Even though Ken Holland has publicly announced he’s going to evaluate his goaltending situation over the next 10 days, circumstances are rapidly changing. Yesterday afternoon the Anaheim Ducks moved pending-RFA Frederik Andersen to the Toronto Maple Leafs in exchange for the 30th overall pick this year and a second rounder next year. The Maple Leafs then promptly signed Andersen to a five-year, $25M contract which was confirmed by Bob McKenzie. (Note: It was earlier reported the AAV was $5.5M, but $5M is the actual amount).
Andersen's AAV is $5M on the button. $25M total value for five years.— Bob McKenzie (@TSNBobMcKenzie) June 20, 2016
There was a lot of discussion on Twitter regarding Andersen’s deal and whether or not it’s a good one for the Leafs. But for Wings fans, this is a moot point. Whether it’s a "good deal" or not, this deal establishes the going rate for mid-20s starting goaltenders who are in need of a new contract. Both Toronto and Detroit are, or were, in very similar situations with these pending-RFA goalies. Mrazek and Andersen are going to be their respective team’s starter heading into next year and both are relatively inexperienced at the NHL level (Andersen has 125 NHL GP to Mrazek’s 94, not counting the postseason). Take a look at the two head-to-head from this past season, you’ll see the comparisons don’t stop there.
Here are Mrazek and Andersen's career numbers, respectively.
They’re very similar goalies and find themselves in somewhat similar situations. Andersen's deal is sure to cost Ken Holland more now and in the future with Mrazek because of that. Mrazek's a younger, slightly better goaltender right now and I think when he's Andersen's age, he can expect to command a salary far north of what Andersen will be making the next five years.
What It Means Right Now
Something we can all agree on is that a bridge deal for Mrazek is the only thing that makes sense now. Before, there might have been an argument to be made on the contrary but given Andersen's deal, I don't think Ken Holland can afford anything else unless he clears some cap space beforehand. The Maple Leafs are in a much-better salary cap situation this offseason. Yes, they’re planning on moving Bernier and his $4.15M cap hit but they don’t necessarily need to. I doubt Martin Marincin, Frank Corrado and Peter Holland cost the Leafs more than the $5M in cap space they still have. The Wings have Danny DeKeyser and Alexey Marchenko left to re-sign as RFAs and have tendered offers to Darren Helm and Drew Miller as well. After two or three of these signings, the $11M in space the Wings have right now will quickly dry up.
This doesn’t even mention the fact that the Leafs have a lot of big money coming off the books in the next two years in Colin Greening, Milan Michalek, Joffrey Lupul, Tyler Bozak, James van Riemsdyk, Leo Komarov, etc. whereas the Wings have a lot of big money tied up long-term in players like Jonathan Ericsson (4 years left), Justin Abdelkader (7 years left), Henrik Zetterberg (5 years left), Niklas Kronwall (3 years left), etc. Until you clear up some of the cap space tied up in these players, signing a young, somewhat inconsistent goaltender to a big contract is probably a bad move.
Signing Mrazek to a bridge contract with a lower term than Andersen's is probably going to help Ken Holland as the two hash this deal out. Obviously, the understanding is that the Wings will make it worth Mrazek's while in two or three years, which they certainly will have to given what Andersen is making. And remember too that the Leafs had to compensate Andersen for signing him to a deal that will prevent him from cashing in on his prime UFA years. If the Wings manage to sign Mrazek to a short bridge deal, he won't be forfeiting any UFA years at all. And because offer sheets are very rare, I doubt the Wings are frantic to get this deal done. Ken Holland definitely has some things going for him in this situation too.
Even still, while before I thought a $3.5M contract for two years was what Mrazek was headed towards, I could see him snagging a deal with an AAV that possibly starts with a 4, depending on the term. If Kenny was looking to sign Mrazek to a three or four year contract, a salary north of $4M seems likely if not certain. Either way, it's imperative Ken Holland gets him on a bridge deal so his salary stays low if he's unwilling to part with useful assets to move Datsyuk's contract or can't find a taker for Jimmy Howard. Who knows, he managed to get Tatar under contract for less than $3M not too long ago, we'll have to see if Kenny can make another miracle happen or if he's going to be the victim of waiting too long to lock up Mrazek for the next couple of years.
What This Means In The Future
I can't really speak to what Mrazek will do over the course of the bridge deal he's probably going to sign. But if he continues to progress at roughly the same rate that he has, I could see the Wings having to shell out a lot of cash for him once he's in need of a contract that will pay him into his 30s. If Andersen, a goalie who I don't think is as good as Mrazek, can score a 5-year, $25M deal at 27 years old, it's certain Mrazek will be paid more at a similar age provided he continues to develop. If he can figure out how to play consistent for an entire season and throw his name into the Vezina conversation on a consistent basis, that's going to cost Ken Holland quite a bit more money in a few years. Right now I don't think Mrazek's ready for big money because of his inconsistency, but I'd be willing to bet he will be in a few years.
Let us know your thoughts below! How much of an impact does Andersen's deal have on the negotiations between Kenny and Mrazek, and how much does this affect what Mrazek can expect to make in a few years?