Whenever a young restricted free agent gets paid big time, hockey fans and pundits point to his contract as a beacon of what other players of similar ability will get, and what players of higher ability will get. Recently, the Winnipeg Jets signed defenseman Zach Bogosian to a fairly hefty seven year, $36 million dollar contract. I say hefty, because while the cost may be reasonable for a former third-overall draft pick (2008, by the Atlanta Thrashers), Bogosian's stats don't really scream out that this was a bargain:
What Winnipeg GM Kevin Cheveldayoff clearly is paying for is potential, a word bandied about with Bogosian since day one. Bogosian is getting paid for what he could be - or what some argue, for what he should be. He's a big body, big hitter who can vacillate between having as much hockey sense as the stapler on my desk and being an effective defenseman. His development took a hit with injuries in his rookie season, and he played only 47 games. From there, he suffered through a wrist injury as well as a few others, not to mention a coach in his final season in Atlanta who basically yelled at him constantly. He's playing far better in Winnipeg, and, as his yearly salary increases over time, Chevy clearly thinks that so will his ability. That's a good gamble to take.
It, of course, came as no surprise when hockey pundits pointed to Bogo's contract after his signing and made reference to Alex Pietrangelo's in-progress discussions with the Blues. Pietrangelo, selected one pick behind Bogosian, was not rushed into the NHL and his development has been significantly speedier.
It stands to reason that Petro and his agent both looked at Bogosian's contract and would like a higher rate of pay. Term? Who knows. They'll probably approach Armstrong with a deal that has a cap hit higher than Bogosian's $5,142,857, and they should - but chances are that they did that well before Bogo's deal was signed. Pietrangelo's agent has something that Bogosian's agent does not: stronger numbers at the NHL level, and more proof that his client is the team's top defenseman.
What I'm trying to say is that Bogosian's contract has minimal impact on what Pietrangelo is asking for, and should have no impact on what Doug Armstrong signs the Blues' star defenseman to. Armstrong should, and probably is, approaching this deal looking only at his player and what his player can bring. If Winnipeg believes in someone's potential and signs them to a very long contract so that he can prove it, then that's up to Cheveldayoff. Armstrong knows exactly what he's getting in Pietrangelo, and will pay him accordingly.
Signings seem to have more influence in the unrestricted free agent market than they do in the RFA side of things. General managers have already seen what their players can do if they're re-signing them. Petro's agents may not have the contract blinders fully on, but Armstrong probably does.