As more NHL teams lock up top defensemen long-term, the Rangers are looking at an expensive next contract for their best blue liner.
The New York Rangers are on the clock.
Yes, the 2021-22 season just started, but they’re staring at a countdown to what will likely be the largest contract in the history of the organization.
Adam Fox, the 2021 Norris Trophy winner as the best defenseman in the NHL, is a restricted free agent next summer. And his next deal should be significant.
The market for defensemen blew up this summer and continues to be shockingly expensive. On Friday, the Boston Bruins reportedly signed Charlie McAvoy to an eight-year extension that carries a $9.5 million cap hit.
McAvoy is the latest defenseman to sign a deal with a cap hit above $9 million AAV. The highest paid defensemen in the league are still San Jose’s Erik Karlsson ($11.5M AAV) and LA’s Drew Doughty ($11M AAV). But the group of top defensemen making more than $9M per year grew substantially over the past year.
- Zach Werenski, Columbus* – 6 years, $9,583,333 AAV
- Charlie McAvoy, Boston* – 8 years, $9.5M AAV
- Seth Jones, Chicago* – 8 years, $9.5M AAV
- Darnell Nurse, Edmonton* – 8 years, $9.25M AAV
- Roman Josi, Nashville – 8 years, $9.059M AAV
- Cale Makar, Colorado – 6 years, $9.0M AAV
- Dougie Hamilton, New Jersey – 7 years, $9.0M AAV
* – contract begins in 2022-23 season.
From this list, Josi is the only player over age 30. Hamilton is 29; Jones and Nurse are 27. And, of the seven contracts listed above, only Josi’s was signed before this offseason.
That’s a lot of money for seven defensemen who haven’t won a Norris Trophy. Fox, of course, has one Norris at home already.
How much? And for how long?
If we use the six new contracts listed above as a model, how much should the Rangers expect to sign Fox for, and for how long?
First, the known: Fox is an elite defenseman.
Adam Fox is already among the league's best two-way defencemen; an elite driver of offence, transition player, passer, and zone entry defender. He didn't start in a top four role like Hughes and Makar did, but he earned it as the season went on. #PlayLikeANewYorker pic.twitter.com/LC6C1uzdlD
— JFresh (@JFreshHockey) July 15, 2020
His age is also a big deal. He won’t turn 24 until Feb. 17 of next year, putting him with Makar and McAvoy among the younger players on the list above.
So let’s assume the Rangers are smart and want to go max term with Fox — eight years. How much cap space should the Rangers commit to their best defenseman?
According to CapFriendly, the Rangers already have more than $61 million committed to their roster next season.
The biggest cap hits on the 2022-23 Rangers today are Artemi Panarin ($11,642,857) and Mika Zibanejad ($8.5M). They just signed Zibanejad last week.
On the blue line, the Rangers already gave Jacob Trouba a seven-year contract with an $8 million AAV; he’s in the third year of that deal.
If Fox gets paid at the level his play would warrant, the Rangers are looking at a cap hit in the neighborhood of $9.5-10 million.
Is Chris Drury ready to make an eight-year, $80M offer to Fox? He should be.
Fox is good enough and, most importantly, young enough that the Rangers should want him patrolling their blue line as long as possible. Unfortunately for the Rangers, the market has made that reality more expensive over the past six months.