Let's play a game: Can you name the blueliner?
Defenseman A: This 23-year-old Devil has finished his entry-level deal. He has just scored 31 points and was third on his team in Average Time on Ice (20:21).
Defenseman B: This 22-year-old Hurricane has finished his entry-level deal. He has just scored 20 points and was fourth on his team in ATOI (21:12).
Defenseman C: This 24-year-old Blue has finished his entry-level deal. He has just scored 35 points and was third on his team in ATOI (21:12).
Defenseman D: This 24-year-old Ranger has finished his entry-level deal. He has just scored 25 points and was second on his team in ATOI (21:02).
Defenseman E: This 24-year-old Duck has finished his entry-level deal. He has just scored 32 points and was third on his team in ATOI (20:28).
Defenseman F: This 23-year-old Golden Knight has finished his entry-level deal. He has just scored 29 points and was second on his team in ATOI (20:21).
Defenseman A is Damon Severson. Severson signed a six-year, $25 million dollar contract ($4.17 million Annual Average Value) in September 2017.
Defenseman B is Brett Pesce. Pesce signed a six-year, $24.15 million dollar contract ($4.025 million AAV) in August 2017.
Defenseman C is Colton Parayko. Parayko signed a five-year, $27.5 million dollar contract ($5.5 million AAV) in July 2017.
Defenseman D is Brady Skjei. Skjei signed a six-year, $31.5 million dollar contract ($5.25 million AAV) last month.
Defenseman E is Brandon Montour. Montour signed a two-year, $6.775 million dollar contract ($3.39 million AAV) last month.
Defenseman F, of course, is Shea Theodore.
George McPhee addressed the unsigned RFA's status in early August:
We’ll continue to discuss and see if something can be done that makes sense for both parties. We’re still [four] weeks away from camp and two months away from the season, but it’d be nice if we can reach an agreement there and know what to expect going forward.
There hasn't been any reported progress in this stalemate since then. Craig Oster, Theodore's agent, did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
So what will Theodore's AAV be?
Let's eliminate Skjei and Parayko as comps. Both were used regularly on the power play and penalty kill in their last entry-level campaign. Also, both were widely seen, in that make-or-break year, as likely eventual top-pairing defenders, unlike Theodore. That isn't saying Theodore won't become a top-two rearguard, just Skjei and Parayko were regarded as surer bets to reach such a ceiling.
Meanwhile, Pesce has been deployed mainly as a defensive defenseman. On the other side, Theodore, Severson, and Montour are more offensively-inclined, as we can see in their power play-penalty kill usage splits. Theodore, for example, averaged 2:33 per game on the man advantage and just 00:28 on the kill.
Using these peers as comps, Theodore's AAV should land between $3 to $4.5 million.
This presents the distinct possibility that Theodore will become the Golden Knights' highest-paid defenseman at 23. Colin Miller, who just inked a four-year, $15.5 million dollar deal ($3.875 AAV), is the current bar. Of course, impending UFA Nate Schmidt, the team's undisputed number-one defenseman, is in line to claim the honor soon enough.
Generally -- and we see this when comparing Montour's contract with the others -- you pay a lesser AAV for a shorter pact.
Anyway, we're just one month away from the beginning of training camp.
Severson signed just days before camp.
Speaking of similar scenario holdouts, both Rasmus Ristolainen and Hampus Lindholm held out through October 2016, before inking long-term pacts. You want to avoid that, of course, as missing training camp forces a key defenseman to play catch up during meaningful contests.
As for how a potential Theodore contract will affect the Knights' cap situation, a $4 million AAV, for example, will leave a comfortable $4.6 million of space. Theodore is the organization's last remaining free agent.
As we inch closer to camp, there are three tantalizing Theodore questions: Will Theodore become the Golden Knights' highest-paid defenseman? Or will he be the franchise's first holdout? Or...will the 23-year-old be shipped out in a package for Erik Karlsson?
McPhee, by the way, is no stranger to holdouts. In Washington, Sergei Gonchar held out in 1997, Gonchar in 1998, Gonchar and Chris Simon in 2000, and Andrei Nikolishin and Dainius Zubrus in 2002. Peter Bondra in 1997 and Alexander Semin in 2005 sat out to re-negotiate pre-existing deals, but that's a different matter altogether.
It's been a while since McPhee has dealt with a holdout. Perhaps Vegas, after last year's run, is due for a losing hand?
Stats as of 8/18/18, courtesy of Cap Friendly, Corsica, Hockey Reference, Natural Stat Trick, NHL.com, and Sporting Charts.
++++I AM CURRENTLY LOOKING FOR ADVERTISERS! If you, or anyone you know would be interested in placing an ad here at HockeyBuzz, then send me a PM!++++