Photo: Shaugn Butts/Edmonton Journal
On Wednesday, the Edmonton Oilers announced that they signed center Leon Draisaitl to an eight-year contract worth $68 million, with a cap hit of $8.5 million. The contract is similar to the one Capitals center Evgeny Kuznetsov signed earlier this offseason. Kuznetsov signed an eight-year contract worth $62.4 million, with a cap hit of $7.8 million. In this article, NoVa Caps’ Harrison Brown compares the two contracts of the two young centers, similar to the comparison of Kuznetsov’s and Ryan Johansen’s contract earlier this summer.
Draisaitl is coming off of a breakout season in which he scored 29 goals and finished the year with 77 points, fairly similar to the production Kuznetsov had in 2015-16, when he scored 20 goals and also finished the season with 77 points. Both Draisaitl and Kuznetsov are likely future first-line centers but are currently their respective teams’ second-line centers because they have the fortune of playing with first-line centers Connor McDavid and Nicklas Backstrom, respectively.
Draisaitl, 21, was the third overall pick in the 2014 NHL Entry Draft while Kuznetsov, 25, was the 26th overall pick in the 2010 NHL Entry Draft.
Draisaitl has slightly less NHL experience than Kuznetsov, but their production has progressed similarly during their careers. Draisaitl scored two goals and recorded nine points in 37 games played in his first season, 19 goals and 51 points two seasons ago, and 29 goals and 77 points last season; a total of 137 points in 191 career games played, which equates to 0.72 points per game. He led the Oilers in postseason scoring this year, tallying six goals and 16 points in 13 games played, including a hat trick in Game 6 against the Anaheim Ducks.
Kuznetsov has put up similar production as Draisaitl. He scored three goals and nine points in 17 games played at the end of the 2013-14 season, 11 goals and 37 points in 2014-15, 20 goals and 77 points in 2015-16, and 19 goals and 57 points this past season. He has averaged 0.70 points per game over his career. Like Draisaitl, Kuznetsov is coming off a strong postseason in which he scored five goals and 10 points in 13 games played.
Kuznetsov mostly played on the Caps’ second power play unit, but could possibly move up to the first following the trade of Marcus Johansson earlier this summer. He has recorded 47 career power play points. Kuznetsov led all Capitals forwards in time on ice at even strength, but he was fourth among Capitals forwards in total time on ice, averaging 16:57 of ice time per game. Draisaitl was used on the Oilers’ first power play unit with McDavid, and has 38 career power play points, with 27 of those coming last season. Draisaitl averaged 18:53 of ice time per game this past year, second most among Oilers forwards to McDavid, and has averaged 17:22 TOI over his career.
Draisaitl has proven to be more effective at faceoffs and shooting than Kuznetsov. Kuznetsov has a 10.4% shooting percentage (11.2% last year) while Draisaitl has a 14.1% for his career (16.9% last year). Draisaitl also has an advantage in faceoff percentage, with a 47.6 career faceoff win percentage (48.7% last year), compared to a 45.4 career percentage (43.97% last year) for Kuznetsov.
Kuznetsov and Draisaitl are both young and talented superstars who have a bright future. Both give their teams strong first-line caliber centers, an extremely valuable commodity in today’s NHL. While the contracts are rich compared to deals from recent years, future salary cap increases should make the contracts look favorable if both players continue to produce.
When McDavid’s new eight-year contract worth $100 million ($12.5 million annual average value) kicks in 2018-19, he and Draisaitl will be the highest paid forward duo in the NHL at a combined $21 million a year.
McDavid & Draisaitl will be tied for the highest paid duos in the NHL pic.twitter.com/NKHjlKY36s
— Sportsnet Stats (@SNstats) August 16, 2017
Kuznetsov and Alex Ovechkin are the fourth-highest paid forward duo in the NHL at a combined $17.34 million per season. In between the two top-paid scoring duos, are Chicago Blackhawks forwards Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane with a combined $21 million cap hit, and Pittsburgh Penguins centers Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin, who come in at a combined $18.2 million cap hit.
By Harrison Brown