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Photo Credit: Bob Frid - USA TODAY Sports

Waiting to extend Boeser might be the best course of action

It was reported last week by Ben Kuzma of The Province that the Canucks management group and Brock Boeser’s representatives had some preliminary talks about a possible extension and planned to chat again in the near future. It’s obvious that the organization is excited about his potential and want to ensure that he is part of the team for a long time.

Though it may be more prudent to wait until after the 2018-19 season to lock up Boeser and there are few reasons behind that thought process.

Regression

As Ben pointed out in his piece, Boeser shot at a 16.2% clip throughout last season. Although he is a prolific and extremely talented shooter, it’s fair to believe that number will regress closer to the mean. The average shooting percentage is close to 11-12% and should be something that is expected for any player. There are players who will shoot higher than that, but that is generally in the 13-14% range and not almost 17%.

For comparison sake, if Boeser had shot 12%, he would’ve posted 21 goals instead of the 29 that he did score.

Honestly, Boeser probably has one of the best releases in the NHL and I would suspect that he will be above league average regularly. But expecting the rate as last year might be getting ahead of yourself.

The departure of the Sedin twins will also play a huge part in this. Those two were able to create plays on the power play that allowed Boeser to unleash his shot in great locations. It’s also important to think that with Henrik and Daniel gone, Boeser becomes a prime target for the opposition to shut down. The addition of Elias Pettersson may help to spread out the matchups but Boeser will be even more of a focus on a nightly basis.

By waiting to see what happens with this season, you are putting pressure on Boeser to take that next step forward. All of these players are ultra-competitive and use something like to motivate themselves. If Boeser uses that motivation to keep doing what he was doing – then you pay him. But there is little harm in waiting to see if he can do it again.

Contract Status

As pointed out by Graphic Comments last season, Boeser will end his entry-level contract with no arbitration rights and will be unable to receive an offer sheet.

This is because he appeared in that handful of games to close out the 2016-17 season and did not accumulate enough games played to be eligible for either. That means that the organization holds all the leverage heading into next summer. Boeser can’t use either avenue as a pressure point in contract talks. It may not seem important but the Canucks have shown a desire to avoid the arbitration process where possible as evidenced by their decision to not qualify Derrick Pouliot and then sign him a few days later.

Although it rarely happens, offer sheets are something that needs to be in consideration but isn’t something to worry about next summer with Boeser. The same applied to Johnny Gaudreau when his entry-level contract concluded. The Flames were able to get him to sign a six-year deal for $6.75M per season after a nearly point-per-game pace in 2015-16.

The argument against this is – “you don’t want to play hardball with your star!”

That is absolutely true but this is a business.

In this aspect, it’s a business of efficiencies that you hope will lead a greater sum. If you can save $500,000 on the Boeser contract, that allows you to allocate the resources to another part of the roster. If you are continually spending a little too much here and a little too much there, you put yourself behind the eight ball.

The Canucks did well with the Bo Horvat contract and there appear to be no ‘hard feelings’ there. I would suspect a similar outcome if it came to it with Boeser.

Experience

Before the last point, let’s be clear here – I enjoy watching Brock Boeser play hockey and I think that he will be a very good player for the organization for a very long time.

With that out of the way.

Brock Boeser has played 71 NHL games and had his season cut short by injury. That isn’t equal to an entire season and should be something that is kept in mind here.

If the Canucks were to commit 8 years and somewhere around $8.0M per season to a player with less than a season of experience, there is quite a bit of inherent risk involved. It may work out fine in the long run but there is a chance it doesn’t. Whereas if you wait until the end of next season, we are talking about a player with around 150 games of NHL action. It would allow you to see what he can do on the powerplay without two future Hall of Famers and he has handled the adversity of being one of THE guys on an NHL team.

This isn’t to say that his experience is detractor and more of an indicator of the risk involved in committing to these players so early. It’s clear that players are coming into the NHL in a more ready status than in previous years, which allows them to hit the ground running but there is always that risk.


Despite the criticism for the contracts handed out this summer, the Canucks are in a fairly good situation in terms of the salary cap for the next few years. It means that even if the Canucks sign Boeser to a long-term deal in the coming months, it’s not an issue.

But the organization does need to look ahead to three or four or five years down the road and think about how they will be able to support and add to the core of prospects that they currently have. You need to commit to your stars and keep them around as long as possible but if you can smartly save money on every deal, it keeps the opportunity to add available.

Ultimately, this isn’t about causing a rift between the organization and their potential star and more about doing what is best for the team going forward. If Boeser busts down the doors this upcoming season, you happily sign the deal and move on.

The organization did well with Horvat deal, so it will be really interesting to see how the Boeser contract negotiations shake out. It’s clear that a little patience with Horvat paid off and it’s fair to think the same process with Boeser will work out in the long run.

  • North Van Halen

    There’s only one reason to make a deal now, if you think it will save money over signing next year. If Boeser is willing to take a little less now you do it, if he wants full market value or to be paid like he’s already had another great season, you wait.
    Being too lazy to look up comparables, I’m not sure where that is but if he’s willing to sign around $6mil/yr, you seriously consider it. If he’s looking to hit the home run and wants north of $7mil, you make him earn it.
    It’s all relative to the value they can receive by signing him early vs the potential extra costs by waiting. If they get the value, you do it, if not you wait.

