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The Detroit Red Wings made a mistake letting Simon Edvinsson's contract slide
Saving money in the short-term could hurt Detroit in the long run
The Detroit Red Wings will end their regular season tonight against the Tampa Bay Lightning.
Simon Edvinsson’s NHL regular season ended on Monday night.
It’s not a play-based decision, if anything Detroit would have been better having the No. 6 pick from the 2021 NHL Draft in the lineup against the three-time defending Eastern Conference champions.
The Red Wings are playing out the stretch, Edvinsson would have benefitted from the experience and it’s just another game of NHL learning for his expected full-time NHL debut in October.
But Edvinsson was sent back to Grand Rapids Griffins, another team that will miss the playoffs, because the Red Wings want his entry-level contract to slide.
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If a player who is 18 or 19, and on an entry-level contract, and they don’t play 10 NHL games their contract will slide and effectively turn the three-year deal into a four-year deal.
For teams it’s a great tool to get a sampling of young players in the NHL, either at the beginning of the season or at the end of it, and not worry about burning a full year of the contract.
In general teams do this because teams are risk-averse, they kick contract extensions down the line, and they get more time to see what type of NHL player the prospect will turn into.
For the Red Wings, allowing Edvinsson’s contract to slide feels like a mistake.
By letting the Edvinsson’s contract slide he’ll be a restricted free agent after the 2025-26 season. He’ll have three years of work in the NHL, he’ll be 23 and both the Red Wings and Edvinsson will know what type of player he’s become.
And if Edvinsson becomes a top-pairing defender — a Victor Hedman lite, if you want to use Red Wing fan dream comparisons — sliding the contract is going to be a costly mistake.
Signing Edvinsson, or any player, to a team-friendly, long-term deal that buys them through their prime is easier after two seasons than three. After two seasons, it’s still a gamble for both sides, but hockey culture has indicated that if a team offers you the long-term deal after two years you take it — hockey players typically aren’t the smartest businessmen.
If a player has played three seasons, and proven themselves, that long-term deal becomes either more expensive or is replaced by the player and the agent pushing for a bridge deal to buy their way to a third, even more expensive contract.
When talking about burning a year Cale Makar is used as the prime example. He joined the Avalanche after his collegiate career ended, burned a year by playing in the NHL playoffs season (it should be noted as a college player, he did have different circumstances than Edvinsson) and he was able to sign a big deal after just two full NHL seasons worth $9 million per season for six seasons.
During the first year of that $9 million contract Makar won the Norris Trophy, the Stanley Cup, and the Conn Smythe. Just imagine how much he could have asked for and how high that cap hit would have gone if the Avalanche hadn’t signed him to a long-term deal after two seasons?
Edvinsson isn’t Makar, that’s not the claim here, not even close, but based off his nine games in the NHL this season, it looks like he’s going to be one of the Red Wings best defensemen within two seasons. Because of the entry-level slide, the Red Wings will have to pay more because of that.
Burning a year for Edvinsson would have been the long-term play, the one where the Red Wings are hoping to contend for a championship within in five years or so.
Letting the contract slide is a move that should be reserved for a team that’s trying to extend an ELC because they need the cap flexibility to win the cup in the next three seasons.
In this case, with Edvinsson, Steve Yzerman acted like he was still managing the Tampa Bay Lightning and not the Detroit Red Wings. They aren’t winning a title in three years, and even if they are, they are likely going to have to pay further through the nose for Edvinsson’s next contract because of his likely role within that surprise championship.
(Also to note, if the Red Wings win the draft lottery, wouldn’t you want to not have to worry about extensions for Edvinsson, Marco Kasper, and Connor Bedard all in the same offseason?)