Monday, August 26, 2013

The Paradox Of The Bridge Deal

Adam Henrique signed a $24 million, 6 year deal today with New Jersey.  This deal piqued my interest because it involved my favorite team and not one of your dumb teams that you somehow follow.  It's also interesting because it reveals one of the stranger parts of the way NHL teams operate these days with their RFAs coming off entry-level contracts.

We're seeing more and more of these sorts of contracts for players coming off ELCs - indeed, it's getting rarer for top players not to get one.  Evander Kane, Tyler Seguin, Taylor Hall, Jordan Eberle, Jamie Benn, the list goes on - teams are betting on their young stars.  They are no longer trying to squeeze every dime out of them before they become UFA age.  The list of 'star' players coming off ELCs who haven't gotten long contracts includes PK Subban, and will likely include Derek Stepan and Nazem Kadri.  Indeed, most of these 'bridge' deals are signed by teams who stay at or near the salary cap.  The paradox of the bridge deal is this:  a cap team figures to be very good, and a very good team tends to lift all boats.  This makes the player on the bridge deal more expensive in the future, exacerbating that team's cap situation.  Likewise, a team in the Devils' situation able to sign Henrique long-term like this without any pending cap issues may not be a very good team, making his deal look worse than it otherwise might be on a cap team.