We've seen some pretty big contracts signed by NHL defensemen lately, from Quinn Hughes to Ryan Pulock and just today, Charlie McAvoy in Boston. The Bruins mainstay inked an extension that will see him earn $9.5 million per season for eight years, beginning with the 2022-23 campaign.
McAvoy is worth every penny of that contract, but his new pact brings up an intriguing thought: Is Adam Fox going to get $10 million per season on his next contract?
Fox of course is the reigning Norris Trophy winner - you literally can't do better than he did as a defenseman last season - and the New York Rangers star is basically the same age as McAvoy, having been born just a couple months apart from each other. At 23, Fox is in his prime NHL years and based on his skill set, he's going to be in that window for quite awhile, especially when you consider that his game is predicated on smarts and vision rather than physical attributes that degrade over time.
Now, Fox may not have as much experience as McAvoy in the NHL, but it's pretty fun to stack the two side by side even if they don't play the exact same game. McAvoy is a lot more physical, while Fox has been a better offensive producer and surprisingly, averaged more minutes than his Bruins peer last season (which was a bit of shock to me, as McAvoy had to do a lot for the B's last season, where blueline depth wasn't as strong as it was in New York). Both are analytics darlings, too.
So it's only fair to ask what Fox's contract is going to look like based on McAvoy's new numbers (his current deal expires this summer).
Right now, only two NHL defensemen have cap hits above $10 million and they belong to San Jose's Erik Karlsson and Los Angeles' Drew Doughty. In both cases, the veterans were rewarded largely for what they had already done in their future Hall of Fame careers and neither has won a Norris or Stanley Cup since.
This summer, we had some pretty big names move via trade and free agency with the likes of Dougie Hamilton in New Jersey and Seth Jones to Chicago. Hamilton signed for the maximum seven years with a $9 million cap hit while Jones inked an extension with his new club for the maximum eight years and a cap hit of $9.5 million. Now, I know that the Internet has a lot of feelings about some of the contracts I've mentioned, but the point is that the market for blueliners has been set.
Which brings us back to Fox. As previously mentioned, he has already won the Norris Trophy and has plenty of years ahead of him as one of the NHL's top defensemen. Based on where he is in his career and what he is already becoming, $10 million per season doesn't seem too out of line, does it?
You can certainly argue that Cale Makar, potential future Norris winner himself, only makes $9 million on his new contract and fair play there. But Makar also plays on a Colorado team where Nathan MacKinnon took a cap hit of $6.3 million because he wanted the Avs to have the money to build a champion - so yeah, Makar is probably worth $10 million too, but his situation was different.
Fox plays for a Rangers team that is not quite ready to contend, but getting closer (this is a 'gelling' year, in my mind). The Rangers' most expensive player is left winger Artemi Panarin at $11.6 million, so there's really no financial ceiling for Fox to worry about. And New York does have the cap space to pull it off: The team has a forecasted $20 million in cap space for 2022-23, with mostly RFAs to re-sign. They'll have to make a decision on UFA center Ryan Strome, but GM Chris Drury certainly has options in terms of how he uses that space.
Would $10 million a year be sticker shock for a player just starting his third NHL season? Perhaps. But when that player is Adam Fox, you really have to consider it.