On Monday, September 24, 2018, George McPhee, General Manager for the Vegas Golden Knights, announced the signing of defenseman Shea Theodore to a seven-year contract worth $5,200,000 average annual value through the 2024-25 season.
Theodore was traded to the Golden Knights by the Anaheim Ducks during the NHL Expansion held June 21, 2017. The 2017-18 season was the last of a three-year contract which saw him making $863,333 against the cap. The 23-year-old Langley, British Columbia native came up through Canada’s major juniors, playing five years with the WHL’s Seattle Thunderbirds. He was drafted by the Anaheim Ducks in the first round (26th overall) of the 2013 NHL Draft and made his NHL debut on December 29, 2015 in a Ducks game against the Calgary Flames. During the 2017-18 season with Vegas, the left-shooting defenseman played in 61 games during the regular season, notching 29 points (six G, 23 A) and played in 20 games of the Stanley Cup Playoffs, including the Stanley Cup Final, amassing 10 points (three G, seven A).
The negotiations between the Vegas Golden Knights organization and Theodore’s agent did take a little longer than anticipated with discussions centering on the number of years of the contract.
“We’re happy to have everybody done now and sometimes it takes a little longer than anticipated. Basically, the issues were they wanted to go shorter term, we wanted to go longer term and you just have to get the numbers right on those deals,” shared McPhee after Vegas’ preseason game Monday night. “And then we got to a place today where we had a couple of options—a six-year deal, a seven-year deal—and we thought we were pretty close and then we got it done just after the first period.”
How far apart had the two sides been? Theodore’s camp was looking more for a two-year deal, while McPhee was looking for what he got in terms of the seven-year deal. And for McPhee it was about managing the future of the team.
“If we manage the cap better, our chances of winning are better and he bought in,” McPhee outlined. “We’re pretty confident about what we are going to have now, and in the future, and so we were prepared to go longer. He’s a good young player and we got some unrestricted years and now he can just play.”Unlike some contracts that are elaborate in how they are structured, McPhee’s approach is toward consistency, so that all the players know what they are getting. This includes how the salary is spelled out and also includes limitations on no trade clauses. There is no frontend or backend loading to Theodore’s salary, just the straight annual $5,200,000. Additionally, there is a five-team no trade clause that goes into effect in years six and seven of the contract.
As for how the two camps found that middle ground to get the contract done?
“I think when you explain what we are trying to accomplish and why and how we think it helps us build a better team because we’re managing the cap better and you don’t have a bunch of players every summer that you have to deal with. When you don’t have uncertainty, because you can lock some guys up, then you can project ahead and see ‘okay, we’ve got a couple of guys to do next summer and we have a pretty good idea of where they are going to be’ and it’s much easier to manage than doing guys on short term deals and you’ve got that every summer and you’re not sure which way it is going to go. But what you do have to do is, if you’re going to do a long-term deal—you need to do it in short-term deals but more importantly with long-term deals—to get the right numbers and you really have to trust your instincts and trust your experience, trust the scouting reports from your pro staff, trust the analytics data, and make a good decision. And you rely on all those resources to make a good decision and we think we made one here and time will tell,” McPhee explained.
Only time will tell, but for now the Golden Knights have all their contracts done going into the 2018-19 season and hope to make as impressive a run to the playoffs as they did in their inaugural season.