There was a time, and that time has now passed, when Jaccob Slavin was perhaps the NHL's most underrated defenseman, and along with partner Brett Pesce formed what was unquestionably the NHL's most underrated defensive pairing.
If Slavin's performance last season didn't open eyes around the league – and his two fifth-place Norris Trophy votes suggest that at least two voters were not only paying attention but sincerely impressed – his new contract will. By signing a seven-year contract extension worth $37 million, Slavin not only cemented his place as the two-way cornerstone of the Carolina Hurricanes' defense but will earn a second and third look from those who had overlooked him before.
“I was thrilled they didn’t bring that up in negotiations, the Norris votes,” Hurricanes general manager Ron Francis joked.
The Hurricanes have been marshaling long-term salary-cap space to ensure they can keep Slavin, Pesce and Noah Hanifin for the long term, and this deal uses up a chunk of it, but not a huge chunk. The Hurricanes had all the leverage here, and there are times when NHL teams don't use that leverage enough (if at all) with players coming off their entry-level contracts, but this was a case where locking up Slavin for the long term made sense for both player and team: it's a fair price for what Slavin does now, and a bargain if he continues to improve.
“It gets me all excited to be part of this future and be here in Raleigh for this organization for the next eight years,” Slavin said.
There's a spillover effect here: Both Pesce and Hanifin will be restricted free agents next summer, as Slavin would have been, and are eligible to negotiate extensions now. With Slavin at $5.3 million (through 2024-25) and Justin Faulk at $4.8 million (through 2019-20), the bar is set for Pesce and Hanifin to come in somewhere under that.
The Hurricanes could have their four core defensemen signed for less than $20 million per season for the next three seasons. (It’s a preposterous $7.3 millon this year.) Three years also happens to be the length of Scott Darling's contract, so if the Hurricanes are able to get into the playoffs this season, the backbone of their team will be locked in place, reasonably priced.
Luke DeCock: 919-829-8947, firstname.lastname@example.org, @LukeDeCock