On Saturday, Nashville Predators winger Viktor Arvidsson signed a seven-year, $29,750,000 contract. The 24-year-old, who avoided arbitration as a restricted free agent (RFA) by signing, will see his deal expire when he’s 31. The contract will take up three of his unrestricted free agent (UFA) years.
Next summer, the San Jose Sharks are set to have an arbitration-eligible 24-year-old in need of a new contract. Tomas Hertl will be coming off of his fifth NHL season, compared to Arvidsson’s third, but the latter’s contract provides a potential framework for Hertl’s next deal.
Now, the comparison isn’t perfect. Arvidsson’s a winger, while Hertl was drafted as a center and finished last season at that position. Hertl’s also yet to score 60 points in a season, which Arvidsson surpassed last season, and the Czech center’s missed extensive time with right knee injuries. Arvidsson played 80 NHL games for the first time last season, but largely because he split time with the AHL’s Milwaukee Admirals over the previous two seasons.
But Arvidsson’s scored at a similar rate (0.542 points per game) over his first three seasons to Hertl over his first four (0.497 points per game). Any differences in production could be mitigated considering that Hertl will be more experienced when he signs his new contract, and likely would be if Hertl emerges as a top six center in San Jose next season. Given what evidence is acceptable in an arbitration hearing, that may be enough to ensure Hertl is paid at a similar AAV as Arvidsson ($4,250,000).
Underlying numbers are not taken into account in arbitration, but a look at each player’s respective HERO charts (courtesy of Own the Puck) further highlights their similarities.
Their salaries could be similar, too, especially if Hertl signs a deal that eats some of his UFA years. Following next season, Hertl will be eligible for unrestricted free agency in two years. Under the current collective bargaining agreement (CBA), the Sharks have signed Justin Braun, Logan Couture, and Brenden Dillon to five-year contracts that took up some of each player’s UFA years. They did the same with Brent Burns and Marc-Edouard Vlasic under the previous CBA.
San Jose General Manager Doug Wilson has been happy to give out such contracts, but has never signed an RFA to a deal as long as the one Arvidsson signed on Saturday. Wilson signed then-RFA Milan Michalek to a six-year contract in 2007, but has not signed an RFA longer than five years since. Burns and Vlasic’s eight-year deals may be the new normal for San Jose’s important pending UFAs, but likely won’t be for Hertl, given his RFA status, injury history, and production.
Of course, a healthy, career year for Hertl would change the calculus on his next contract, and could even make Arvidsson’s deal irrelevant as a possible baseline. As things currently stand, though, the Predators winger’s recently-signed contract sets a standard for Hertl’s contract next summer. The seven-year term likely represents an upper limit, but Arvidsson’s $4,250,000 cap hit is potentially instructive.