February 1, 2015: Elliotte Friedman mentioned in 30 thoughts that contract talks have begun with Toronto Maple Leafs defenceman Morgan Rielly. Rielly, 21 has his contract ending at the conclusion of 2015-16 with an entry-level cap hit of $894 166. So what can the Leafs do with their top defenceman of the future?
Morgan Rielly can be considered as the Leafs’ top defenceman. Therefore, the Leafs can either lock him up long term or bridge him for the short term.
Historically, bridge contracts have worked out for players who gain significant dollar amounts, and not so much for teams. James Neal went from a two-year, $2.875M AAV contract to a six-year contract worth an annual average value of $5M. The Montreal Canadiens have faced a burden with PK Subban’s eight-year, $9M contract after a two-year, $2.875 AAV bridge-deal. Subban is a great defenceman, but his large cap hit can restrict the Habs financially going into the future.
The optimal approach of extending Morgan Rielly to the Leafs is to lock him up long term. Some players that can be compared to the forecasted Rielly contract are John Klingberg of the Dallas Stars and Justin Faulk of the Carolina Hurricanes.
The season when Justin Faulk signed a six-year contract worth $4 833 333 annually, Faulk scored five goals and 27 assists. Not spectacular, but good on a Carolina team that wasn’t great at the time. Now, Faulk’s contract looks great with his 34 points in 55 games on a developing Carolina team. Faulk is locked up until he is 28, until the conclusion of the 2019-20 season.
John Klingberg was signed to a seven-year, $4.25M contract extension with the Dallas Stars during a forgettable 2014-15 season. At the time, Klingberg scored 40 points in only 65 games. Klingberg’s contract is now paying off dividends, with his offensive output of 10 goals and 43 assists in 65 games thus far. Klingberg is locked up until he is 30.
With other top defensemen such as Seth Jones and Jacob Trouba who are up for a contract by the end of the 2015-16 season, the Leafs should be ahead of the game. Toronto should not have to overpay Rielly according to other potential poor deals (especially by Columbus’ poor track record). At only 21 years young, Rielly has similar numbers to Justin Faulk’s wheelhouse of 30 points before the Carolina defensemen signed his six year, $4.833M contract. Rielly could sign a six-, seven-, or eight-year deal worth north of four million, and south of five million dollars annually.
Morgan Rielly has previously scored just under 30 points in his tenure with the Toronto Maple Leafs. 2013-14: Two goals and 25 assists. 2014-15: Eight goals and 21 assists. In 63 games throughout the 2015-16 season: Six goals and 21 assists. At 21, his offensive output will only surge once in a couple of years and when he is paired with a top, right-shot defenceman. If the Leafs want to name Rielly as their next captain, it’s time to lock him up at a cost effective deal that catches most of his prime years. The Leafs do not need to pay Rielly captain salaries such as Dustin Brown and Nick Foligno’s contracts. Rielly will continue to be an effective two-way defenceman that will lead the Leafs to future success.
Contract extensions to consider: Nazem Kadri, Peter Holland, Connor Carrick, Frank Corrado, and Garret Sparks.
It’s time to lock Morgan Rielly to a cost effective deal. Could he receive an eight-year, $4.6M contract that locks him up until he’s 30 years young?