On Friday afternoon the Tampa Bay Lightning signed 23 year old center Tyler Johnson to a three year, $10 million contract. This contract will certainly be brought up by Ron Hextall in his negotiations with the representatives of Brayden Schenn this summer.
At this point, Brayden Schenn still figures to be a central player to the future of the Philadelphia Flyers. He is developing a bit slower than was originally expected, however, the organization still prizes their 22 year old center. Hextall has stated that re-signing Schenn is the organizations “first priority” this off-season.
Last week Bill Meltzer beautifully broke down the struggles that are sure to pop up during the contract negotiations. Long story short, his entry-level contract was structured in a way that was directed toward Schenn earning upwards of $3.1 million per year on his second contract. With the Lightning’s signing of Johnson, that looks less likely for Schenn.
Tyler Johnson scored 26 goals, registered 24 assists, and was a Calder Trophy finalist in 2013-2014. Brayden Schenn, who had two years of experience over Johnson, only mustered 20 goals and 21 assists. Johnson stepped up on a team that was missing their star player (Steven Stamkos) and performed admirably.
When everything is taken into account, Johnson had a much better season than Schenn and was awarded with a contract of $3.33 million per year. When also considering the fact that Sean Couturier, who is more valuable to the Flyers than Schenn right now, is only making $1.75 million per year, it is hard to justify giving Schenn $3 million+.
One factor that is easily overlooked is the fact that player agents are good at their jobs. There is a case to be made for Schenn to get a pay raise (and he should get a modest raise) and his agent will use that case for all it’s worth. The Flyers also have a history of bad contracts (Bryzgalov, Grossmann, MacDonald) which contributes to fears regarding Schenn.
When all is said and done, Schenn will likely use his offensive attributes (20 goals, playing in top six at ES, 2nd PP unit time) to get paid more than Couturier. But with the Johnson contract, the writing is on the wall for Schenn to accept a sub-$3 million salary. I would not be surprised to see a bridge contract in the range of two to three years with a cap hit between $2.25-$2.75 million.
Although I would prefer that Schenn be paid equally (or less) than Couturier, a sub $3 million cap hit is not too bad for a 20 goal scorer these days. Schenn is still a good, young, offensive center who has a bright future. But right now, he is not deserving of more than $3 million per year.
Of course, all of this could change as the Draft approaches and the Flyers quest for a #1 defenseman resumes.