He arrived three days late to the party, but Charlie McAvoy on Sunday finally cashed in at the market rate set last Monday when Columbus defenseman and fellow restricted free agent Zach Werenski signed for a total $15 million through 2021-22.
For the next three years, McAvoy, 21, will bank an average $4.9 million a season, and then springboard into his next deal, dead certain to be a whopper, in the summer of 2022 after being paid $7.3 million in only his fifth NHL season.
Life already was good for McAvoy, and from a pay standpoint, it’s only going to get betterer and betterer.
Now, said GM Don Sweeney, McAvoy can “really launch into the player we all believe he is.”
The next Bruin staged for liftoff is RFA defenseman Brandon Carlo, expected soon to agree either to a three-year deal, or one of five years or more. Sweeney noted last week that he will not sign RFAs to pacts that will deliver them to the front door of unrestricted free agency, which is precisely where Carlo currently is pegged to stand after the next four seasons, in the summer of 2023. So rule out a four-year pact for Boston’s other young RFA defenseman.
If Carlo signs for three years, look for his payout to be about $3 million, roughly a 40 percent discount off McAvoy’s number. If he pushes to five years — which would include a year of his UFA rights — then it’s possible his number also will approach the $5 million mark, a number that exceeds the $3.2 million in cap money Sweeney has left in the summer shopping kitty.
“Every negotiation,” Sweeney noted Sunday, happy and relieved to have McAvoy’s deal done, “has some timeline.”
In the larger picture, the McAvoy and Carlo deals are critical pieces in the evolution and transition happening on the Boston backline. Keep in mind, when McAvoy next goes through this financial taffy pull, his greybeard running mate, Zdeno Chara, will be 45 years old and very likely retired.
“Says who?” said coach Bruce Cassidy as Sunday’s presser when the thought of life without Big Z was raised.
If Chara does play into 2022-23, and it’s not impossible, he very well could be on the verge of surpassing Gordie Howe’s all-time mark (1,767) for NHL games played. Bet against the Trencin Tower of Power at your peril, even when he’s a mid-40something.
Still employed here or not, Chara will have fully relinquished his role as the backline’s main force to McAvoy, Carlo, and perhaps Torey Krug, the latter of whom now stands only some 42 weeks removed from reaching unrestricted free agency.
The McAvoy and Carlo deals don’t directly affect whether Krug will be here beyond July 1, but their combined payout will factor into what Sweeney can offer his top blue line point-producer between now and then.
McAvoy’s new deal ends with him making $7.3 million, and probably launching from there to an average of $10 million a year or more at age 24. Krug, still the Black-and-Gold’s top paid blue liner at $5.25 million, is projected to land at least $8 million a year in his next deal, and could make it to $9 million-plus if the now 28-year-old can persuade Sweeney to extend his deal beyond, say, four years.
All these numbers sound hefty, and they should, but they are also manageable.
Sweeney, now just over four years on the job, has handled the Jacobs owner’s purse with a deft hand, particularly when comparing the Boston payroll with, say, Toronto, which this season will pay forwards John Tavares, Auston Matthews, Mitch Marner, and Williams Nylander a combined $40.5 million.
It was the Tavares UFA deal, just a year ago in July, that set the Leafs payroll standard at $11 million a year for their top forwards. A fine player, Tavares, but his bloated UFA payoff essentially guaranteed UFA money to the likes of Matthews, Marner, and Nylander.
GMs can argue all they want that one deal doesn’t influence another, but that, frankly, is rubbish.
“We’ll never run from these comparables,” Sweeney said Sunday, when asked if Werenski’s contract served as the template for McAvoy’s new deal.
Werenski, in fact, was written all over the McAvoy deal, right down to year No. 3. Werenski’s pact has him making $7 million, while McAvoy is at $7.3 million. McAvoy may be earning $100,000 less on average, but he’ll take that slightly higher number into talks for his third contract.
An essential part of the payoff, from the Boston perspective, is that McAvoy’s deal came in 76 days before the Dec. 1 deadline that all RFAs face — either sign a new deal or sit out the season. In Toronto, the Leafs went right up to Dec. 1 last year before finally tying down Nylander, and both sides suffered for the delay.
No such protracted, angst-full wait for McAvoy, and it’s a good bet that Carlo’s deal will get done in short order. Then it’s back to trying to write a different ending to the 2018-19 script that fell one victory short of a Cup.
“We can’t go back and change anything now,” mused McAvoy, fresh from trebling his pay scale from the entry deal he signed here in the spring of 2017. “But we have the future here in front of us.”