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Boeser wise to bet on himself when it comes to long-term extension

Brock Boeser isn’t going to worry about an extension until his sophomore season is complete, and that’s his best bet at big bucks given his potential to pad his resume with another standout season.

During his rookie campaign, a season that was shortened due to a March back injury, Brock Boeser established himself as the future of the Vancouver Canucks’ offense. Having played several games the campaign prior, Boeser’s first full year in the bigs saw him not only pace the Canucks with an impressive 29 tallies, but also lead Vancouver with 55 points. It was a far cry from how Boeser started the season, too, as a freshman who failed to crack the lineup in either of the Canucks’ first two outings.

Boeser didn’t just establish himself in Vancouver, however. He took the league as a whole by storm. His accolades from a brilliant rookie season, arguably the most inspiring debut the Canucks franchise has seen since some fresh-faced speedster named Pavel Bure turned heads, included a trip to the 2018 All-Star Game, an all-rookie team honor and second place finish in Calder Trophy voting. But because of his breakout performance, with Boeser preparing to enter the final season of his entry-level contract, questions have begun to arise about what exactly the price tag will be to keep the burgeoning franchise winger in Vancouver on a long-term pact.

“I don’t know what the numbers will be or anything, but I am just going to play my game and worry about it whenever they talk about it or after the season,” Boeser said, according to NHL.com. “If they do talk with my agent (during the season), I am not going to know at all anyway, so my main goal is to focus on the season and I will worry about it after the season.”

It appears that’s exactly what he’ll be doing, too. At Canucks camp, GM Jim Benning said Boeser is planning to play out the final season of his entry-level deal before the two parties circle back to contract negotiations. And that’s exactly the angle Boeser should be taking, too, because few players are in line to increase their value quite like the 21-year-old this season.

If Boeser were to sign today, chances are his contract would carry a cap hit greater than $5 million and quite possibly north of the $6-million mark. That has been the going rate for other high-scoring restricted free agents on their second contracts, with each of David Pastrnak, Nikolaj Ehlers and Dylan Larkin all signing long-term extensions with cap hits in the $6 million to $7 million range. However, if Boeser plays out the coming campaign and can produce at the rate he has over his first 71 games in the NHL — 62 in the 2017-18 season and nine to close out the 2016-17 campaign — he could add as much as, if not more than, a couple million to his annual salary.

Consider that in the wake of Connor McDavid earning an eight-year, $100-million contract extension ahead of completing his entry-level pact with the Edmonton Oilers, there are two players with legitimate superstar potential in Leon Draisaitl (eight-year, $68-million contract) and Jack Eichel (eight-year, $80-million extension) that have broken the $7-million mark on second contracts. That number stands to rise, or at least get some company, in the near future with the likes of William Nylander, Auston Matthews, Mitch Marner and Patrik Laine all falling into the category as current or soon-to-be RFAs, and even deals for the likes of Sam Reinhart and Kyle Connor should help shift the low-end of the second contract scale for top young players.

There’s no reason for anyone to expect anything less than high-scoring excellence from Boeser, either. He has displayed nothing short of goal-scoring and point-producing brilliance since his arrival in Vancouver.

Last season, he scored at the equivalent of a 39-goal pace, and had he hit such heights or crossed the 40-goal plateau, he would have been only the third rookie to do so since the 1992-93 campaign. His goal-scoring rate was on par with the likes of Matthews and Laine and even Sidney Crosby. His point production — .89 points per game — was equally impressive, again equal with the likes of Matthews and Laine while surpassing the freshman marks of current stars Patrick Kane and Anze Kopitar. And while there are undoubtedly examples of players producing at those rate and failing reaching the same heights again, Boeser hardly seems that kind of player. (For what it’s worth, Boeser put his offensive prowess on display again in Minnesota’s off-season 4-on-4 competition, Da Beauty League, which features a number of NHL, AHL and collegiate players. He tore it to shreds, notching 16 goals and 34 points in nine games.)

Boeser has a legitimate shot at bettering those totals, though, if only based on volume. Few players have displayed the raw shooting ability he has, as Boeser maintained a shooting percentage of 16.2 percent with more than 200 shots on goal through his 71 NHL contests. Laine and Bobby Ryan are the only two other players in the post-lockout era to maintain a similar shooting success rate as rookies. So, it stands to reason that the more Boeser shoots — and his attempts should increase this season with an entire season spent as the primary shooting option on the power play — the more he’ll score. Suddenly, a 40-goal campaign doesn’t seem all that far-fetched.

On-ice, of course, Boeser will want to take strides in other areas, and the expectation surely is that he will. In terms of earning top dollar on his next deal, however, filling the net and stuffing the scoresheet will be what this season is all about. If he can show himself to be a consistent scorer who can rival the output of a Matthews or Laine, too, Boeser’s payout will be significantly larger than it would be today with one 29-goal season on his resume.