What does an Andrei Kuzmenko extension look like?
It seems like ages ago, but the Vancouver Canucks started their off-season with a bang as they won the Andrei Kuzmenko sweepstakes. The 26-year-old winger was coming off a 53-point season in only 45 KHL games and many thought he would assume a top-6 role once the season started. Well, those predictions were correct as Kuzmenko found himself playing alongside fellow countrymen Ilya Mikheyev and franchise center Elias Pettersson. In addition, Kuzmenko has logged considerable powerplay time, especially with the absence of Brock Boeser. Kuzmenko has 8 even strength points (3G, 5A) and has added another 5 points on the man advantage (4G, 1A) for a total of 13 points (7G, 6A). Currently, he is on pace to record 34 goals and 29 assists totalling 63 points, impressive to say the least.
Kuzmenko will be entering Unrestricted Free Agency this summer, so what does a contract extension look like for this new fan favourite? Since he could only sign a one-year contract coming over from the KHL, the Canucks must wait until 2023 to get an extension done. Many things can happen between now (Nov 20, 2022) and January 1st, so as a benchmark I will be using his current pro-rated production of 34 goals and 29 assists. This point production is similar to the likes of; Teuvo Terävävinen, Cam Atkinson, and Brock Boeser who will serve as guides for an Andrei Kuzmenko extension.
Teuvo Terävävinen signed a 5-year 27-million-dollar contract (5.4M AAV) with the Carolina Hurricanes on January 21st, 2019, and at the time of the signing, his 5.4M AAV accounted for 6.79% of the team's total cap. The 24-year-old was coming off a season in which he put up 76 points and was in the midst of another good season in which he would end up with 63 points (75 points pro-rated). Since 2018-2019, Terävävinen has averaged over 70 points a season which is 7 more than Kuzmenko’s current pace. While Terävävinen may produce slightly higher than Kuzmenko, he doesn’t score nearly as many goals, averaging less than 20 goals a season since 2018. If one were to use Terävävinen’s 6.79% of the cap hit, Kuzmenko would be looking at a 5.6M AAV with the salary cap slated to rise sharply in 2024-2025.
Cam Atkinson, is perhaps the most intriguing comparison for Kuzmenko as the year before Atkinson signed a 7-year 41.125M (5.875M AAV) contract extension with the Columbus Blue Jackets he scored 35 goals and recorded 27 assists for 62 points. Nearly identical to Kuzmenko’s pro-rated tally of 34 goals and 29 assists, Atkinson was also 26 years of age, thus serving as closest current comparison for Kuzmneko. On the date of signing (Nov 16th, 2017) Atkinson's cap hit took up 7.83% of the team’s cap space and if Kuzmenko were to sign a similar contract today, he would receive approximately 6.45M AAV.
Finally, how can you bring up resigning Andrei Kuzmenko without mentioning Brock Boeser’s name? The very player Kuzmenko could be replacing in the lineup may already have laid down the contractual roadmap for an extension. Brock Boeser averaged 63 points in the previous 4 years before his new 3-year 19.95M (6.65M) contract extension. This matches Kuzmenko’s pro-rated point total, albeit Boeser achieved this when he was 21-24 years of age. Boeser’s contract extension could serve as a ceiling for negotiations as he received 8.06% of the team’s total cap hit (Signing Jul 1st, 2022).
Of course, there is plenty of time between now (Nov 20th, 2022) and January 1st for Kuzmenko’s production to rise or decline, but in all likelihood, Kuzmenko will continue to get paired with Elias Pettersson and continue to log powerplay time and the Russian winger will continue to produce. The Canucks need to start saving some considerable cap space if they are looking to resign Kuzmenko long-term, meaning that contracts already on the books will need to be moved sooner rather than later. The real deadline to get Kuzmenko locked up is the same as the Captain's; the Trade Deadline. The deadline is not until March 3rd and if I know one thing about Canucks hockey is that it is unpredictable. The coaching staff could be different as could some of the core pillars of this roster. Predicting a Kuzmenko extension is challenging but if I had to, it would be between 5.35M AAV and 6.50M AAV for 3-5 years.
..are the Vancouver Canucks going to be able to write that cheque, much less want to?