    • Ryan Biech

      I intend to look deeper at comparables in the coming weeks (if a deal isn’t done) but figured this was a good post to allow some discussion in the comment section

      • North Van Halen

        I look forward to that as it will give us an idea where there might be a comfort level with resigning now. There’s a point where the potential cost savings outweighs the security of making him ‘prove it again’, hopefully you can help give us an idea where that ‘sweet spot’ is.

    • Macksonious

      “…if he’s willing to sign around $6mil/yr, you seriously consider it. If he’s looking to hit the home run and wants north of $7mil, you make him earn it.” ~ North Van Halen.

      That statement sums up my position on this as well. No need to rush unless he’s willing to leave some money on the table.

    • Dahlenfan

      I completely agree. In April and we are at the bottom of the league and out of the playoffs, and he scores 40 goals ,Benning will gladly send him the 8 mil . But if he only scores 25-30 I wouldn’t be surprised to see a 2-3yr bridge deal. Waiting in this case is a winner. But if they can lock him now for 6 mil per go for it. 25-30 goals is worth that nowadays.

    • speering major

      I would think that a conservative approach is warranted in these situations. There is risk involved here. There also is very limited upside in gambling here and enormous downside. The upside ceiling is that Boeser emerges as a legit comparable (or better) to a player like Laine. That up’s his stock and contract. Brock also almost had a career ending injury last season, those things can also happen. There’s sophmore slumps or worse, and everything in between. It seems to me the downside risk is far greater than the upside (upside being as good or better than Laine and signing him at a discount to market value).

      I think Benning will either sign at a discount pre season, wait for Boeser to continue last seasons performance then sign mid season, or if Boeser struggles he will wait to see how the season plays out. That said, the sooner he signs Brock the more risk he is taking. It seems like the reward is very limited and therefore its not symmetrical. It’s bad risk management to bet a dollar on a coin flip if the expected payout is 90 cents.

    • argoleas

      In the end, this is the best and to some degree the only argument to sign him now. Which is why it will not happen, as I do not see any reason for Boeser’s camp to sell Brock low. They are, and sure will continue, selling him as a 40g/75pt guy that will drive offense, so north of $7M for 6 yrs (basically a pro-rated Pasternk deal), and more if term is longer. So, make him earn it.

  • Just a small error:
    “If the Canucks were to commit 8 years and somewhere around $8.0M per season to a player with less than a season of experience.” This sentence is a fragment and doesn’t make sense.

  • Canuck4Life20

    I have a really hard time believing that Boeser’s shooting percentage will regress that much. He has an above-average percentage because he has one of the best releases in hockey and is incredibly accurate. There’s a reason he won the accuracy competition at the all-star game and it has nothing to do with luck. And the best part is, that he is continuing to work on his craft with drills specifically designed to work on finding openings. Will he get 16.2%? Maybe not. Will it regress to the league average? I highly doubt it.

    • Defenceman Factory

      I don’t have any doubt Boeser’s shooting percentage will regress somewhat but agree it will remain above league average. He really does have a well above average shot.

      The regression won’t matter if he gets to take more shots and he will. On the powerplay Henrik’s lack of a shot let defenders cheat, Edler and Henrik both seemed to favour getting the puck to Danny.

      Over the next couple years the line Boeser pays on at even strength will get better. There will be a better playmaker on his left wing and if Pettersson does become a centre he is a better set up man than Horvat.

    • There’s regression, which is likely to some extent, though how much remains to be seen, and there’s also just plain bad luck. Nazem Kadri’s a consistent 30+ goal scorer with a good shot and a couple seasons back he shot something like 6% – just terrible, terrible luck.

      If I were betting, I’d pick Boeser to shoot in the 13% range next season, but you can never predict these kinds of things with much accuracy.

  • Sandpaper

    Another great article, Ryan.
    I was unaware of the offer sheet rules, wonder if Benning was aware and wanted Brock playing those games in his 1st season, for that particular reason?
    If so, I would give Benning some credit for decent asset/negotiation management, on this one.

    • argoleas

      Unless you mean that they would go for a bridge deal, the answer is no. Whether they sign an extension now, or precisely 1 year from now, the contract extension will kick in in the 2019-2020 season. But what it may play a bigger role is term. If they agree to 8 yrs instead of 6, then the AAV would be higher now relative to cap than in last few years due to cap growth. And indeed, it will help their cap situation down the road.

      In fact, barring something stupid, or having ALL their prospects become superstars that require super-post-ELC-extensions, their cap challenges may not start until Horvat’s next extension.

  • Kootenaydude

    Let’s not be like the Oilers and hand out big contracts to kids that never tasted the playoffs and finished last year after year. Eberle, RNH, Hall and Draisaitl are prime examples of what not to do.

