What will Ivan Provorov’s next contract look like?

It’s likely that Provorov’s next deal will be a long-term contract. Let’s look at some of his comparables and see what that deal may look like.

Yesterday, we began to attempt to answer the question of what a potential contract extension with Ivan Provorov would look like. Provorov is eligible to sign a new deal with the Flyers this coming Sunday, and it wouldn’t at all be surprising for Ron Hextall and the front office to lock down the guy that they clearly see as their best defenseman as soon as they have the chance.

What we found yesterday was that it would be very unlikely for the Flyers and Provorov to agree to a short-term deal that kicks the can down the road — a “bridge” deal, as it’s most commonly known. The overlap between “young defensemen who establish themselves quickly as top-4 options” and “young defensemen who sign bridge deals” is fairly limited nowadays.

Instead, most young guys that quickly prove their worth are getting locked up to longer-term extensions, ones that give the player immediate long-term financial security while giving the teams a chance to buy up the player’s most expensive years of his career at something of a discount. That seems like the most likely outcome for Ivan Provorov’s next contract, and fortunately we have a lot of data points to compare him to on that front. Let’s jump right in.

The comparables

I went through every deal in the past three years signed by a defenseman coming off of his entry-level contract (ELC). After cutting several out for players that clearly aren’t on Provorov’s level and after separating out the players on bridge deals (as we did yesterday), I was left with 16 players whose situations — and as such, whose contracts — can reasonably be compared to Provorov’s.

Here are those players, along with some supporting information** on both their contracts and their performances up through the ends of their respective ELCs. The table below is sortable.

Ivan Provorov Potential Contract Comparables

PlayerLengthAAV (in $M)% of Year 1 CapYears Signed ForUFA Years BoughtELC TimeframeGPATOIP/G5v5 P/605v5 GF%5v5 CF%5v5 CF% Rel5v5 xGF%5v5 xGF% Rel
Dougie Hamilton65.758.1%22-2722012-1517819:320.471.0256.1%55.5%3.4%51.1%0.5%
Olli Maatta64.0835.6%22-2722013-1616519:220.350.9357.7%51.5%1.6%52.9%0.5%
Morgan Rielly656.8%22-2722013-1623620:300.390.7343.6%47.8%1.3%44.9%-0.4%
Seth Jones65.47.4%21-2622013-1624020:320.350.6744.7%52.2%2.1%51.3%-2.5%
Rasmus Ristolainen65.47.4%21-2612013-1619422:190.340.5337.8%41.4%-1.6%41.2%-2.2%
Hampus Lindholm65.257.2%22-2722013-1623621:040.390.8559.2%53.1%3.2%53.4%1.6%
Oscar Klefbom74.1675.7%23-2932013-1610720:590.330.8440.1%49.3%3.6%47.0%3.8%
Connor Murphy63.855.3%23-2822013-1618118:350.180.646.6%46.8%-2.3%47.1%-0.3%
John Klingberg74.256.0%23-2932014-156521:500.621.2156.3%53.6%1.9%53.0%1.3%
Aaron Ekblad87.510.0%21-2842014-1722721:400.420.8652.2%52.2%3.0%50.5%1.4%
Damon Severson64.1675.6%23-2822014-1720319:590.340.7243.6%49.9%3.4%47.5%-0.3%
Shayne Gostisbehere64.56.0%24-2932014-1714219:430.60.848.0%51.4%0.8%49.2%-0.8%
Colton Parayko55.57.3%24-2822015-1716020:180.431.0258.5%53.0%2.6%53.6%2.9%
Jaccob Slavin75.36.7%24-3042015-1822722:270.370.8551.4%53.3%1.6%54.2%4.4%
Brett Pesce64.0255.1%23-2822015-1821620:200.250.6549.5%53.1%1.2%53.7%3.4%
Mike Matheson84.8756.1%24-3052015-1816521:080.270.4645.6%49.5%-1.3%47.9%0.0%
AVERAGE (Non-Provorov)6.384.946.6%2.5618420:470.380.849.4%50.8%1.5%49.9%0.8%
Ivan Provorov???22-??2016-1916423:040.430.9150.0%49.3%-1.7%48.5%-2.2%

