The Anaheim Ducks and Brandon Montour headed to Toronto ahead of the defenseman’s arbitration hearing with talks already progressing on a bridge contract that would help the two sides avoid arbitration, and that’s exactly what they managed to accomplish just hours before each side was set to lay out their case.
With the 24-year-old blueliner set to have his arbitration hearing Tuesday, the Ducks announced they have come to terms with Montour on a two-year deal. According to The Athletic’s Eric Stephens, the pact will carry a $3.388-million cap hit while paying Montour $3.25 million this upcoming campaign before increasing to $3.525 million next season. It’s a great value deal for Anaheim for the next two seasons, but inking the bridge deal could pay big dividends for Montour in short order.
Getting his first taste of the NHL during the 2016-17 campaign, Montour impressed with a two-goal, six-point showing in 27 games, but it was his playoff production that season — seven points in 17 outings with a 19-plus minute average ice time — that impressed most. In fact, it was Montour’s obvious upside that gave the Ducks the ability to deal young blueliner Shea Theodore to the Golden Knights at the expansion draft in exchange for Vegas selecting the dead-money deal that was defenseman Clayton Stoner’s contract. Montour proved his mettle this past campaign, too, by finishing second in both scoring categories among Ducks rearguards with nine goals and 32 points in 80 games. That’s not to mention Montour skated consistent second-pairing minutes, averaging 20:28 per game.
Where the bridge deal can most benefit Montour, however, is his next contract. With 107 games played, it was unlikely that he would signed a deal that would be fair value for both sides long-term. However, given the list of defensemen with comparable numbers in recent years — which is to say those with 100 games played and between .30 and .40 points per game rate of scoring in their first two NHL campaigns — includes Jaccob Slavin, Jacob Trouba, Seth Jones and Morgan Rielly, Montour looks primed to land himself a healthy payday the next time he enters into contract negotiations.
Anaheim can be much more comfortable inking Montour long term next time around, too, if they have a better understanding of their cap situation going forward. The Ducks have less than $9 million remaining in spending room this summer with contracts still due to Nick Ritchie and Ondrej Kase, and Anaheim has to keep an eye on next summer when new contracts will be due to unrestricted free agent winger Jakob Silfverberg and restricted free agent goaltender John Gibson, who could earn well north of $6 million on his next deal.
NELSON GETS ONE-YEAR, SHOW-ME DEAL WITH ISLANDERS
When Brock Nelson signed his three-year, $7.5-million bridge deal with the New York Islanders in 2015, he was fresh off of a 20-goal, 42-point campaign that seemed as though it foreshadowed a long-term, big-money deal in his future. But after a campaign in which Nelson’s production stalled out and he failed to hit either 20 goals or 40 points for the first time in three seasons, the Islanders have come to terms with the 26-year-old on a mere one-year pact.
With Nelson headed for arbitration, the one-year pact, which The Athletic’s Arthur Staple reported carries a $4.25-million cap hit, ensures neither side will need to make the trip to Toronto for the previously scheduled early August hearing. It does, however, make one thing about the Islanders’ relationship with Nelson clear: New York wants him to prove that he’s worth the long-term commitment he once seemed destined to earn.
It can safely be said the past season was disappointing in many ways for Nelson. Not only did he muster a four-year low of 19 goals and 35 points, but after seemingly putting himself in line for steady promotion up the lineup, Nelson took a step back with a 14:44 average ice time, more than a full minute less than he had earned across the previous three seasons combined. The hope, though, is that the past season was an aberration and Nelson’s production hits an uptick.
There’s reason to believe that can be the case, too. Aside from his shooting percentage, which was actually slightly above his career average last season, some of Nelson’s underlying numbers point to a player who can see a turnaround if he gets the opportunity. Playing more limited minutes and with arguably lower-quality linemates than in the past, Nelson’s shot rates dipped last season, as did his scoring chance creation. Not only that, but on the power play, his shots per 60 minutes rate dropped precipitously. For a pure shooter such as Nelson, that limits his effectiveness.
Coach Barry Trotz is undoubtedly going to come into New York this season and tinker with the lineup, though, and if Nelson becomes a top-six option under the Islanders’ new bench boss, he may have every opportunity to rise again to his prior scoring heights.
TANEV SEES MODEST RAISE ON ONE-YEAR PACT
From his initial entry-level deal to his next two one-year pacts, Brandon Tanev has watched the average annual value of his contracts fall. Signed as a college free agent to a pro-rated $925,000 deal, Tanev then re-signed at little more than $874,000 for the 2016-17 campaign before landing a $700,000 contract last summer. This time around, though, Tanev has seen his value rise, and for that he can thank his late season production.
Coming into this season, Tanev had managed two goals and four points in 54 games with the Jets, and while he was part of the bottom six not for scoring depth but for his speed and energy, the 26-year-old proved this past season that he can contribute in a third- or fourth-line role. In fact, Tanev blew his previous bests out of the water this past campaign, scoring eight goals and 18 points in 61 games for Winnipeg before adding another four goals and six points in 17 playoff games.
Brought back on another one-year deal, the Jets will be looking for more of the same from Tanev. Chances are, though, Tanev’s next deal won’t be coming in Winnipeg no matter how performs unless he’s willing to take a discount or the cap rises significantly next summer. That has little, if anything, to do with Tanev, either. Simply put, it’s a matter of dollars and cents. The Jets have massive commitments to make next off-season, including new contracts for Blake Wheeler, Patrik Laine and Kyle Connor, not to mention potentially re-upping Tyler Myers or Jacob Trouba, should the latter decide to commit to Winnipeg long term.
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