NHL Contract Rankings: Lightning Sign Victor Hedman to Team-Friendly Extension

Contract

The Tampa Bay Lightning signed defenseman Victor Hedman to a four-year, $8 million contract.


After losing cornerstone Steven Stamkos on Monday, the Lightning decided to sign defensive back Victor Hedman a year ahead of schedule.

By signing Hedman now, the team and player avoid the rollercoaster they just experienced with Stamkos. Instead, the player can enter the season without any distractions. And management gains certainty about one of their most important players and the backbone of the defense. Between Hedman, Nikita Kucherov, Andrei Vasilevskiy, Brayden Point and now Jake Guentzel, the Lightning’s new core is officially under contract for at least three years. That should give general manager Julien Brisboys a solid cap number to work around each year to find a supporting cast to help extend this team’s competitive window.

Most importantly for a Lightning team that must operate on a tight budget, Hedman must bring positive value throughout the life of his next deal. An unusual 2022-23 may have raised some concerns about Tampa Bay’s No. 1, but he recovered last season and resumed his pace in the latter stages with his best performance of the year. He has managed without much support around him the past two seasons. With Ryan McDonagh back, he has the help he was missing to share the minutes load, which bodes well for him maintaining his high level of play.

Hedman will be 34 when his next contract begins, but he should be able to provide positive value throughout the deal. The deal comes in slightly below Evolving-Hockey’s four-year projection that carries an $8.6 million cap hit. It also comes in below his projected value over that period of $8.4 million.

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It’s a unique deal for someone of Hedman’s caliber. The closest match, according to CapFriendly’s comparison tool, is Dmitry Orlov’s two-year deal with the Hurricanes last season — and that comes in at just 52.4 percent, not very close at all. Still, the lack of comparisons isn’t a bad thing. Had Tampa Bay followed the path others have taken with franchise defenders in their early to mid-30s, this deal would have been longer. Just think of Brent Burns’ eight-year deal with the Sharks, which he signed at age 32, or Kris Letang’s six-year deal with Pittsburgh in 2022, which he signed at age 35. Keeping it short is in the Lightning’s best interest.

Could this still be a burden on him when he’s 37? It’s possible. Players’ values ​​tend to decline in their late 30s as they age. But remember: When their value starts to rise like Hedman’s, their lows may still be above average for a player that age.

The deal itself may be painful because Stamkos just signed a four-year, $8 million-a-year deal in Nashville yesterday. But signing Hedman to this deal plus Guentzel to a seven-year, $9 million deal is the best path forward for the Lightning now and in the long run.

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(Photo: Mike Ehrman/Getty Images)

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