Some quick, high-level takeaways from the above table:

  • Only one of the above players signed a deal with a term of fewer than six years, and that was Blues defenseman Colton Parayko, who was 24 years old when he signed it. If the Flyers do look to go long-term with Provorov (who will be 22 at the start of his next deal), it’s pretty tough to imagine it for being at any length shorter than six years. A six-year deal would take him through his age-27/28 season and would buy out two unrestricted free agent (UFA) years.
  • Perhaps one of the reasons why so many of those guys settled in at six-year deals was because with that deal they get another chance to cash in big time down the road. And that could well be the case for Provorov, too. If he takes a six-year deal, he’ll hit unrestricted free agency at 28. How different would his overall earnings potential be if he got that last big contract at 28, rather than two years later at 30 (as he would if he signed an eight-year deal)? It’s something he has to consider.
  • One area where Provorov stacks up favorably to his peers here: ice time. No player on this list — not even first overall pick and Calder winner Aaron Ekblad — played more ice time per game than Provorov has in his two NHL seasons. While it’s not a stat that necessarily reflects ability, it is one that (to an extent) reflects a team’s opinion of his player, as you’re not going to give a ton of ice time to a guy if you don’t think he’s good enough to handle it. You can be pretty sure that Provorov’s representation in negotiations will point out just how much the Flyers have leaned on him in his first two seasons. He’s also performed well relative to his peers in individual scoring; only three defensemen on this list (John Klingberg, Dougie Hamilton, and Colton Parayko) best him in 5-on-5 points per 60 and overall points per game. Just imagine if he ever plays on a remotely competent power play unit.
  • One area where Provorov doesn’t stack up as well with his contemporaries is in 5-on-5 on-ice metrics, such as shot-based measures like Corsi For and shot quality measures like Expected Goals. However, while these figures do add a bit of context that could give some people pause in asking “how much is Provorov worth?”, it’s fair to point out — as we have here on this site, many times — that Provorov’s on-ice numbers were probably never going to be good as long as he was spending significant ice time with Andrew MacDonald, and the fact that those numbers saw a significant uptick in the second half of this past season after Provorov was paired with Shayne Gostisbehere is a good sign that they aren’t aren’t reflective of his own ability. (It’s also fair to point out that we have no real evidence that the Flyers would use these measures at all, let alone as an argument against Provorov in a contract negotiation.)
  • Overall, I would say that despite the underperformance by on-ice fancy stats, Provorov probably finds himself in a better situation to get paid than the average player on this list, thanks to a number of factors in and out of his control (good scoring numbers, reputation for reliable defensive play, high ice time, draft pedigree)./

The average player on this list signed a second contract for just over six years, for about 6.6 percent of the cap in the first year of that contract. If we assume some slight growth in the cap next year — just to pick a number, let’s blindly assume a cap of $81 million, which would be a $1.5 million increase from 2018-19’s $79.5 million cap — then a contract worth 6.6 percent of the cap would carry an average annual value of $5,346,000.

My guess is that Flyers fans would leap at the possibility to sign Ivan Provorov to a six-year, roughly-$32.1 million deal. My guess is that it also may take a bit more than that to sign him.

How much more? Let’s zero in on a few of those comparables above to try and guess.

