Despite getting Connor McDavid’s long-term extension done early, the Edmonton Oilers are still going to have some tough contract talks to get through next summer. Among the toughest will be negotiations with Patrick Maroon, a pending unrestricted free agent who has blossomed into a serious offensive player during his time in Edmonton.
We’re talking about Maroon in this week’s What Would You Do Wednesday partially because the Oilers’ decision on the player needs to be made well in advance of July 1 of next year, and partially because there’s an argument to negotiate with Maroon right now.
The Edmonton Journal’s David Staples argued for signing Maroon to an extension this summer in a piece written last month, noting that he expected Maroon to have a solid 2017-18 campaign for the Oilers, and that his “value will only go higher by next summer, and possibly much higher if [he is] a key contributor on a run to the Stanley Cup Finals.”
As for Maroon, players who score more than 25 goals per year tend to get paid big time in the NHL, so it’s not going to be easy to convince him to sign now when he’s looking forward to playing on Connor McDavid’s line this year. At the same time, Maroon could easily be on the third line much of this year and score just 15 goals. Might he be enticed to sign a two or three year deal at $4.0 million per with a no-movement clause? That would give him both the security of locking up millions of dollars and also the security of knowing he’s got a good shot of playing more with McDavid and perhaps locking up an even bigger deal in a few years.
The numbers may seem a bit steep for a player the Oilers got for a fourth-round pick and Martin Gernat, but recall that Maroon was signed to a three-year deal with a $2.0 million cap hit after a 2014 season where he had 29 total points. Last season he scored 27 goals, bumping Milan Lucic off the top line in the process.
It’s also true that players like this get paid. Matt Beleskey, a somewhat similar player, managed to turn a 22-goal crazy shooting percentage 2014-15 season into a five-year deal at just less than $4.0 million annually, a deal which also includes various no-trade provisions.
Locking Maroon up after one great offensive season is undeniably an aggressive approach. A more conservative one would be to wait and see. Maroon’s 27 goals last season represent just under half of his career total, and if he doesn’t spend most of the year with Connor McDavid that total could shrink dramatically. Given the presence of such options as Milan Lucic, Anton Slepyshev, Jussi Jokinen and Drake Caggiula at left wing, it’s entirely plausible.
The far other end of the spectrum is to simply accept that for cap reasons it’s going to be difficult to retain Maroon. Not long ago, this would have meant preparing for a midseason trade, but these days it’s more likely to mean keeping him for the playoff run and just making sure that potential successors get cameos on McDavid’s wing so there’s some familiarity there.
I’m in the “wait-and-see” category, mostly because I’m skeptical that Maroon is going to see a huge spike in value next season. I’m not totally sure that 27 goals is an outer marker for him at the NHL level, but I’m comfortable betting that it’s pretty close, and even if he does it again the performance is going to carry a McDavid caveat. I see some, but not much, upside to rushing, and significant downside if he falls off the top line and his numbers get closer to his career norms. Right now, I think he’s in pencil as a long-term piece, and whether the ink or the eraser comes out depends on next season and then his contract demands. If I had to make a prediction today, I expect we’ll see Maroon with the Oilers past next season on a contract with terms along the lines of what Staples described above.
As always, though, WWYDW isn’t so much about my views as it about yours. Do you think Maroon should stay with the Oilers long-term, or does the team need to use its cap space on other players?