With the ink still drying on the new deal signed on Tuesday, Andrew MacDonald is currently scheduled to be paid as one of the top 100 players in the NHL next season. Let that sink in for a moment.
You don’t have to be a hockey salary cap expert to figure out why MacDonald’s six-year, $30 million contract extension with the Philadelphia Flyers is a tad startling. Beginning next season, when the extension takes effect, the 27-year-old defenseman is set to become the third-highest paid player in orange and black annually behind Claude Giroux and Mark Streit according to CapGeek.com.
MacDonald seemingly has been a better addition for the Flyers than most were willing to give credit when general manager Paul Holmgren sent second- and third-round picks to the Islanders in a deadline trade. The guy is basically as advertised—he logs a lot of minutes, led the league in blocked shots and is pretty savvy with the puck in his own end.
But was that unspectacular skillset really worthy of a pact indicative of a building block of this franchise? If we were to go off the over-simplified equation money plus years equals value, the Flyers have essentially determined MacDonald is more important to their success going forward than Wayne Simmonds or Steve Mason for example.
Compared to the rest of the league, the contract only sounds worse. MacDonald’s deal currently sets him up in a tie for the 21st-most expensive blueliner in the entire NHL for 2014-15, 90th overall according to Spotrac. He also becomes one of only 13 D-men signed through the year 2020, when he’ll be 33. That’s a heck of a commitment for a guy who puts his body in harm’s way more than most and doesn’t do anything very special.
Over time, new contracts will come along that make MacDonald’s numbers look more reasonable. After all, the salary cap is expected to jump over the next few years, which will inflate future numbers. If this deal was any indication, it’s already started. There’s a good chance he won’t wind up as one of the top 100 players by the time the 14-15 season gets underway.
I’m not sure that makes the contract any less confounding, nor does the notion that if the Flyers didn’t, another franchise would’ve awarded MacDonald a similar contract as Greg Wyshynski op-ins over at Puck Daddy. Wyshynski points out just how flawed that kind of logic is.
In 19 games with the Flyers, the numbers show they’ve been a better team with MacDonald off the ice. It was the same case last season when MacDonald was with the Islanders, too. Broad Street Hockey attempted to pinpoint the problem in the neutral zone, but being a turnstile at the blue line doesn't seem like a correctable aspect of his game.
The money is what it is. It’s the Flyers and the cap’s rising. But six years is a lot of years for Andrew MacDonald. And that's now two Islanders defensemen that the Flyers are building their defense around.
The other former Islanders defenseman is Streit of course, who at least adds some scoring punch to the unit. His 44 points led Philly D-men and were tied for 14th among all NHL blueliners this season.
In MacDonald, we’re talking about a player that Islanders fans were thankful to be rid of—and they don’t have a whole lot else to be thankful for. At 6’0”, 185 pounds, he’s not particularly big. He did set a career high with 28 points in 13-14, but with four goals is not especially threatening offensively. He isn't even a shutdown player in his own end.
Now he’ll be part of Philadelphia’s core for years to come, priced like a mid-tier if not a upper-echelon defenseman. Flyers gonna Flyers, as they say.