On Friday morning, 23-year-old Boston Bruins forward and restricted free agent Blake Wheeler was signed to a one-year, $2.2 million arbiter-ruled contract with the team.
On July 21, 22-year-old St. Louis Blues forward David Perron inked a two-year deal with a salary cap hit of $2.15 million.
Why is this relevant to the Flyers? Because come next offseason when budding forward Claude Giroux hits restricted free agency, these players could very well be a bench mark for his next contract.
Both Wheeler and Perron, along with a pair of 24-year-old’s, Toronto’s Nikolai Kulemin ($2.35) and Vancouver’s Mason Raymond ($2.55), are coming out of entry-level contracts and have all posted similar production and signed similar deals this offseason.
Giroux, 22, is facing a likewise scenario.
In the final year of his three-year entry deal which pays him a rookie salary of $821,000, Giroux is coming off his first full season in the NHL in which he scored 47 points. And the playmaking center-wing hybrid is primed for another industrious season in 2010-11.
Should Giroux duplicate his point totals from 2009-10, he would have 94 total points, which is similar to Perron’s 97 points and Wheeler’s 83 in their last two seasons. According to the market, that type of two-year production warrants a contract in the low $2 million range. However, considering Giroux’s playoff production and ability to be an effective center, his asking price could grow slightly.
But should the Ontario-native raise his production from last season into the 60-70 point range, he could see a number in the high $2 million, possibly even hitting $3 million and above. In that case, the bench mark could be San Jose Sharks winger Devin Setoguchi, who, despite having an off-year last season with just 36 points, is expected to be paid like the 31 goal scorer he was in 2008-09, when he amassed 65 points. Setoguchi has not come to terms with the Sharks yet, but is expected to make anywhere from $2.5-3.5. The same with Dallas Stars forward James Neal, who notched 37 points in his first season and 55 last year. Another young RFA, his price range is expected to be similar to Setoguchi.
Another comparable is Washington center/winger Tomas Fleischmann, who upped his production from 37 points in 2008-09 to 51 in 2009-10. Different than Setoguchi and Neal, who are asking for closer to $3 million or more, Fleischmann’s deal was settled by an arbitrator. The two-year upgrade in points netted “Flash” a one-year deal worth $2.6 million — which barring a blowout year from Giroux, is a more realistic number for the young Flyer to expect.
With a full season still on tap, the status of contracts that expire in a year is probably the last thing on anyone’s mind. And rightfully so. But with nine Flyers contracts up for renewal in 2011-12, matched with limited salary cap space, it’s never too early to question Giroux’s future in Philadelphia.