I think Charlie McAvoy is going to be really good, so naturally, I don’t like his new deal.
That will be an unpopular opinion. For the cash-strapped 2019-20 Bruins, this contract rules. The AAV is very low ($4.9 million), which means the Bruins don't have to subtract from their roster as they try to make one or two more Cup runs during the Chara era. It lets them keep Torey Krug for at least the final year of his contract. You can understand why this pact works for them.
But that sweet cap hit comes at a price, which is that, if all goes according to plan and McAvoy becomes the player we all think he’ll be, the Bruins will be paying huge dough for his services when it expires in three years.
McAvoy will be 24 when this contract ends. He’ll be in the prime of his career, two years from unrestricted eligibility and will have received Norris votes. Maybe he’ll even have a Norris win, and you don’t want to have to be negotiating with a young franchise player who’s already won a Norris. Ask the Canadiens how that worked out.
Of course, I’m projecting. The Norris talk is hypothetical. His development could stall or he could struggle to stay on the ice. He’s missed at least 19 games a season thus far.
But if you think this is a good contract, you're projecting, too. You're projecting that McAvoy will stay where he is, which is a guy who will lead the team in ice time, play in all situations, average half a point per game and miss a good chunk of time each season. You don't think, as Bruce Cassidy said, that he'll get stronger. You don't think, as Cassidy said, that he'll become a more aggressive offensive player.
If you do think he's going to keep improving and become one of the top defensemen in the league, you should be worried about what he's going to cost next. There are currently seven defensemen in the league with an average annual value of $8 million. If McAvoy is a superstar when he signs his next deal, he'll enter that club and then some. Erik Karlsson and Drew Doughty are at the top of the list at $11.5 million and $11 million, respectively.
Yes, the NHL will have a new TV contract by the time McAvoy's deal is up, so the cap will in all likelihood spike. David Krejci's $7.25 million a year will be off the books. More importantly, so will David Backes' $6 million hit. It's tough to say what Tuukka Rask's next contract (he's up in two years) looks like, if it's even here.
So the Bruins should be in a better position to spend then than they are now. That doesn't mean they shouldn't be kicking themselves for having to go the bridge route with McAvoy now.
McAvoy's contract is similar to that of Zach Werenski (three years at $5 million per), another big-name RFA who took forever to sign this offseason. The better bang for the Bruins' buck would have been a deal like the one Ivan Provorov just took (six years at $6.75 million annually). It would have taken him straight to unrestricted free agency, but the Bruins would have had two more years before a massive third contract kicked in.
The B's couldn't swing that without clearing a good amount of space, and if they were going to trade a first-round pick to get rid of Backes' deal they probably would have done it earlier the offseason. They still have to sign Brandon Carlo and have only $3.2 million in cap room.
Now, it's logical to argue that it makes sense to wait until McAvoy is a superstar before paying him like one, but the goal is to have great players on bargain deals during their best years. Patrice Bergeron, Brad Marchand and David Pastrnak all fit in this category. Two of those deals, Marchand and Pastrnak, were Don Sweeney signings. This McAvoy deal shouldn't get the gold sticker those deserve.
Sweeney clearly thinks this Bruins team can make another Cup run. Otherwise, he would have moved guys off the roster to accommodate a longer, richer second deal for McAvoy. Instead, the Bruins will wait and see just how much their franchise defenseman will cost them in a few years.
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