Earlier this week, Edmonton ticked one big item off their to-do list with the re-signing of Ryan Nugent-Hopkins to an eight-year, $42MM contract. Now, their focus is set on re-upping pending UFA defenseman Adam Larsson and it appears that progress is being made on those discussions. Larsson’s agent J.P. Barry told Daniel Nugent-Bowman of The Athletic (subscription link) that there is an emphasis on the length of the deal but that talks are going well:
We’re making progress on a contract. Sometimes teams like to move quicker than players. He’s just thinking about everything. We’re getting there. There are a few things we can still discuss.
We’d like to get some term. He’s a pretty young free agent defenseman.
Barry is certainly correct in noting that Larsson is fairly young for a blueliner with the type of experience he has. He is only 28 but already has 10 years under his belt after making the jump to the NHL as an 18-year-old after New Jersey made him the fourth-overall pick back in 2011.
While Larsson has carved out a solid NHL career with over 600 NHL games under his belt, he’s also not the top-pairing defender the Devils hoped he’d be. However, he has turned into a capable stay-at-home player on the second pairing but this isn’t a great situation to be entering free agency with limited point totals and a flat salary cap. While Larsson improved on his numbers from a year ago, he still only managed 10 points in 56 regular season games this season. That will certainly restrict how expensive his next deal will be.
As it turns out, Larsson may actually be facing a small dip in pay after coming off a six-year, $25MM contract. Deals given to Joel Edmundson and Brenden Dillon last summer both checked in under the $4MM mark and serve as reasonable comparables to Larsson. Both landed four-year deals as well which makes Barry’s comment about term more notable as it seems unlikely Larsson would settle for something with fewer years than that.
Assuming they’re able to get something done – Nugent-Bowman suggests something could be done as soon as next week – that should all but close the door on Tyson Barrie returning. A new deal for Larsson would put him, Ethan Bear, and Evan Bouchard on the right side of the depth chart for Edmonton. At some point, they need to get Bouchard – the tenth-overall pick in 2018 – into the lineup and bringing both Larsson and Barrie back would make that difficult.
While many teams will want to wait to re-sign their pending unrestricted free agents for expansion purposes, Edmonton’s situation is cleaner than most teams. A re-signed Larsson would likely push Caleb Jones away from being protected but both he and William Lagesson (another projected exposed player) have had limited roles so far in their NHL careers. Losing one of them to Seattle would still put them in a better situation than a lot of teams. Accordingly, there’s no reason to delay finalizing a contract and ensuring that Larsson sticks around for the foreseeable future.