The Blackhawks struck gold — again — in their import market when Dominik Kubalik joined Chicago for the 2019-20 NHL season and debuted with 30 goals.
The 25-year-old left winger cemented his status as a top-six forward in the League and continued his stellar debut season during Chicago’s abbreviated postseason appearance, racking up eight points (four goals, four assists) in nine games. Five of those points game in Chicago’s 6-4 beatdown of the Oilers in Game 1 of their Stanley Cup Qualifier series.
That impressive arrival does present one headache for the Blackhawks: how much will Kubalik command as a restricted free agent this offseason?
A dive into recent contract extensions handed out for players with roughly similar stat lines — including two very familiar comparisons for Blackhawks fans — should help establish the market for a potential Kubalik contract extension.
Panarin’s NHL arrival was similar to Kubalik’s, although Panarin was 23 years old when the Blackhawks signed him to a two-year contract worth $7 million ($3.5 million average annual value) on April 23, 2015. Halfway through Panarin’s second NHL season, Chicago signed him to a two-year, $12 million contract extension, although the Blackhawks didn’t pay a dime of that deal with Panarin being traded to Columbus in the summer of 2017. Panarin scored 30 and 31 goals, respectively, in his first two seasons and surpassed the 70-point plateau twice. Kubalik was as productive in the goal column but lagged behind Panarin’s pair of 40-assist season. That suggests a $6 million AAV would be too much for Kubalik to command in negotiations. Panarin was 25 when he signed that extension — the same as Kubalik’s age now.
Possessing a similar skillset to Kubalik, DeBrincat negotiated a three-year, $19.2 million contract extension last October, fresh off a 40-goal sophomore season after racking up 28 goals as a rookie. DeBrincat’s point totals of 52 and 76, respectively, surpass Kubalik’s 46 from ‘19-20, meaning the $6.4 million AAV is likely unattainable for Kubalik. DeBrincat was also just 22 years old when he signed.
After a quiet rookie season, Arvidsson erupted for 61 points (31 goals, 30 assists) in ‘16-17 and was rewarded with a seven-year, $29.75 million contract ($4.25 million AAV). With Arvidsson being 24 years old at the time of the contract signing, this AAV figure seems like a more reasonable range for Kubalik.
During the final season of his entry-level contract, Montreal’s 2010 fifth-round pick signed a six-year, $22.5 million deal ($3.75 million AAV). That came during a 47-point season (24 goals, 23 assists) that was Gallagher’s best to date. If Kubalik accepts a slightly longer term in exchange for a lower salary cap hit, falling below the AAV of Gallagher’s deal seems unlikely.
Early in the ‘16-17 season, Rakell signed a six-year, $22.8 million extension (about $3.79 million AAV). A former 2011 first-round pick, Rakell’s best season before inking that deal in October 2016 was the 20-goal, 43-point season he completed in ‘15-16. After signing the extension, he cracked the 30-goal plateau for the first time. Rakell was slightly younger than Kubalik at the time of that deal, signing at 23.
The AAV given to DeBrincat and Panarin seem too high for what Kubalik could demand in negotiations, given the superior statistical output of those two players when negotiations started. A few of the deals listed in the middle/upper $3 million range seem a touch light, given the inferior numbers posted by Gallagher and Rakell. The focal point seems to be somewhere in the $4-$4.25 million AAV range for a Kubalik contract extension.