    • TheRealPB

      Those aren’t great examples — the Oilers SHOULD have been locking up those players to big deals and all of them have delivered. It’s the team that was assembled around them that was more to blame along with coaching. Locking up young talent at decent rates is never a bad move. Each of them had earned that raise (and it’s on the Oilers that they gave out the same to Yakupov despite a clear difference in performance between he and them)

  • Rodeobill

    This article has sound reasoning, and is the first time I have considered the idea that BB may not become an elite goal scorer. Like Liane, his toolkit is specialized around one aspect, and the success of which depends on his teammates opening space and getting a good pass through. Our two best players at that have left (three if you count Vanek as that good). This year Elias will arrive, he should be good, but he will probably play the same position at 5v5 as BB, and should only see PP time together, plus it’s his rookie year and who knows what is reasonable to expect from him. NEXT year, he will have found his feet, and Q. Hughes will be on thee team and he is a wizard at doing that. Long story short (I know, too late), unless like NVH said, he is willing to sign low now (which seems very unlikely as he elected to go back to college and not sign pro before, so no rush for the cash), this year will be tough to improve on for him with the supporting cast, and teams will specifically target him more than any other player on the team this year, so sign him next year seems the way to go.

    • canuckfan

      Brock scored no matter who he played with and is a super star his shooting percentage will likely improve now that his wrist is better. He is going to be fun to watch for years and with him being American it will be hard to beat the US team with all the other players he will be lining up with such as Mathews as his center

      • Looper

        I happen to agree. I dont see a regression coming unless he gets unlucky this year. He had to deal with the top D men and lines etc for most of last season anyways. I’d be comfortable droping 7 to 7.5mil per year for 8 years to buy up some UFA years if brock was willing. If he keeps producing that deal will look like a steal in years 3 to 8. He’s got a good head on his shoulders so wouldnt affect him. Plus you’d have him throughout his goal scoring prime. I feel they made a mistake by not buying up any UFA years with Horvath.

        • truthseeker

          It’s like saying Ovi isn’t going to get his goals because he “needs space”…lol.

          These guys JUST score. It’s what they do. Brock will be fine.

  • truthseeker

    8 million? That’s just crazy.

    I disagree about worrying about regression. Kid is the real deal. Worrying about his shooting percentage is just fluff. Provided he’s healthy he’ll be a 30 goal scorer minimum. More likely 40. 35 should be a solid expectation for him. It’s not unreasonable at all.

    I would agree with you on waiting IF the canucks really are willing to play hardball with him. And 8 million is ridiculous. Even if that’s what other young players will get. You don’t even give him that choice. 6 to 6.5 million per year for 8 years regardless if it’s now or at the end of the year. Then trade him with 2 years left at the end of the contract.

    The problem I see with waiting is, when he does put up another great year, and then you do offer him the 6.5 it’s going to create animosity. Better to pay him well right now while a number like that sounds like a good deal to his camp. Either way, he’ll play out his contract, whatever that might be, but why set the stage for that kind of conflict?

    The canucks are in a great position to try things in a new way. Tell your players you will only pay any single player a max of 7 million per year while they are under control in order to ice the deepest team possible for cup runs. Tell them that when they are close to FA they will be traded and then can earn their big bucks on their own.

    Unfortunately the canucks won’t do this, but if they are at least a little bit smart they’ll lock him in as long as they can as soon as they can for as low as they can.

    • canuckfan

      Can sign him 5.5 million per season and bonuses for over 30 over 35 over 40 over 45 and over 50 that way if he keeps scoring he will make a bigger pay out if not he doesn’t get paid guaranteed money. I do believe he will keep putting the puck in the net 5 on 5 or on power play as there will be others on the ice to watch. Plus as much as the Sedins were great they were somewhat predictable so teams were able to isolate them. Canucks will have new players out on the power play that will at least at first be a bit tougher for teams to figure out as they learn players like Petterson’s moves.

    • Defenceman Factory

      If Boeser is signed for an additional 8 years now at $6.5 mil and is a 35+ goal scorer he will be a monster trade chip. At 28 he will have 2 years left at the $6.5 and would easily bring back 2 or 3 draft picks or high end prospects.

      Teams that fail to trade any of their aging stars for high draft picks are destined to repeat the boom bust cycle the Canucks are coming through. This has to be a consideration now for Boeser’s next contract.

      What is more likely Boeser remains a 35+ goal scorer and in 3 or 4 years costs $9+ million to re-sign or he regresses to a 20 goal scorer and only costs $4.5 to re-sign?

  • TheRealPB

    The problem with waiting to sign is that you can get too cute as the Canadiens did with PK Subban when they gave him the bridge contract in 2012-2013 to 2013-2014 after two very good seasons and then instead of him costing $6 million a season he cost $9 million a season. I guess it comes down to what his actual ask would be. His comparables right now aren’t from his draft year (most of those still have at least a year of ELC to go) but I’d say Larkin, Pastrnak and Ehlers are in his tier and all of them are somewhere around $6-$6.5 million. I actually have no idea how the Jets got Ehlers for so (relatively) cheap. I think if Boeser would go for 7 x$6.8 we should take it; it’s really unlikely that he would fall off in production; I guess the only fear would be whether that injury has any lingering effects.