Jack Hughes and the New Jersey Devils came to an eight-year contract extension yesterday. The 2019 NHL Draft’s top overall selection will be with New Jersey for the next eight years after next season at an $8M AAV cap hit.
Here’s the full breakdown of Hughes’ deal:
Jack Hughes extension breakdown:
22-23: $9 (includes $2M SB)
(10-team no-trade clause kicks in 26-27, so for last 4 years of deal)
— Pierre LeBrun (@PierreVLeBrun) November 30, 2021
With Hughes getting his extension, I thought about Kirby Dach and his second contract that he would be due this offseason. The third-overall pick in the 2019 NHL Draft class, Dach figures to be a fixture for the Blackhawks organization for many years to come. At least, that is how we expect him to be viewed by the club. Nothing says he has to be extended right now just because Hughes got his extension, but it makes the clock tick a bit louder as the season goes on.
This summer, Dach is set to be a restricted free agent as every rookie is coming off of their entry-level deal. When you look at the recent third-overall picks and their second contracts, it gives you an idea of where Dach might land. As for his RFA qualifying offer, he would require an $874,125 price tag from the Blackhawks, according to CapFriendly. He’ll get more than that.
The most recent third-overall pick to get a second contract was Carolina’s Jesperi Kotkaniemi. Now, his situation is not typical. Kotkaniemi was selected third overall by the Montreal Canadiens, and much like Dach had a slow start to his NHL career. This past offseason, as part of a retribution campaign against the Canadiens, the Hurricanes put an offer sheet on Kotkaniemi as he and the Canadiens worked towards his second contract. Montreal didn’t match the offer, and the Hurricanes signed the 2018 third-overall pick to a one-year, $6.1M deal. He had 62 points in 171 games through his first three seasons and has just eight points in 21 games this season, same as Dach.
Miro Heiskanen was the third-overall pick in 2017, and his contract as a defenseman doesn’t give as much of a proper gauge for Dach as the other four recent third-overall choices. But, for what it is worth, Heiskanen became a key player on the Dallas Stars’ blue-line and was locked up with an eight-year, $8.45M AAV extension following his entry-level deal. Dach’s value to the Blackhawks doesn’t match that of Heiskanen to the Stars at this point in his career.
The following two third-overall picks and their second contracts, I think, will set up a good frame for where Dach and the Blackhawks will land. The 2016 third-overall pick was Pierre-Luc Dubois with the Columbus Blue Jackets. Dubois signed his second deal just before the 2020-21 season, beginning in training camp. He was given a two-year bridge deal with a $5M AAV cap hit after producing 158 points in 234 games. But, Dubois’ time with Columbus was short as he was traded to the Winnipeg Jets after just five games with Columbus last season.
Following in the footsteps of Connor McDavid and Jack Eichel in the 2015 NHL Draft class was never going to be easy, but Dylan Strome has had a less-than-comparable start to his career. The 2015 third-overall pick by the Arizona Coyotes didn’t get his second contract with the club that drafted him. As you know, it came from the Chicago Blackhawks. After coming to Chicago in the 2018-19 season, Strome went on to have his career-best stretch of play with 51 points in 58 games with Chicago that season. He also earned a bridge deal, getting a two-year deal with a $3M AAV cap hit just before the start of the 2020-21 season. Strome’s 51-game stretch with the Blackhawks in the 2018-19 season helped him stay in the organization’s good graces long enough, but after a disappointing 2019-20 season, his potential AAV took a hit. He had 104 points in157 career games when he signed his deal.
This is where I feel Dach lands with Chicago. Currently in the middle of his third year in the NHL, Dach has just 41 points in 103 games played for a career .398 points-per-game pace. Nothing special. But Dach was hindered in his short-stint last season after breaking his wrist before the beginning of the year. So far this season, he has just eight points in 21 games and is winning faceoffs at a terrible 34.8% rate. Chicago also has to figure out what they are doing with the next contracts of Alex DeBrincat, Dominik Kubalík, Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane, and Dylan Strome. Some of those players will stay with the club, others will not, but what happens next with all of them will factor into how Dach is treated with his next deal.
I expect it to be a bridge deal like Strome and Dubois. He’s likely viewed more favorably by the organization than Strome was at the time, but he’s producing at a much lower rate than Dubois was. Outside of a significant boost in production this season, and with the other significant contracts to consider, I wouldn’t be surprised to see Dach land a two-year deal with an AAV cap hit hovering around the $4M mark.
And just for fun, I’ll cover the fifth and final of the most recent third-overall selections. In 2014, the Edmonton Oilers took Leon Draisaitl with the third-overall pick. In his first 191 games in Edmonton, Draisaitl tallied 137 points, including 77 points in 82 games during his third NHL season in 2016-17. Draisaitl was an established up-and-coming star in the league and garnered an eight-year extension with an $8.5M AAV cap hit. Fair to say, Dach is not comparable here, either.