Rasmus Ristolainen
Signed in: October 2016
For: 2016-22 (ages 21-26; five RFA years and one UFA year)
Details: Six years, AAV @ 7.4% of Year 1 salary cap ($5.4M at time of signing; $5.99M against hypothetical $81M cap)

Let’s set aside the question of just how good (or not-good) Ristolainen really is, as his abilities have been a subject of healthy debate over the past couple of years among hockey analysts at large. From a situational standpoint, Ristolainen is a solid comparable for Provorov. Outside of the fact that the former came straight to the NHL while the latter spent an extra year in juniors after being drafted, the two former top-10 picks have a lot in common. Not quite as much was asked of Ristolainen in his first two years in the NHL (he played 19 and just-under-21 minutes per game), but he quickly jumped up to over 25 minutes a night in his third season before getting the contract listed above. Both he and Provorov get pretty heavy assignments against the other teams’ top opposition, and both have shown to be solid scoring defensemen, albeit in different ways (Provorov largely at even strength, Ristolainen on the power play).

With that all said, if this is the comparable that the Flyers and Provorov settle on, the AAV will likely be a bit higher than the one projected above. Ristolainen, due to playing only 34 games in his first NHL season, had only accrued two seasons toward becoming an unrestricted free agent at the time of his deal. That meant that his six-year deal covered five restricted free agent (RFA) years and only one UFA year. Since a six-year deal with Provorov would cover one fewer RFA year and one more UFA year, it would be reasonable to assume he’d make a little bit more — tough to quantify exactly how much more, but let’s guess an extra $2 million in salary for that season, which would mean a third-of-a-million in overall AAV. So this one would have us somewhere around six years, $38 million. Put a pin in that one for now.

Hampus Lindholm
Signed in: October 2016
For: 2016-22 (ages 22-27; four RFA years and two UFA years)
Details: Six years, AAV @ 7.2% of Year 1 salary cap ($5.25M at time of signing; $5.83M against hypothetical $81M cap)

Hey, look, another top-10 defenseman who signed a contract in October 2016. Lindholm, like Provorov, entered the NHL in his second post-draft season and immediately stuck with his team, clearly establishing himself as a top-4 defenseman early on in Anaheim and growing into a bigger role throughout his ELC. Also like Provorov, he signed his deal with four RFA years left, so timeline-wise, this is one worth keeping tabs on.

The two players (in the context of an exercise where we assume the Flyers don’t pay attention to on-ice shot metrics, where Lindholm routinely performs well) stack up pretty well with one another. Provorov slightly beats out Lindholm in scoring and gets more ice time from his coaches, while Lindholm performs better in on-ice goal results, however much stock you put into those. If the deal we gave above for a comparable to Ristolainen’s contract — $38 million — is the upper-bound estimate for a six-year contract, then a $35 million deal based on Lindholm’s contract is probably the lower-end estimate.

So that’s our range for a six-year deal. Now, if a term figure starts creeping up beyond that one, the comparables start to wear thin. Most of the players with seven-year contracts in our table above either don’t stack up to Provorov (Oscar Klefbom) or came into the NHL at a meaningfully later age than Provorov (John Klingberg and Jaccob Slavin, both of whom have contracts that look quite team-friendly at the moment). Unless Provorov and his camp are looking to bring in Alex Pietrangelo’s mammoth seven-year deal from September 2013, the pickings there are pretty slim.

So let’s jump ahead to the biggest contract on our list above.

Aaron Ekblad
Signed in: July 2016
For: 2017-25 (ages 21-28; four RFA years and four UFA years)
Details: Eight years, AAV @ 10.0% of Year 1 salary cap ($7.5M at time of signing; $8.1M against hypothetical $81M cap)

And here is the crown jewel that Ivan Provorov’s camp will look to aim for at the negotiating table if the Flyers say they want a long-term deal.

Ekblad, the top overall pick in 2014, came right in to the NHL and essentially met expectations, taking on top-pair minutes right away and performing extremely well at 18 for the Panthers. It took just two years for Florida to decide he was worth the huge deal they gave him, after he passed every eye test known to man, put up good scoring totals, and oh-by-the-way won a Calder Trophy in his immediate post-draft season. A lot was expected of Ekblad, and he delivered on it immediately and resoundingly.

