Brady Skjei had himself one of the best rookie seasons in New York Rangers history. Next summer, Skjei will be a restricted free agent and will get a new contract. The conditions of that contract are up in the air, however.
Brady Skjei burst onto the seam this season for the Rangers, putting up a pleasantly surprising 39 points in the regular season. Skjei is making the entry-level maximum of only $925,000, which makes his production that much more enjoyable. Skjei will enter his age 23 season and his performance in 2017-18 will determine the figures he sees on his next contract.
A Game of Bridge
The Rangers have had no issue handing out bridge contracts in years past. Most recently, to Kevin Hayes and J.T. Miller. Ideally, bridge contracts are used as a safety net in case a young player does not live up to expectations. More often than not, they end up putting teams in a conundrum.
Miller proved his worth in the first year of his contract and now the Rangers are looking at a possibly expensive deal that will carry into his free agent years. Derek Stepan was given a similar contract and then subsequently got perhaps a controversial contract, according to Rangers fans.
CapFriendly estimates the Rangers have 39 million dollars tied up in cap space beyond next season. The salary cap will rise to $75 million next season and perhaps higher after that. In other words, the Rangers have no reason to bridge Skjei out of cap space restraints.
Long Term Solutions
Watching Brady Skjei every game early into his professional hockey career feels very similar to when Ryan McDonagh entered the scene. The sense that the Rangers had a future franchise cornerstone was making its way to the surface. The difference being Skjei has gotten his offensive game working immediately. The great news is that the Rangers were smart with Ryan McDonagh.
After the 2012-13 season, the front office knew McDonagh was far too important to bridge and price themselves out of signing him. McDonagh then got one of the best contracts in the whole league, at six years, $28.2 million. The Nashville Predators saw what they had in Roman Josi, and handed him a reasonable seven-year, 28 million dollar contract that same summer as McDonagh.
Another season of production exceeding 30 points will guarantee a long-term contract with a cap hit over five million dollars. With a rising salary cap, that is tolerable in today’s NHL. A six to seven-year contract should be well within consideration. Like any business, you always want more production at a lesser cost. A contract at less than six million dollars should leave both fans and management jumping for joy.
A scenario where Skjei falls victim to the “sophomore slump” narrative should not discourage the front office from deciding that Skjei is in the long term future of the franchise’s plans. In a league where the best teams often end up pricing themselves out of their young talent, the Rangers must learn and lock up youth like Skjei now.