Devan Dubnyk, 26, is a 6-foot-5 goalie that can make saves like this and put together a few stretches in 2011-12 that won him the starting job over Nikolai Khabibulin.
Conveniently, this was also Dubnyk's contract year with the Edmonton Oilers.
He cashed in with a 2-year deal on Thursday that will pay him $3.5 million a season, placing him 22nd among goalies in cap hits with Tuukka Rask of the Boston Bruins (25 years old, $3.5 million). Like Rask, Dubnyk will enter next season as the presumptive starter for the first time in his career.
"I had felt pretty good about what I had shown in the second half of last year," he told the Edmonton Journal. "It was just important to get a couple of years (on the deal) and, now, it's up to me to play well and continue to play well so that, hopefully, (the next contract) can be a little longer."
Oilers fans are a bit more concerned with this contract rather than the next one.
The Dubnyk deal is an overpay of no small proportion. I would have thought $1.8M times two years would have been sufficient. I'm probably missing something, but this contract doesn't buy much in the way of free agent years and doesn't give Edmonton enough time to ensure he's a true #1. Baffling.
This deal is questionable to say the least. While Dubnyk clearly established himself as the team's number one netminder after Christmas last season with his best stretch of play as a professional, that is a very big dollar amount for a goalie with only 101 games played and a career save percentage of 0.910. He was certainly due a raise on the $800,000 he earned in each of the last two seasons but I wouldn't have thought he'd be getting anything more than $2.25M on average.
Bob Stauffer suggested Tuukka Rask and Cory Schneider as comparables for Dubnyk, which is clearly bang on but I'd have thought Josh Harding and his $1.9M cap hit were much more appropriate. $3.5M isn't a ridiculous dollar amount for a starting goalie but he has to play the next two years like he did the last three months in order to live up to the number.
I like Devan Dubnyk a whole lot. A real big lot. Acres and acres of like, that's me and Devan Dubnyk. Should he and I ever meet at a local discotheque, there's a very good chance I'd buy him a beer. Multiple beers, even. Heck, I'd hold one of his legs up if he ever wanted to do a keg stand. That's where I am with Devan Dubnyk. I think he had a hell of a season last year, somehow putting up 20 wins on a team that won just 32 from start to finish.
But man, oh man. 800K in 2011-12 to 3.5M in 2012-13. I hope you nail down 30 wins, guy. No person with an ounce of logic would start pining for Khabibulin if you don't, but that's a big contract. Like, Nick Schultz big. 110% pulling for Dubnyk to win 30 games next year. I fear for his sanity if he doesn't.
Robin Brownlee of Oilers Nation is a bit more optimistic, but conditionally:
My first inclination is that faith in Dubnyk is well-founded and that the message sent is justified. That guarantees nothing, of course, but I don't see the commitment by the Oilers as a shot in the dark, even if it's a $1 million or so more a year than I'd have put on the table. It's not my money.
The term is understandable — it's a "show me" contract for a player that the Oilers are hoping turns out to be the solution in goal. Scott Reynolds of Copper and Blue did a fan-flippin'-tastic post back in May about what Dubnyk tracks to become as a goaltender, based on his age and results. Why give him two years? Because he could be Ryan Miller or he could be Jamie Storr.
The money is outrageous at face, but a little more understandable when you consider the context.
First off, it buys one year of unrestricted free agency for Dubnyk, which drives the price up in any negotiation.
Then you have the other relevant deals, including one that Pascal Leclaire signed after his breakout year in 2008. From Reynolds:
Of particular interest, given Dubnyk's free agent status, is Pascal Leclaire. Leclaire signed a three-year deal as a restricted free agent after his twenty-five year-old season in July of 2008 that paid him an average of $3.8M per season (seasons of $3M, $3.6M, and $4.8M). If I was Dubnyk's agent, that would be a number that I took with me to an arbitration hearing.
Ondrej Pavelec of the Winnipeg Jets set the market at $3.9 million against the cap when he signed as an RFA. Cory Schneider of the Vancouver Canucks trumped that deal at $4 million against the cap over three years. Tuukka Rask of the Boston Bruins, meanwhile, has the same hit ($3.5 million) as Dubnyk.
Rask has played 102 games in the NHL, with a 2.20 GAA, a .926 save percentage and 11 shutouts. Dubnyk has 101 games in the NHL with a 2.85 GAA and a .910 save percentage. Both players have been given contracts that speak to their respective teams' lack of options and cautionary optimism about their future.
Devan Dubnyk at $3.5 million — considering his lack of experience at the helm and his previous wage — is a shock to the system. It could look absolutely dreadful if last season's highs were inflated by a desire to cash in. Or it could look entirely reasonable if he's able to establish himself as a reliable netminder for a burgeoning team. It's not a terrible contract. It just seems that way because Oilers management are the ones that offered it.