Andrei Kuzmenko contract extension comparables suggest the Canucks should wait before locking him up
Photo credit:© Bob Frid-USA TODAY Sports
By Noah Strang11 months ago
When the Vancouver Canucks managed to sign top European free agent Andrei Kuzmenko this past offseason, it was considered a major victory for the organization. Selling the Canucks as a hot destination to a player who had his pick of teams was an impressive feat for the new management regime. After putting pen to paper, this led to a ton of speculation as to how Kuzmenko would perform in his first season across the pond.
After a quarter of the season, it’s fair to say that he has blown most expectations out of the water. He has 11 goals and 10 assists in 22 games, resulting in production of a hair under a point-per-game. The 26-year-old winger has found a spot on Elias Pettersson’s wing and the two have shown some nice chemistry.
Kuzmenko’s puck skills, strong shot, creativity, and ability to create off the rush make him a dangerous offensive player. With every joyous goal celebration, he digs his way deeper into the hearts of Canucks fans. However, with every goal, it also makes it more difficult to see a long-term future between Kuzmenko and Vancouver.
When he crossed the pond this summer, Kuzmenko was forced to sign an entry-level NHL contract. This means that the Canucks were able to get him on a one-year contract with a cap hit of just under $1 million. While this marks incredible value for this season, it does mean that in July 2023, he becomes an unrestricted free agent.
If Kuzmenko keeps on playing at a similar rate, he’s going to have a lot of teams interested in his services. While there are flaws in his game, a 30-goal and 70-point winger who’s an elite power play producer is a commodity that teams will be interested in bidding on. This bidding war may quickly get out of the Canucks’ price range.
Because of his unique situation arriving in the NHL after years of professional hockey overseas, it’s a bit more difficult to find good comparables to help project Kuzmenko’s next contract. However, we can get an idea as to what the market might look like with the following players:
$5.5 million AAV / 5 years – 6.67% of total salary cap
The first comparable that we can use is another Andre(i) who signed as an unrestricted free agent with the Seattle Kraken just last offseason. The season before he became a free agent, Burakovsky managed to score 22 goals and had 39 assists for 61 points in 80 NHL — not KHL — games. Kuzmenko is currently on pace for slightly better numbers.
Burakovsky was 27 years old when he signed this deal, the same age that Kuzmenko will be during his free agency. There was also a 10-team no-trade clause included for all five years.
While Kuzmenko might beat those raw stat totals, the fact that Burakovsky was more established in his NHL career — he scored at a 26-goal pace over the three seasons before this extension — means that it could be a good comparable.
$4.5 million AAV / 4 years – 5.45% of total salary cap
Marchment is an interesting player and a good comparable for Kuzmenko in some ways while being vastly different in others. When he signed this contract last offseason, Marchment had played just 91 NHL games despite being 27-years-old. During that relatively small sample size, he managed to score 58 points.
In terms of his age when signing the contract, his small sample size, and relatively impressive production, Marchment is a strong comparable for Kuzmenko. However, Marchment had the benefit of some spectacular advanced stats that helped his case. He was widely regarded as one of the best play drivers on a strong Florida Panthers team.
Unlike Kuzmenko, Marchment was not getting power play time and the vast majority of his points came at 5-on-5. In the year before he signed this contract, he had 47 points in 54 games and just two power play points.
What this means for the Canucks
Taking a look at these two comparables, Kuzmenko might be looking for around 6.5-7.5% of the salary cap on his next extension, depending on the term. The salary cap for the 2023-24 NHL season is currently projected at around $83.5 million, meaning that Kuzmenko will likely be looking for somewhere in the $5.5-$6.3 million dollar range annually.
This would be a tough fit for the Canucks who are already pushed up against the cap limit. If they decide to depart with one of their core pieces, such as Bo Horvat, it becomes easier to fit Kuzmenko but would be a large commitment to make nonetheless.
However, the numbers on this deal could change very quickly as the season progresses. If the Canucks offer Kuzmenko a contract right now, he has a ton of bargaining power because of his impressive early production. The smart move by the Canucks would be to wait for the winger to cool off a bit before starting extension discussions.
He’s currently rocking a 22% shooting percentage, a number that he’s not going to be able to keep all season long. As that regresses, we can expect Kuzmenko to fall back to earth a bit. In addition, playing with Pettersson has definitely helped Kuzmenko significantly. As the sample size gets larger for those types of stats, it helps the Canucks’ case.
Waiting a couple of months could save the Canucks a few million dollars per season in a Kuzmenko extension. This could be the difference between keeping him a Canuck or watching him leave and tear it up in another city.
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