By Allan Muir
There was no good reason for Winnipeg Jets GM Kevin Cheveldayoff to hand RFA defenseman Zach Bogosian $36 million over the next seven years.
Other than he had no choice.
Bogosian struck it rich today without the benefit of even modest team or personal success to buttress his bargaining position. You’ll hear that sort of thing said about a lot of big money deals, but the Jets are a unique case. Incapable of luring high-end free agents from other teams to sign on for a hitch in Manitoba’s capital, Cheveldayoff has to do whatever it takes — again, whatever it takes – to keep home-grown talent at home.
And if that means handcuffing himself long-term to a 23-year-old defender with all the promise in the world, but little to show for it, well, so be it.
In another town and facing another GM, Bogosian might have settled for a two- or three-year bridge deal that would have bought him time to prove that he deserves the big money. Not in Winnipeg. As teammate Blake Wheeler can attest, there’s good money to be made in simply sticking around.
Both Jets drove off with a truckload of greenbacks while avoiding an appearance before an arbitrator. Bogosian, who was scheduled for a hearing on Friday, scored five goals and added nine assists for 14 points in 33 games last season. Tough to picture that being spun into a viable argument for five million-plus, let alone over seven years — a term that’s longer than pretty much anyone imagined.
Sure, Bogosian gives up three years of unrestricted free agency in the deal, but he gets far greater security than he’s earned and a $5.1 million annual paycheck that probably was as fat as he could have dreamed.
No doubt Bogosian is thrilled. But compared to how happy he is, Alex Pietrangelo must be positively giddy. Bogosian was originally drafted third overall by the Atlanta Thrashers in the 2008 NHL Draft, so he stands as something of a comparable to be used by Pietrangelo, who went one pick later to St Louis. It’s thought that Pietrangelo is looking for something in the $7 million range. Given his resume — Norris finalist, top defenseman at the World Championship, 115 points in his first two-and-a-half seaseons — and using the Bogosian deal as a backdrop, he has a decent case to make. He’s going to get his money.
And now that the Bogosian deal is done, look for Pietrangelo’s to be sealed shortly.