Big paydays for RFAs
If you've been failing in your efforts to get in touch with
You know, the usual stuff.
Of course, he's probably just window-shopping at the moment because he doesn't have the cash in hand just yet. But it's coming. Oh, is it coming.
It wasn't that long ago that a restricted free agent like the 22-year-old Slovak would be lucky to double his entry level deal on his second contract. But after earning less than a million dollars in each of his first three years in Ottawa, Meszaros is likely to break the bank, nailing down a multi-year deal worth somewhere around $4 million a pop. Not bad for a guy who was minus-five in the playoffs and saw his ice time slashed as the series wore on.
That's essentially the deal reportedly inked this week by
Yeah, that's the same Dennis Wideman who was so highly thought of when the season opened that he was scratched on opening night.
Just a few months ago, that annual number would be a million or more above even the most generous valuations of his services. But the times, they are a changin'.
For one thing, the term "restricted" when preceding "free agent" is essentially obsolete.
These players may not be able to choose what colors he'd like to wear, but the brakes have been taken off their earning potential. The same market forces that determine the value of an unrestricted free agent are now applied to RFAs as well.
So Wideman, who could have re-signed earlier in the year but wisely chose to see how the market would play out, is simply the latest signing to confirm a pattern of paying big bucks for players with more hopes and dreams than they have skins on the wall. The trend has been particularly conspicuous among blueliners.
Consider a slew of recent signings, such as
In simplest terms, they're speculating.
Wideman, who could walk the streets of all 30 NHL cities unmolested even while wearing his Bruins jersey, might seem an unlikely candidate for that kind of scratch, but he actually epitomizes the type of player who is earning this sort of contract.
The three-year vet is exactly the player for which every team is searching: a puck-moving blueliner. His game improved steadily under coach
If Wideman had gone to arbitration as scheduled, the deal would have been for either one or two years. By getting him signed for four, the Bruins also bought the first two of unrestricted eligibility from their right-handed shot. Even if he stagnates, the contract should be palatable in years three and four. If he improves, he could provide the same value for dollar down the road as as
Which brings us back to Meszaros, a different kind of defender, but one who can't help but benefit from these signings and from the situation in Ottawa. With former partner
At the same time, Meszaros is not coming off a breakthrough year like Wideman. In fact, other than playing all 82 games for the third consecutive season, it was a disappointing campaign. He earned regular criticism for his lack of aggressiveness, and his indecision with the puck minimized the effectiveness of his passing game. As his play sagged, his ice time diminished, and questions were raised about his top end. But...
Yes, there's a
There's the thought that Meszaros' play suffered as a direct result of Redden's sub-par season, and that his regression was inevitable for a youngster getting so little support from his experienced partner. As a result, it's hard to know what's next for Meszaros, but that same risk is inherent in virtually all of these recent RFA deals.
If Ottawa wants to keep Meszaros, they're going to have to dig down deep and make a comparable offer. And when it comes, that'll be a good day for