Photo credit:© Stephen Brashear-USA TODAY Sports
Carson Soucy might look pricey now, but his contract is set to age well
7 months ago
The Vancouver Canucks handed out five brand-new contracts on the opening day of FREE AGENT FRENZY 2023, and by far the most expensive of them was the one handed to LHD Carson Soucy, formerly of the Seattle Kraken.
The 28-year-old Soucy inked a three-year deal worth an average of $3.25 million per season. That makes him the fourth-highest paid Vancouver blueliner heading into next year, trailing Quinn Hughes, Tyler Myers, and Filip Hronek, and puts him into a tie with Tanner Pearson as the team’s 13th-highest-paid player.
In terms of the players signed on July 1, Soucy falls into a tie for the 20th-highest cap hit handed out.
So, what we’re saying here is that, in the grand scheme of things, Soucy’s contract is anything but exorbitant. Still, he was the fifth-ranked defender on Seattle’s depth chart last season, and played just a bit over 16 minutes per night, so we can understand why, given the quality of player, the deal might seem a little on the expensive side.
Fortunately, we can promise you that that’s almost certainly only a temporary feeling. Not only is Soucy’s AAV barely above the league average in the present moment, he signed his contract on the precipice of what will be an absolute explosion in NHL salaries, which means that the deal is set up to age exceptionally well.
The deal covers Soucy from ages 29-31, which fall at about the tail-end of a player’s expected prime, so a deterioration of his play is not overly expected. In fact, Soucy’s performance has been trending up steadily since his NHL rookie campaign of 2019/20, and could very well continue in Vancouver.
In any case, he doesn’t really need to play that much better than an average defender to make his contract worthwhile. For the 2022/23 season, the average NHL salary was just a hair under $3.2 million. By the start of the 2023/24 season, with the NHL salary cap jumping from $82.5 million to $83.5 million, that average should have shot up to somewhere at or above the $3.25 million AAV that Soucy just signed for.
In other words, Soucy is already paid almost exactly like an average defender. So is he an average defender?
Even at his worst, the answer is ‘yes.’ Soucy was Seattle’s fifth defender, but often played minutes in their top-four, and they were a playoff team. That alone probably puts him in the upper-half of the league.
Soucy’s 16:18 in average ice-time through 78 games ranked him 173rd out of the 227 defenders who played 25 NHL games or more last season. That’s decidedly on the bottom-end of the “middle-of-the-pack.” But it’s important to remember that a lot of defenders don’t make it into 25 NHL games in a season, or any at all. In terms of all the defenders signed to NHL contracts, which is what goes into that average salary number, Soucy is safely in the upper-half.
Is he below-average in terms of everyday, everynight NHL defenders? It’s possible. But remember that the average salary of those players is going to be much, much higher than $3.2 million. So, even under that lens, Soucy’s salary makes sense.
And let’s keep in mind that it’s not all about ice-time, anyway. Soucy is a rare commodity on the blueline, coming in at 6’5” and knowing exactly how to use it. Soucy’s physicality is definitely well above average, as are his shot-blocking and penalty-killing abilities. Factor those in, and it becomes almost impossible to refer to Soucy as anything other than an above-average defender, though he remains paid at the rate of an average one.
The rate of an average defender for now, we should say, because that number is going to change very soon. By 2024/25, the NHL salary cap is expected to climb another $4 million or more. The year after, regular increases of about $2 million per season is expected.
That means that by the time Soucy’s contract runs out in 2026, almost $200 million more dollars are going to be added to the NHL’s salary pool. And that means that individual salaries are going to skyrocket. We saw evidence of this in the litany of UFAs that signed two-year deals this offseason. They and their agents know that the line is going up, and that contracts signed a couple of summers from now are virtually guaranteed to be more lucrative.
Which means that the average salary goes up. Expect it to climb to well over $4 million by the time Soucy’s contract runs dry, which means that he will soon be paid like a below-average NHL defender.
In other words, all Soucy has to do to be worth his contract in the long run is just…be average. Anything over and above that is gravy, value-wise.
And potentially good gravy, at that.
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