The stand-off between restricted free agent defenseman Shea Theodore and the Vegas Golden Knights is over and ended in a way that few expected after all this time. Late last night – or early this morning for many – Theodore ended his holdout by signing a seven-year extension worth $36.4MM, per a team release. It is a flat structure without any salary fluctuation or bonuses, but does include a modified No-Trade Clause in the final two years, as reported by TSN’s Pierre LeBrun. Theodore will now re-join the Knights at training camp and is expected to be ready for the start of the regular season.
The new contract carries a $5.2MM AAV, higher than Theodore’s reported comparable contracts of Winnipeg’s Josh Morrissey and Edmonton’s Darnell Nurse. However, those two players each signed two-year bridge deals, whereas Theodore was able to land long-term security, as well as eat into unrestricted free agency years, with five extra years at a salary of close to $2MM more. The cap hit for a long-term deal is also commensurate with Theodore’s experience relative to those two, comparable to recent deals signed by the likes of Toronto’s Nikita Zaitsev, Florida’s Michael Matheson, and the Rangers’ Brady Skjei. It turns out that term was actually the bigger factor in negotiations than salary, according to GM George McPhee, speaking to the media following the Knights’ preseason game last night. “I don’t know that we were ever really far apart; it was more what’s the right term. They were more interested in going shorter, we were more interested going longer,” McPhee said, adding that “When it was all laid out and explained” to Theodore, there was finally a resolution. McPhee stressed the importance of cost certainty when negotiation a long-term deal with a player they see as a major core piece moving forward, balancing cap space with commitment, and stating that he is “confident” with the long-term core they have put together.
Not long ago it seemed there was no resolution in sight between Theodore and the Golden Knights, only for a surprise long-term deal to be announced overnight. Could another contract negotiation break the same way? With Theodore signed, only the Maple Leafs’ William Nylander and the Ducks’ Nick Ritchie remain unsigned and the news out of both cities has been equally pessimistic. Yet, if Theodore can agree to deal with just some small tweaks and some inside information from management, others can too. With the regular season set to open next week, the clock is ticking for these two remaining RFA’s to make a deal.