Sean Monahan has signed as a restricted free agent with the Calgary Flames on a seven year contract reportedly for $6.375 million AAV. That’s just one more data point added in to the Nikita Kucherov discussions with General Manager Steve Yzerman. It’s obvious that the Lightning are in a salary crunch. They don’t have enough money to sign Kucherov and fellow RFA Nikita Nesterov and field a complete roster without moving salary some where.

Since we’re on the topic, let’s look at some of the comparable contracts and players that have been signed and see how Kucherov stacks up to them. There have been plenty of comparable players to him signed recently so we don’t need to go very far. All of the players featured below signed this offseason, are young players, and are coming off of their entry level contracts like Kucherov. Before we dig into stats and everything though on these other players, let’s remind you of Kucherov’s statistics from the past three seasons.

Nikita Kucherov

Age: 23
Position: Right Wing

Past three years regular season stats:
2013-14: 52 GP, 9 G, 9 A, 18 P, 14 PIM, +3
2014-15: 82 GP, 29 G, 36 A, 65 P, 27 PIM, +38
2015-16: 77 GP, 30 G, 36 A, 66 P, 30 PIM, +9

Past three years playoff stats:
2013-14: 2 GP, 1 G, 0 A, 1 P, 0 PIM, Even
2014-15: 26 GP, 10 G, 12 A, 22 P, 14 PIM, +7
2015-16: 17 GP, 11 G, 8 A, 19 P, 8 PIM, +13

Sean Monahan

Age: 21
Position: Center

Past three years regular season stats:
2013-14: 75 GP, 22 G, 12 A, 34 P, 8 PIM, -20
2014-15: 81 GP, 31 G, 31 A, 62 P, 12 PIM, +8
2015-16: 81 GP, 27 G, 36 A, 63 P, 18 PIM, -6

Past three years playoff stats:
2013-14: DNP
2014-15: 11 GP, 3 G, 3 A, 6 P, 2 PIM, -3
2015-16: DNP

Contract: 7 years, $6.375 million AAV

Monahan is 21 years old and will turn 22 in October. He started in the NHL right out of the draft in 2013. Monahan has more goals, more points, and less PIMs and plays a premium position as a center. He’s also two years younger. The biggest place where Kucherov sticks out is that he has had more of an opportunity to play in the playoffs and has excelled in the playoffs outside of his rookie season. I think Kucherov is the better player and both have a lot of room left to grow their games and his playoff performance puts him over the top, but Monahan does gain back some of that value by being a center.

Nathan MacKinnon

Age: 20 (21 in September)
Position: Center

Past three years regular season stats:
2013-14: 72 GP, 24 G, 39 A, 63 P, 26 PIM, +20
2014-15: 64 GP, 14 G, 24 A, 38 P, 34 PIM, -7
2015-16: 72 GP, 21 G, 31 A, 52 P, 20 PIM, -4

Past three years playoff stats:
2013-14: 7 GP, 2 G, 8 A, 10 P, 4 PIM, +2
2014-15: DNP
2015-16: DNP

Contract: 7 years, $6.3 million AAV

Like Monahan, Nathan MacKinnon carries some premium for being a center. MacKinnon started off a little stronger than Kucherov but dipped in his sophomore season. His totals though are still fairly close to what Kucherov has accomplished over the past three seasons, but he hasn’t hit the 30 goal mark and has only hit 60 points once. MacKinnon has also only been to the playoffs once and only for one series. However he performed well with 10 points in 7 games.

Mark Scheifele

Age: 23
Position: Center

Past three years regular season stats:
2013-14: 63 GP, 13 G, 21 A, 34 P, 14 PIM, +9
2014-15: 82 GP, 15 G, 34 A, 49 P, 24 PIM, +11
2015-16: 71 GP, 29 G, 32 A, 61 P, 48 PIM, +16

Past three years playoff stats:
2013-14: DNP
2014-15: 4 GP, 0 G, 1 A, 1 P, 4 PIM, -2
2015-16: DNP

Contract: 8 years, $6.125 million AAV

Scheifele hasn’t had as good of a performance as Kucherov, but he’s still been an asset and a good player for the Winnipeg Jets. And once again, he’s getting a little bit of a value bump for being a center. He also doesn’t have the playoff pedigree of Kucherov either. And with all of that said, he still signed a deal for over $6 million. One thing to consider as well is that it’s Winnipeg and it’s not exactly the most wonderful place to live.

