logo

Like it or lump it, Filip Hronek’s extension must be understood as a product of leverage

alt
Photo credit:© Bob Frid-USA TODAY Sports
Stephan Roget
24 days ago
Be sure to check out the latest NHL playoff odds with online sportsbook Betway.
The first domino of the offseason has fallen. And it was a big one.
There’s little chance you missed the headline yesterday. But in case you did, the Vancouver Canucks announced on Tuesday afternoon that they’d re-signed Filip Hronek to a whopping eight-year extension with an AAV of $7.25 million.
Anytime numbers that big get thrown around, the response is always going to be mixed. Indeed, you can easily find folks online who love this extension, folks who hate it, and plenty who fall somewhere in between.
From where we’re sitting, the bulk of respondents seem to be in that “in between” of not being outright ecstatic about the contract, but also not any sort of upset. From that vantage point, it sure sounds like a fair deal.
But there’s a factor that was on the table all through negotiations that hasn’t really been talked about enough, and it’s a factor that might just make this extension look even fairer in retrospect.
It’s the factor of leverage.
Namely, that virtually all of the leverage in these negotiations belong to Hronek and his camp.
It is true that Hronek was, technically-speaking, a restricted free agent, meaning the Canucks were able to retain his rights via a simple qualifying offer this summer. But it is also probably accurate to state that Hronek was about as unrestricted as a restricted free agent can be without actually hitting that UFA status.
We wrote earlier in the offseason about the arbitration filing date being a ‘deadline’ that GM Patrik Allvin and Co. needed to maneuver around as they navigated negotiations.
Now, we can understand the possibility of arbitration as both a deadline, and a major factor in that aforementioned leverage.
Hronek is currently just 26 years old. But he’ll turn 27 in November, which is the usual age at which someone becomes eligible for UFA status. That means that, whatever contract Hronek signed now, it would by default see him expire as a UFA.
Normally, the ball would remain somewhat in the team’s court in this scenario. A qualifying offer has to be made to retain a player’s rights, but in most cases that qualifying offer only has to be for one year and equal to that player’s expiring cap hit. For Hronek, his rights would have been retainable with a mere one-year, $4.4 million QO.
Then, negotiations could continue all summer or, if Hronek wanted to chase UFA status, he could just accept that offer and wait out the year.
But being eligible for arbitration presented Hronek which a much more tantalizing possibility. Had Hronek filed for arbitration and gone through the process, he would have been handed a contract well in excess of that $4.4 million cap hit – especially given Hronek’s overall production last season – and because Hronek is only a year away from UFA status, the award could have only been on a one-year term.
In other words, arbitration essentially gave Hronek a pathway to get paid some $7 million or so for 2024/25 and walk himself right to unrestricted free agency as of July 1, 2025.
And he was free to file for said arbitration as early as July 5, 2024.
That’s the pressure under which Allvin and Co. have been negotiating. And that’s why this deal can’t be understood except through the lens of leverage.
The idea typically goes that RFA contracts are of a lesser value than UFA contracts, because RFAs have limited negotiating power and leverage. But not all RFAs are created equal, and the circumstances of Hronek combined to tilt the table strongly in his favour.
It needs to be thought of less as a negotiation, and more of a direct purchase.
What the Canucks bought from Hronek here was his rights to arbitration. In doing that, they bought away his rights to file for arbitration, get fairly paid for a year, and then market his services to the other 31 NHL franchises as a UFA next summer.
And an RHD UFA, at that. Also known as the single-most marketable asset in the hockey world.
Not to mention that the Canucks also purchased Hronek’s services from the ages of 26 through to 34, a period of time that contains the entirety of Hronek’s expected prime years. Contract negotiations often revolve around how many “UFA years” are being included, meaning how many years that player is giving up of being able to shop their services around to anyone. In this case, Hronek is giving up seven UFA years.
Sure, there’s some security given up by the Canucks in return. Had Hronek gone the route of arbitration, it was always a possibility that he got hurt next season, or deeply regressed, and thus hampered his own ability to negotiate as a UFA in 2025. But that small risk-reward balance pales in comparison to the weight of leverage at the Hronek end of the table.
Fans struggling to accept the numbers here would do well to imagine what it might have cost to acquire a player with Hronek’s profile from the UFA market. We’ve seen numbers like six years at $6 million thrown around as a possibility for Nikita Zadorov. Hronek is the much better player, and he’s right-handed. His number would have started somewhere in the $8 million range and only risen from there.
In fact, maybe “imagine” is the wrong term to use. For an intents and purposes, Hronek was a pending UFA. He was just extra-pending.
And, so, what the Canucks have done is signed a prime-aged, top-pairing RHD who was well on his way to unrestricted free agency. An RHD that, unlike most players plucked from the open market, the Canucks already know meshes well with their franchise defender in Quinn Hughes.
They’ve done so while managing to not only keep Hronek’s cap hit below Hughes’, but well below. In fact, as of this writing, Hronek has become only the 30th-highest paid defender in the NHL, and his spot on that ranking is guaranteed to drop as time passes.
To sign such a contract with such a player without much in the way of leverage?
That’s an unmitigated win for the Canucks, all things considered.
Presented by Betway

Check out these posts...