliminate the Phaneuf as a comparable as Ghost doesn’t have the bruising, physical style that has made Dion a popular player among fans. This leaves Doughty and Whitney.
Drew Doughty also finished third in his comparable season in Norris Voting, something Ghost did not do, which will help keep Ghost’s cost down.
Ryan Whitney ends up being the best comparable. He signed for a deal with a 4M cap hit with two seasons of NHL experience, but no award finalist ranks. Given cap inflation, Whitney’s 4M contract in 2007-08 is worth 5.8M in today’s 73M cap environment. So, Ghost asking for 5.5+ isn’t unreasonable, especially if he wants six or more years.
Of course, Torey Krug tried to do something similar with Boston and ended up signing a short term deal at 3.4M
As such, the Flyers have two options, bridge deal Ghost and hope they can keep his cost down, or lock him up long term now and hope for the best. Gostisbehere’s next contract is a big investment, winning the bet could make the Flyers major contenders for years to come.
If it were my decision, I’d offer Gostisbehere 8 years with a 4.5M cap hit. Try to use the RFA bargaining chip to leverage more UFA years from Ghost. Barring a sophomore slump, Ghost could command over 5.5 or even 6M on his next contract. The NHL is becoming more friendly to smaller defenders, with Erik Karlsson and Torey Krug both finding success in the NHL and Ghost himself finishing second in Calder Voting.
Gostisbehere could become very expensive, very quickly, and the Flyers need to assess whether or not taking the risk on a big money contract is worth it this summer.