What have been the 10 best bargain contracts given to top pairing NHL defensemen in the salary cap era, excluding entry level contracts. These are defensemen who averaged more than 22 minutes of ice time per game the season before becoming a free agent, and how much they earned on that contract. Almost all of these were signed when the player was a restricted free agent. Getting a top pairing UFA defenseman on a bargain contract is virtually impossible, unless that player signs prior to July 1st at a home town discount. Almost all of these players were signed by the team that drafted them on the first contract after Entry Level.
The moral of the story, if you want a fantastic bargain on a top pairing defenseman, you need to draft and develop them. Then lock them up long-term on their 2nd contract. Just ask Ken Holland...
1- Duncan Keith, July 13 2006, 4 years $5.9M: Signed by Dale Tallon. This contract won a Stanley Cup and a Norris trophy. The regular season stat line of 323 GP, 176 PTS, 656 shots, and +84 for under $6M is incredible.
2- Erik Karlsson, Jun 19 2012, 7 years $45.5M: Signed by Brian Murray. He won a Norris trophy in 2015 and carried his team to a Conference final in 2017. He’s one of the best defensemen in the NHL. His next contract will be whatever he wants it to be.
3- Drew Doughty, Sep 30 2011, 8 years $56M: Signed by Dean Lombardi. LA tried to play hardball and get Doughty to sign a smaller contract. Truth of the matter is he’s worth whatever you pay him. They won 2 Stanley Cups and got a Norris trophy on this contract that’s not even over yet.
4- Kris Letang, Mar 30 2010, 4 years $14M: Signed by Ray Shero. In the first year of this contract Letang nearly doubled his point production up to 50 PTS in 82 GP. Okay so maybe he only averaged 21.6 minutes in the last season of his ELC, but he jumped up quickly averaging close to 24 minutes per game on the new deal, becoming the Penguins best defensemen.
5- Victor Hedman, Dec 1 2011, 5 years $20M: Signed by Steve Yzerman. This has to be in the top 10 best contracts in the whole NHL under the salary cap era. He had 232 PTS in 335 GP from the blueline.
6- Roman Josi, June 10 2013, 7 years $28M: Signed by David Poile. This is one of the best bargains in the NHL right now and probably makes the list for 10 best NHL contracts since 2005. His points per game almost doubled from the last year of his entry level to the 2nd year of this contract. I guess his agent didn’t expect he’d be as good as he’s become. This contract cost his client millions of dollars going 7 years for that low number.
7- John Klingberg, Apr 17 2015, 7 years $29.8M: Signed by Jim Nill. He scored 40 PTS in 65 GP before signing this contract then jumped up to 58 PTS in 76 GP in year one. He’s now among the better offensive defensemen in the league locked in at a good price through what should be the prime of his career. His agent might have screwed up taking that much term.
8- Oliver Ekmanlarsson, Mar 15 2013, 6 years $33M: Signed by Don Maloney. He is such a good defenseman on such a bad team. He’s averaged around 25 minutes of ice time per game and twice eclipsed 220 shots on goal in a season. Year three produced his best individual season at 55 PTS. He has been starting to flounder in year five.
9- Ryan McDonagh, July 8 2013, 6 years $28M: Signed by Glen Sather. There is some debate about just how effective he is in year 5, but there’s no doubt the Rangers got a workhorse top pairing defenseman for below market price. He’s averaged 38 PTS and his combined +/- under this contract is +80. That’s good and he’s still young.
10- PK Subban, Montreal Jan 18 2013, 2 years $5.7M: Congrats Marc Bergevin, you played hard ball and denied him the 5-year, $25M deal he was seeking and got him on a low-cost bridge deal. Then he won the Norris trophy and his next contract cost $72M. So, you saved $4.2M on the first 2 years, then paid an extra $12M on the last 3 of his hypothetical 5-year contract. Great you got a great price on that Norris Trophy, but it cost you more down the road.