Apr 17, 2013; Calgary, Alberta, CAN; Detroit Red Wings defenseman Danny DeKeyser (65) skates with the puck as Calgary Flames left wing Jiri Hudler (24) defends during the third period at the Scotiabank Saddledome. Calgary Flames won 3-2. Mandatory Credit: Sergei Belski-USA TODAY Sports

What is Detroit Red Wings RFA Danny Dekeyser Worth?

Danny Dekeyser remains one of Detroit’s most important unsigned free agents.  Fortunately for General Manger Ken Holland this season Dekeyser who is a restricted free agent, opted not to go to salary arbitration, where after a hearing process an independent party would decide the terms for the 24 year old’s contract.  This shows  Dekeyser is committed to working with Holland and the Red Wings, making it a matter of when and not if he would resign with the Red Wings.

Dekeyser, 6’3 190lbs, had what anyone could see was a solid albeit shorter than hoped for first full season in 2014 after signing a 2 year 1.35 million dollar pact back in march of 2013 when he appeared in 12 total games before a hand injury forced him out of the playoffs.  After he recovered from the injury he was able to join the Grand Rapids Griffins in time for their Calder Cup victory in the AHL.   Appearing in 65 games in the  2014 season he totaled 4 goals 19 assists for 23 points and a +10 rating.  While injuries limited him from play he still managed to play an average of 21:10 minutes a game against some of the tougher opponents on the ice.  While Niklas Kronwall and Jonathan Ericsson are the number one pairing and usually drawing  opponents best players, Dekeyser did spend time in the number one role in stints when both Kronwall and Ericsson were out of the line up throughout the year.  During which time Dekeyser was routinely touted by coach Mike Babcock as being the most improved player he had on his roster.

So what kind of deal can we expect for Danny Dekeyser?  That honestly depends on how you look at his last deal.  In 2013 Dekeyser was one of the emerging college free agents that was drawing the attention of teams around the league, see Justin Schultz.  As such he bi-passed the Juniors and the AHL in favor of playing at Western Michigan, meaning he lacks the initial “time” that most RFA’s have put in at this stage in their careers. Usually at this stage in their careers players and clubs have been through a lot together from contract sliding and negotiations for an in-between contract to playing games for the parent club or affiliate, before the team has to worry about getting close to UFA status.  He also started out making more money than the average RFA as well. At this point all fans can do is  use contracts set around the NHL and in house to form a basis for what fans can expect Dekeyser to sign for.

First lets take a look around the league at players who have signed after the end of their entry-level contract.  Most teams in the salary cap era elect to do what many have termed a “bridge contract”, usually a two-year deal to help keep cap cost down while given a minor raise to a younger player.  Some have opted to go all out and sign players long-term or 5-7 years at the end off their ELC contract.

Case in point Alex Pietrangelo and Tyler Myers.  Pietrangelo received a 7 year deal at 6.5 million against the cap, while Myers  received a front loaded 7 year deal at 5.5 million against the cap.  While it maybe a stretch to compare Dekeyser to either player in this case it serves as a good example of the far side of the spectrum.  Pietrangelo, 24, is considered a top defenceman in the league, he puts up the points and is used by coach Ken Hitchcock in all situations. In Myers case he won the Calder Memorial Trophy for rookie of the year in his first year pro and standing at a towering 6’8 he possesses physical gifts you just can not teach at any level along with a high ceiling for growth as he is also just 24 years old.

Apr 18, 2014; Tampa, FL, USA; Montreal Canadiens defenseman P.K. Subban (76) against the Tampa Bay Lightning during the second period in game two of the first round of the 2014 Stanley Cup Playoffs at Tampa Bay Times Forum. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

On the other side of the spectrum many players have signed two-year bridge contracts.  Most famously P.K. Subban signed a two-year 2.87 million dollar deal after protracted talks lead to him almost missing part of training camp, and then went on to win the James Norris trophy a year later as the top defenceman in the league and now Montreal is in prolonged negotiations with the star whose deal should be somewhere north of 7.5 million a year.  Closer comparisons to Dekeyser  include:

  • Carl Gunnarsson went from his ELC making 800k to 1.325.
  • David Savard of the Columbus Blue Jackets signed a 2 year deal worth 1.3 million per year
  • Karl Alzner of Washington signed a 2 year deal worth 1.28 million

Now its unlikely that Dekeyser will win the Norris trophy, not saying it is impossible  but he would need to increase his points output if he wants to get noticed, and its also unfair given his relative time in the NHL to expect him to perform or be compared to the previously mention stars as well.  Dekeyser is a great 3-4 defenceman with a lot of potential, and given that he  is second only to Niklas Kronwall in terms of utility and production he and his agent will use those to weigh heavily on negotiations.  These two-year deals in the range of 1 million to 2.5 million seem to be the norm for a rookie defenceman.

Looking inward at the Red Wings own roster both Kyle Quincey and Jakub Kindl might provide a the best basis for Wings fans to guess where Dekeyser contract could go, while Smith is still a growing he should be in the same situation as Dekeyser next year.  Looking at strictly numbers Kindl had 19 points last season while making frequent trips to Mike Babcock’s dog house and Quincey had just 13 while being one of only two players to play in a full 82 game season for the Wings. According to advanced stats, if you’re into that kind of thing, at Extraskater.com Dekeyser played less sheltered minutes and against a higher quality of competition and still was a 49%cf compared to Quincey’s 49.7%cf and Kindl’s 51.1%cf.

This video provides a great example at Dekeyser’s consistency, used heavily in the playoffs against the Boston Bruins

When looking at Quincey’s contracts he went from his ELC deal making 525k to making 3.125m.  While at the time he was putting up around 30-40 points a season,something Wings fans would only believe if you showed, them Youtube clips while holding signed copies of the box score from the score keeper, he now makes 4.25 million a season for just 13 points a season and playing against typically weaker competition then Dekeyser.  Kindl after his entry level deal signed for three years at 883k and then signed for 4 years at 2.4 million a season and of all the Wings had the most sheltered minutes and most favorable zone starts.  Ken Holland will most likely use the former numbers as a starting point for his initial offers while Dekeysers camp will look to the latter.

The verdict?  While I wouldn’t expect him to be making Pietrangelo money, and I sure won’t expect him to be paid in solid gold bars like Subban will be, it is a safe to assume that Ken Holland knows what he has in Dekeyser, an immensely talented 3-4 defenceman who can play all situations who could still  develop into a first pairing player.  Dekeyser’s camp will argue in favor of a deal like Quinceys and I am sure Holland will be hard pressed to argue against it given the facts.  In the end Wings fans should expect between a 2 and 4 year deal worth at minimum 3 million a season to a maximum around 4.5 million a season not including bonuses.

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