While CJ’s piece yesterday spoke of the most important impending UFA for the New Jersey Devils in Taylor Hall, today I will be looking at another very important player whose contract will be up at the same time. The good news for today’s article is that we will be discussing the next contract of Nico Hischier, and as he is an RFA, he is still under team control for some time. There will be no will he re-sign or not portion of today’s article accordingly, as Nico being given his next contract is a forgone conclusion.
Additionally, this contract shouldn’t be looked at through the same lens as Hall’s because it’s not of the same magnitude. While Nico will absolutely command more money than he did on his first deal, he still has at least one more large payday (when his contract expires putting him into unrestricted free agency) coming in his future, and he also is just entering his prime.
I will, however, be similarly looking at comparable contract as well as forecasting what his next deal could (and probably will) look like. Without any further ado, here we go.
Part 1 - The Landscape
Nico Hischier, as we all know, is the first ever, first overall selection in New Jersey Devils history (though the lineage has Rob Ramage as a first overall from the Colorado Rockies years), and as of the date of this writing, he is also the only one the team has had. While the “only” part of that fact will change in less than two months, it doesn’t mean that Hischier is any less valuable of a piece to a Devils franchise that is attempting to finish rebuilding and reenter relevancy.
While Nico’s sophomore season can be described as somewhat disappointing due to the 13 games he missed while injured. His point total for the season dropped from his rookie year’s 52 to a still respectable 47, though this was actually an offensive increase for him, as his rookie season points per game was 0.63, and his sophomore 0.68.
Part 2 - The Projected Contract
Last year, Nico’s contract projection was at 8.32% of the cap which would result in a cap hit of just over $6.9 million per season adjusted for an $83 million cap.
In looking for comparables, I followed CJ’s lead and used the play index from hockey-reference to produce a short list of players in their age 19 and 20 seasons. With hockey-reference’s sorting feature, the age of the player’s season is based on what their age was on February 1st of each season, and as Nico turned 19 on January 4th of his rookie year, so his 19 and 20 seasons are his first two in the NHL.
For today’s chart, I decided to look at player totals from the two season period to see how Nico is contributing compared to some others from the Salary Cap era. The other players listed are the ones who ranked closest to him in adjusted points over their first two seasons in the league. I’d say he’s in pretty good company here, as the four more established players on the list (MacKinnon, Seguin, Skinner and Voracek) have all become legitimate Top 6 NHL talent, and you could even make the argument that Tkachuk is as well even though he’s only been in the league one season longer than Nico.
Of note is Nico’s low PPG totals; a large part of that was due to his deployment, as Hall and Kyle Palmieri are usually the featured weapons on the power play. While Nico was getting more time towards the end of last season, his injury brought him down at a time when he could have been one of the featured shooters. As a result, his PPG total may continue to be lower (like Voracek) unless he’s featured; at the same time, the fact that he still ranks among this company (and above a few of them) in OPS, PS and AP.
While this doesn’t really enable us to look at contract comparables at the time (as all of these players were on their entry level deals which have a cap on them) it does give us a chance to look at what four of these players earned on their next deals.
The percentages are more important than the actual figures in this case, as all of these deals were signed years ago, and Seguin has gone on to sign another deal seeing him get paid even more money and take up a larger percentage of his team’s cap space. Nico is currently projected to get a percentage between Voracek and MacKinnon, and to clock in at an AAV of just under $7 million as we said earlier. If he is locked up long-term, he might get a larger cap hit percentage. It’s worth thinking about when determining the amount he will receive.
As mentioned earlier in this article, this section today isn’t going to be split into a “re-sign or don’t re-sign” section because the Devils will be giving Nico his next contract. The question is more about will said contract look like the above projection.
Nico is an important piece for the Devils, both in the present and going forward. He and Jack Hughes (yes, I’m already on that train too) are going to be a dynamic 1-2 punch down the middle for the Devils for years to come. CJ said yesterday that it’s time to play for today, and I completely agree; while Shero should still look to be shrewd with the contracts he hands out to be able to pay to have as much talent as possible, he does have to start dipping into the cap space.
While I think the projected estimate for his contract is moving in the right direction, I also think New Jersey would be best-served offering Nico a max 8-year deal now. Lock him up at a term that will be friendlier each year moving forward, and allow him to be part of the nucleus of the team. I see Hischier getting $7-7.5 per season on an 8 year deal, meaning $54-60 million for the entirety of the contract. It’s close to the projected number, and it will allow us to keep Nico throughout his prime years.
What do you think of this projected deal for Nico? Are you surprised to see the players listed alongside him for totals and comparisons? Do you foresee a jump in his production (if healthy) next season? Leave any and all comments below and thank you as always for reading!