The Hurricanes have another restricted free agent locked up for the next couple years with the team re-signing Jamie McBain to a two-year contract with a cap hit of about $1.8 mil. per season ($1.7 mil. + $1.9 mil. in salary). This is a pretty safe deal for McBain since two years isn’t a big commitment and the cap hit is pretty low, as well. McBain has really done a lot in two and a half seasons in Carolina and he has shown the potential to be anything from a decent top-four defenseman to a very solid third pairing guy/powerplay quarterback. He has been more effective in the latter role and his game in his own end still needs some work, but I think keeping him around for the next two years is a good move for the Hurricanes.
While there have been some arguments in favor of trading McBain, re-signing him is probably the better call for now. Yes, the Canes have a lot of defensemen in their system (and too many puck movers), a couple of them are another year or two away from making the team. At the very least, McBain will provide a good stopgap for the Canes until Ryan Murphy is ready to be called up. He is also only 24 years old and is still developing. What we’re seeing right now isn’t his ceiling and he could very well turn into a stronger two-way player. If he doesn’t progress at all in the next two years, then the Canes have a good offensive defenseman who can give them 25-30 points for about $1.8 mil. per year.
Let’s pretend that McBain doesn’t progress at all in the next two years and stays the same player. Would $1.8 mil. be an overpayment for him? To figure this out, let’s take a look at some other defensemen who were given a contract similar to his. Below is a list of defensemen, their contract’s cap hit and the age they were when they were signed to those deals.
|Matt Niskanen||$1.5 mil.||24|
|John Erskine||$1.5 mil.||31|
|Brett Clark||$1.5 mil.||34|
|Matt Hunwick||$1.55 mil.||25|
|Milan Jurcina||$1.6 mil.||28|
|Nick Grossman||$1.625 mil.||25|
|Mark Stuart||$1.7 mil.||27|
|Chris Campoli||$1.75 mil.||27|
|Jamie McBain||$1.8 mil.||24|
|Ryan O’Byrne||$1.8 mil.||27|
|Kurtis Foster||$1.8 mil.||29|
|Alex Goligoski||$1.833 mil.||25|
|Johnny Boychuk||$1.875 mil.||25|
|Greg Zanon||$1.9 mil.||29|
All of the players here are 2nd or 3rd pairing defensemen and some of them had a defined role which made them a little more valuable than a standard bottom-pairing defenseman. What this means is that if McBain were to stay the same way he is now, his new contract fits his current value just fine. If he phases out offensively or is a complete defensive liability, then it’s an overpayment but that isn’t the case with him right now. McBain is also younger than the majority of defensemen on the list with the one exception being Matt Niskanen. Niskanen also brings an interesting comparison to the table because he was also a 25-35 point defenseman early in his career but his offensive numbers fell off a cliff around the time that Dallas extended him. He was also a bottom-pairing defenseman like McBain, only sheltered a lot more.
A couple other players who I would compare to McBain are Alex Goligoski and Johnny Boychuk. When they were signed to their contracts listed above, they were known more as puck-movers and were bottom-pairing defensemen on their respective teams. Goligoski was primarily a third pairing defenseman and powerplay quarterback when the Penguins re-signed him to a three year deal and while his two-way game hasn’t come around much, he is playing as a top-four defenseman in Dallas and has been more effective as an offensive defenseman. Boychuk has played regularly in Boston’s top-four and has even spent some time playing alongside Zdeno Chara. His numbers in the NHL are a pretty big contrast from his impressive point totals in the AHL.
McBain had more experience at the NHL level before he signed his second contract so he’s a little different from Boychuk and Goligoski but the main idea here is that the Bruins and Penguins committed 2-3 years and roughly $1.8 mil. to a young defenseman with a decent amount of potential, which is the same thing that the Hurricanes are doing with McBain. Goligoski and Boychuk progressed as their contracts went on and were able to earn big deals with their current clubs. Can McBain do the same thing? Let’s hope so.