According ForbesOne week before the opening of training camps for the 2022-23 season, money is scarce in the NHL. A $1 million per team increase in the league’s salary cap this summer has done little to ease the pressure, and some players are in a rush.
But even if the GMs can’t hand out big deals for the next campaign, they’ve shown an unexpected willingness to lock in some of the star performers for 2021-22 with big long-term extensions.
The latest announcement came on Tuesday, when St. Louis Blues general manager Doug Armstrong announced he had signed forward Jordan Kyrou to an eight-year deal. The detail will come into effect during the 2023-24 season and will carry a cap of $8.125 million per season.
Drafted in the second round by the Blues in 2016, Kyrou needed time to adapt to the NHL. The first three years of his entry-level contract looked like this:
2018-19: 16 NHL games, 3 points
2019-20: 28 NHL games, 9 points
2020-21: 55 NHL games, 35 points
Off his potential from the shortened 2020-21 campaign, the Blues signed Kyrou to a two-year bridge deal with a cap of $2.8 million per season.
Then everything clicked.
Last season, Kyrou broke out with 27 goals and 48 assists for 75 points in 74 games, cementing his place in the Blues’ top six. He’s now locked in to a star’s salary throughout his 32-year-old season – all of his best years in hockey.
The deal also keeps Kyrou in line with promising Blues center Robert Thomas. A year younger, he was drafted 20th overall in 2017. Thomas jumped straight to the NHL after his junior career ended and was progressing well until thumb and shoulder injuries slowed him down in the third year of his entry-level contract.
2018-19: 70 NHL games, 33 points
2019-20: 66 NHL games, 42 points
2020-21: 33 NHL games, 12 points
Kyrou and Thomas have different agents, who work for different agencies, but have identical salary trajectories. As a restricted free agent with no arbitration rights last summer, Kyrou first signed his two-year transition contract on August 3. Thomas signed an identical contract seven weeks later on September 21.
Then he produced almost identical numbers: 20 goals and 77 points in 72 games in 2021-22. The two young forwards bolstered the Blues’ core at a time when 34-year-old David Perron moved to Detroit as an unrestricted free agent this summer, and captain Ryan O’Reilly and sniper Vladimir Both Tarasenko will have the chance to try out free agency next July.
Jordan Kyrou’s production has been steadily climbing since entering the league (that’s a straight line). Its only weakness is EV defense.
Our contract forecast for an 8-year contract was approximately $7.09 million per year. His most likely deal was in the 4-6 year range, between $5.9 million and $6.3 million. pic.twitter.com/tJSSZdMupP
— EvolvingWild (@EvolvingWild) September 13, 2022
“They took two-year contracts knowing that if they did their job we would do our job, and within a year I realized they were doing their job, being the best players in our team at 22 and 23 years old,” Armstrong said. Jeremy Rutherford of The Athletic. “That’s why the bridge deals are important to us, just to give us a bit more information. You have to make that decision if you want to commit long term.
This summer, Thomas came first. He signed his eight-year extension on July 13, the first day he was eligible, at the same $8.125 million cap that Kyrou agreed to this week.
Thomas’ deal didn’t just help establish the market for his teammate. He also launched an unusual pattern.
Gone are the days when NHL players earned their biggest contracts based on what they had already accomplished, rather than what they were going to do. But general managers have generally been reluctant to give young players long-term contracts unless they are superstars like Connor McDavid. Even current Hart Trophy winner Auston Matthews settled his second contract with the Toronto Maple Leafs for six years, as did top defenseman Cale Makar with the Colorado Avalanche.
It’s official: 8-year extension, $65 million for Jordan Kyrou – $8.125 million AAV.
—Jim Thomas (@jthom1) September 13, 2022
Since the start of the 2022-23 NHL fiscal year on July 13, only 12 contracts with terms of six years or more and an average annual value of more than $6 million have been given out. Eight of those 12 offers have gone to players who, like Kyrou and Thomas, are 25 or younger.
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