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What kind of contract will Alexander Wennberg get next summer?

The Columbus centerman is having a breakout season

NHL: Colorado Avalanche at Columbus Blue Jackets
He’s always looking to pass...is he looking for a big contract?
Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports

Of the many great stories this season, two of the most important are the development of the first line, and the dominance of the first power play unit. The key figure in both of those is Alexander Wennberg. The young Swede has impressed me throughout his career, but now everyone else is starting to take notice. Is it possible we finally have the true #1 center we’ve been waiting for?

Here are his numbers for this season (prior to the Vancouver game) and how they project for an 82 game season at this pace:

Wennberg Stats

Games Goals Assists Points FO% EV Corsi % PP Points Shooting % ATOI
Games Goals Assists Points FO% EV Corsi % PP Points Shooting % ATOI
28 6 19 25 45 51.5 13 18.8 18:03
82 17 56 73 45 51.5 38 18.8 18:03

This summer, there were a number of young centers who received their first ELC contract. All are rising stars and key members of their respective teams. Here are those same stats, along with their contract details:

Comparisons

Player Years Total AAV Games Goals Assists Points Faceoff EV Corsi PP Points S% ATOI
Player Years Total AAV Games Goals Assists Points Faceoff EV Corsi PP Points S% ATOI
Mark Scheifele 8 49 6.125 71 29 32 61 44.2 55.1 11 14.9 18:33
Nathan MacKinnon 7 44 6.3 72 21 31 52 48.4 47.1 16 8.6 18:52
Sean Monahan 7 44.625 6.375 81 27 36 63 51 49.3 20 13.7 19:10
Aleksander Barkov 6 35.4 5.9 66 28 31 59 49.2 48.4 16 16.4 19:26
Victor Rask 6 24 4 80 21 27 48 51.2 50.1 18 13.1 16:59
Filip Forsberg 6 36 6 82 33 31 64 22.2 56.2 23 13.4 19:03
Vincent Trochek 6 28.5 4.75 76 25 28 53 49.5 51.4 13 14.4 17:46

As you can see, Wennberg is nearly or equally as productive as these players. The mean AAV of their contracts is $5.64 million. The median number of years is 6.

Now, can the Blue Jackets afford that? They have shown a willingness to pay that in the past. Seth Jones was given a 6 year contract with an AAV of $5.4M. The summer before Brandon Saad was given a 6 year contract with an AAV of $6M. Unfortunately, those large contracts plus others leave the Blue Jackets with a current projected cap space for 2017-18 of $5,294,524, according to CapFriendly. (Note: There is cap relief due to David Clarkson being on the long term injured reserve, but that only kicks in once the season starts)

The good news is that at least one multi-million dollar contract will come off the books for free in the expansion draft. The bad news is that they will also need to re-sign Josh Anderson, Lukas Sedlak, Joonas Korpisalo and/or Anton Forsberg, several other Monsters, and possibly Scott Harrington, Curtis McElhinney, and Sam Gagner.

Some productive Jackets have signed team-friendly deals. After scoring 30 goals last year, Boone Jenner signed a 2 year deal worth $2.9M a year. Towards the end of the 2015 season, in which he scored 22 goals, Cam Atkinson re-signed for 3 years with a cap hit of $3.5M per. It’s quite possible that Wennberg would cooperate with the team and sign a show-me deal like that.

Even a 2 year deal would help the team, as the summer of 2018 includes the following contracts expiring: Atkinson, Jenner, Calvert, Karlsson, BJORKSTRAND, Johnson, Murray, Prout (lol), Nutivaara. Not all of those players will be re-signed, and presumably more cap space will be available.

There is one final comparison that sheds some light on what the new contract could be. Look at these numbers, put up by a 21 year old center in the final year of his ELC:

Games: 82
Goals: 33
Assists: 30
Points: 63
PP Points: 20
Faceoff %: 52.7
EV Corsi%: 50.8
Shooting %: 13.9
Average TOI: 17:39

This player signed a 3 year bridge deal with $3M in the first two years and a $6M salary for the third and final season, for an AAV of $4M. He would remain an RFA at the conclusion of the contract but would be due for a new contract with a starting salary of $6M.

I’m sure you’ve guessed by now that this contract belongs to one Ryan Johansen. He played up to the contract in his first year, eclipsing the 70 point mark. Unfortunately he could not repeat that for Columbus and was traded. Hopefully Wennberg is able to stay healthy and continue to improve his game if he receives a similar contract.

What contract do you think Wennberg should receive this summer? Do you agree that he should be paid as a #1 center?