Now, other than the part about winning the Calder and being the first pick, what parts of the paragraph above couldn’t be applied to Ivan Provorov? There aren’t many of them. Ekblad was a draft + 1 rookie while Provorov was a draft + 2 rookie, but both became “the man” on their own blue line pretty quickly. Is this the cost of doing business with a guy like that?

Here’s where I admittedly try and make a very subjective guess about the situation at hand: No, I don’t think it is the cost. I don’t think Ivan Provorov can come to the negotiating table and pretend to be Aaron Ekblad.

I think Ivan Provorov is really good. But Provorov’s early successes have largely not been a big story in the NHL outside of Philadelphia. When the first overall pick comes out and plays like the first overall pick is supposed to, people notice it and talk about it, the way that they did in Ekblad’s rookie year. There’s a pedigree that comes with that, and when it came time for Florida to pay up, that pedigree absolutely factored into Ekblad’s big deal. Is that same thing going to be there when Provorov is negotiating his deal?

I could have a wrong read on this whole thing, but I can’t see Provorov getting Ekblad money, at least not if he signs a deal this summer. If the two sides hold off on a contract and Provorov puts himself in legitimate Norris conversations next year, then yeah, this is in play. Until then, let’s arbitrarily guess that the Ekblad Tax associated with being drafted first overall and immediately winning a Calder Trophy is worth at least one percent of the salary cap on an eight-year deal.

That would leave Provorov at a deal worth about nine percent of the cap, which would be about $7.3M per year on an eight-year deal against an $81 million cap. That’s still a pretty hefty chunk of change for Provorov; we’ll see if the Flyers would go there on it.

Final guesses

Before we wrap it up here, we should note that there’s one other name that hasn’t been mentioned yet that could render everything else written here almost irrelevant with one penstroke: Zach Werenski.

The defenseman taken right after Provorov in the 2015 draft, who was a Calder finalist in Provorov’s rookie year, can reasonably be considered in Provorov’s class contract-wise, and arguably even above it. Werenski, like Provorov, still has a year on his deal and is eligible to sign a new one this Sunday, and his career has tracked pretty similarly to Provorov’s so far. We’ll see how things shake out for him in the next few weeks, as any deal reached between him and Columbus could immediately become the most relevant data point for a potential Provorov deal.

Until then, we’re left to make some guesses. Based on a six-year deal, we had Provorov somewhere between $5.83 and $6.33 million per season — let’s meet roughly in the middle and say $6.1 million per year is our guess. On an eight-year deal, we had him coming in at around $7.3 million per year. So if we want to cobble together a guess for a seven-year deal, let’s meed in the middle of those two figures above and say $6.7 million per year.

I’ll be honest: those are bigger numbers than I thought I would see here when I started this post. I think that’s due primarily to the fact that while most of us (self included) think of contracts in terms of dollar amounts, I focused primarily on the percentage of the cap that a given contract takes up, in an effort to account for the fact that the cap is rising (a fact that Provorov’s agents will surely point out). If Hextall can anchor the conversation on actual paid dollar amounts, rather than share of the cap, then the number could end up being smaller than we anticipate here.

So maybe we’d consider the above amounts as upper-end estimates, rather than midpoints. If the Flyers can end up under those respective numbers for whatever length they agree to, they should feel pretty good about it.

In short: Ivan Provorov is a crucial part of this team’s future and the Flyers are going to have to pay him as such. How much, exactly? We’ll probably find out this summer. In any case, it’s nice to have defensemen worth paying lots of money to.

**Contract data via CapFriendly; basic numbers via hockey-reference; 5-on-5 numbers via corsica-hockey. “Age” is as of September 15 of a given hockey season. Also, note that due to a glitch in Corsica’s database, Mike Matheson’s 5-on-5 numbers in the table above only reflect his 2015-17 performance.

If forced to choose, which of the following contracts would you sign Ivan Provorov to?

Six years, $6.1 million per year100
Seven years, $6.7 million per year106
Eight years, $7.3 million per year129
I wouldn’t sign Provorov to any of these deals7