Here's all you need to know about Luke Schenn's new contract, in a nutshell.
It'll be a slight overpay this season, and perhaps in 2012-13, for a defensive defenceman who's playing essentially the No. 3 or 4 role on a mediocre team.
After that, it could well be a bargain.
That's the benefit of having Schenn on a five-year, $18-million contract, at age 21: He should get better and salaries around the league should continue to rise.
At this point, he may only be providing value slightly above that of Zach Bogosian, who signed a two-year deal with the Winnipeg Jets for $5-million this week, but it's entirely possible Schenn improves to the point that, at 25 or 26, he's worth $4-million or more on the open market. (Or more, depending on how the next CBA affects salaries.)
Which is something the Leafs can worry about in 2016.
As I wrote earlier this summer, some of the suitable comparables for Schenn right now are players like Roman Polak, Braydon Coburn, Jeff Schultz and Marc-Edouard Vlasic, all of whom make roughly $3-million a season on deals they've signed in the past couple years. The going rate for a second-pairing defenceman of that calibre, in a few years, is going to creep up to $3.5-million.
That said, given how tricky quantifying those players' value can often be, it's not surprising it took so long to agree to a deal. The one they ended up with, however, is a good one – for both sides.
And there's a chance it could be great, in time, for Toronto if Schenn lives up to the "Adam Foote" billing he's received since his draft year.
"What you see is a classic, hard-nosed, shutdown, Canadian defenceman," general manager Brian Burke said when asked about Schenn's potential. "Luke plays the game the way we all dream about finding players who play that way. It's hard, it's hard to play against...
"He's gotten dramatically better in the time he's been here. His improvement's been a rapid ascent in terms of his skill development. And I don't think he's done."
UPDATE Schenn's deal includes a $1-million signing bonus in the first season (this year) and a modified no-trade clause.
Here's more of what Schenn, Burke and coach Ron Wilson had to say about the deal this morning as training camp opened at the team's practice facility:
Schenn: "Going forward, I'm going to continue to learn and progress here. I'm still a young guy, 21 years old, so hopefully in the next five years, I'll start to get into the peak of my career. For some guys, that doesn't happen until 27, 28 years old. I think I've got a lot more to give here and I'm excited for the next five years."
Burke: "Every stone was turned over on this negotiation, I can promise you that. The key is, for Luke, the player has to feel as though he's being treated fairly. For us, we want to pay what's fair. We don't want to pay more than what's fair. So it's not always easy to arrive at that number. It doesn't mean the player's being greedy or the team's being parsimonious. It's a case where we have to go through this process sometimes to get to the right number. It was a lengthy process, it was a difficult process, but I'm really happy with where we are and I believe Luke is, too."
Wilson: "I want Luke to play the way he did last year and continue to improve... Learning to be an NHL defenceman, that's a long process. Luke has gotten better every year so I expect him to continue to improve."
I'll have more from Day 1 of training camp on the blog later today, but for now, here's audio from Ron Wilson and a few players, including Colby Armstrong joking about the team's new deal where their practice jerseys (of all things) are now sponsored by Purolator.