On Tuesday, the Nashville Predators announced a contract extension for top defenseman Roman Josi. This news was a long time coming, but finally the long nightmare is over.

The Preds’ captain is locked up for the next eight years and will mostly likely spend his entire career in Nashville.

This is great news for the Predators as a franchise, for so many reasons. Their best defenseman is now locked up for the better part of a decade and now David Poile doesn’t risk losing him for nothing in free agency, like he did with Ryan Suter.

But not everyone was impressed with the contract when the details were released. Being the biggest contract David Poile has ever executed with the Predators (remember that the $110 million Shea Weber contract was an offer sheet from the Philadelphia Flyers that the Predators ended up matching), it’s only natural for there to be doubters.

Signing a offensive defenseman to an eight year deal at $9 million per year? The majority of which will be paid when the player is over 30 years old? Not everyone was impressed.

Many were even comparing his contract to the one Brent Seabrook signed with Chicago in 2016. This is silly, as Roman Josi is a much better defenseman than Seabrook has ever been (the numbers don’t lie) and Seabrook primarily got paid shortly after three Stanley Cup wins.

But let’s put the doubters to rest regarding this Roman Josi contract: not only is the contract a great deal for the Predators in the short term, in the long term this contract will end up increasing in value.

Front loading benefits the Preds

Before we continue, let’s look at the contract details one more time. According to Pierre LeBrun, the year to year contract value looks like this:

  • 2020: $11 million signing bonus + $750K salary
  • 2021: $10 million signing bonus + $750K salary
  • 2022: $8.75 million signing bonus + $1 million salary
  • 2023: $4 million signing bonus + $5 million salary
  • 2024: $9 million salary
  • 2025: $8 million salary
  • 2026: $7.2 million salary
  • 2027: $7 million salary

You’ll notice immediately that this contract is heavily front loaded. This means the Predators can spend most of the cash on Roman Josi during his most “prime” years, even though the cap hit will remain at $9.059 for the life of the contract. It also makes the contract more “buyout friendly” should something dramatic happen to Josi’s game in the latter half of his career, but this is a minor benefit. Poile didn’t set this contract up to be buyout friendly, just to be clear, but it is something to consider.

One of the reasons long term contracts become “albatrosses” for franchises (and potentially impact the economic viability of the team) is because of massive paychecks that have to be written to guys that aren’t contributing to the team. Marian Hossa, David Clarkson, Pavel Datsyuk, and possibly soon Brent Seabrook are all examples of this.

With the way Poile set up the contract, it is very unlikely this will become a bad contract in that sense. While it’s very possible Josi’s production will drop off after age 35, the cap hit and salary of $8 million, $7.2 million, and $7 million will be manageable. You can handle paying $7 million to a less than productive Roman Josi at age 37, especially because you paid him only $4 million per year between 2013 and 2019.

But even as Josi’s paycheck is high in his twilight years, the value of his contract will only go up.

The cost of production in 2024

We know how valuable a player like Roman Josi is in 2019, but how valuable will he be in 2024?

Keep in mind that a lot can change in five years in the NHL. The salary cap goes up every year, the league continues to expand (Seattle is rumored to begin play in 2021), and the strategies that teams use to win the Stanley Cup have evolved dramatically since the dynasties of the Chicago Blackhawks in the last decade and the Detroit Red Wings in the 90s.

Forget that he plays defense for a minute. Roman Josi is as consistent a 50-60 point player as you’ll find in the NHL. And when you put him up against other 50-60 point players who happen to play forward, you’ll see that while his contract value is high for 2019, it may be quite reasonable in five years.

Players like James Van Riemsdyk, Evander Kane, Anders Lee, Kevin Hayes, and Matthew Tkachuk all signed contracts recently. And they all make around $7 million per year with similar production to Josi. In five years, how much will that production cost on the open market? It seems very reasonable for it to be closer to $9 million than $7 million.

So while the Preds are probably over paying for Roman Josi right now, they won’t be in five years.

And keep in mind that the fact that Roman Josi plays defense doesn’t mean much. Teams are moving more and more to “positionless” hockey. The lines between a defenseman and a winger and a center are becoming more and more blurred. It’s very possible that by the time Josi is ready to retire, there will be no clear difference between a 60-point winger and a 60-points defenseman.

The bottom line is that while some people are doubting the overall value of the Roman Josi contract for the Predators, it’s likely that the contract itself will be better for the Predators at the end of the term than at the beginning.

— Featured image via Christopher Hanewinckel/USA TODAY Sports —

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