Filip Forsberg

Age: 22
Position: Winger

Past three years regular season stats:
2013-14: 13 GP, 1 G, 4 A, 5 P, 4 PIM, -8
2014-15: 82 GP, 26 G, 37 A, 63 P, 24 PIM, +15
2015-16: 82 GP, 33 G, 31 A, 64 P, 47 PIM, +1

Past three years playoff stats:
2013-14: DNP
2014-15: 4 GP, 4 G, 2 A, 6 P, 4 PIM, +1
2015-16: 14 GP, 2 G, 2 A, 4 P, 2 PIM, -11

Contract: 6 years, $6 million AAV

Forsberg is one of the closest comparable players as far as what you’re getting on the ice. Like Kucherov, he started 2013-14 in the minors. However, Kucherov played his way out of the AHL quickly and forced his way into the line up even though he didn’t add much offense in his rookie season. Forsberg spent most of 2013-14 in the AHL with 34 points in 47 games. The past two seasons though as he’s become a full-timer in the NHL is very similar to Kucherov’s production. He was also good in the 2014-15 playoffs with 6 points in 4 games. However, the 2015-16 playoffs were not kind of Forsberg as he not only failed to produce points, but also had an ugly plus-minus rating. If you’re Kucherov and you’re looking at Forsberg, you’re going “I’m better than him” and looking for more than $6 million.

Aleksander Barkov

Age: 20 (21 in September)
Position: Center

Past three years regular season stats:
2013-14: 54 GP, 8 G, 16 A, 24 P, 10 PIM, -3
2014-15: 71 GP, 16 G, 20 A, 36 P, 16 PIM, -4
2015-16: 66 GP, 28 G, 31 A, 59 P, 8 PIM, +18

Past three years playoff stats:
2013-14: DNP
2014-15: DNP
2015-16: 6 GP, 2 G, 1 A, 3 P, 2 PIM, -2

Contract: 6 years, $5.9 million AAV

Another center and another player getting a value bump for playing the premium position. Barkov has come along a little slower than Kucherov and has yet to have a 30 goal or 60 point season, but he was awfully close to both in 2015-16. Barkov is also younger and still has room to go. He was ok in his one showing of the playoffs. He’s another player that’s easy to look at and call Kucherov a better player.

Conclusion

There you have it. Five players very comparable to Kucherov in performance signing deals of 6 or more years and $5.9 million and up. With Kucherov being eligible for unrestricted free agency in four seasons, it’s almost certain that a four year deal is off the table and that a long term deal would be at least 5 year deal.

Even with the prospect of a short term deal, say a three-year contract, it isn’t likely that Kucherov would take less than what Alex Killorn is making at $4.45 million. If you put yourself in Kucherov’s position, why would you take less money than Alex Killorn when you’ve already accomplished more than him and are clearly a better player?

Sure, you can make the argument about Stamkos and Hedman taking less money to stay in Tampa. But it’s unreasonable to expect that of every player and I don’t hold any ill will towards a player that looks to get the most money. After all, it’s their lives, it’s their bodies they’re putting on the line and they deserve to be compensated. I don’t think there’s a lot of people out there who would willingly accept a pay cut to stay at their current company.

It’s easy to see where the problem is. Kucherov wants to be paid and almost certainly wants to be paid more than all five of these players. Yzerman wants to get away with paying as little as he can. With the salary situation still unresolved, Yzerman is taking his time in examining the situation from all sides to find the best fit. Sooner or later we’ll figure out what’s going to happen. In the mean time, it’s a waiting game… for the fans, for management, for Kucherov, his teammates, everyone. Hang in there every one. It will get resolved sooner or later.

 

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