Cap comparables: How Aleksander Barkov stacks up to NHL peers

Panthers GM Dale Tallon joins Hockey Central at Noon to discuss why Aleksander Barkov’s contract extension was worth the investment.

The Florida Panthers locked up a vital piece of their future Tuesday, signing Aleksander Barkov to a six-year extension worth $35.4 million.

Considering everything the 20-year-old centre brings to the table, his new $5.9-million salary cap hit (which comes into effect in 2016-17) seems like a bargain.

According to Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman, there is a no-movement clause that kicks in prior to the 2020-21 season and a 12-team no-trade clause in the final year of this deal.

Barkov, who was scheduled to become a restricted free agent following the 2015-16 campaign, has shown maturity beyond his years both on and off the ice and has been a major reason why the Panthers currently sit atop the Atlantic Division standings. The second-overall pick in the 2013 NHL Draft has 12 goals, 18 assists and a plus-12 rating in 38 games this season – 90 points in 163 games so far in his NHL career – and thrives in the defensive zone.

“I always compare Barkov to Marian Hossa, a great two-way player,” Panthers coach Gerard Gallant told Jim Matheson of the National Post. “Some nights (Barkov) will show us some unbelievable skill moves, and on nights when he’s not as good offensively, he doesn’t make any mistakes defensively. For a 20-year-old to be that big and strong and capable, it’s incredible. You always look at kids as coaches and say, ‘He’s not that good defensively,’ but not Barkie. Very, very seldom do I say he made a mistake in the defensive zone.”

With that in mind, here are a handful of players with similar contracts that Barkov will likely be compared to in the coming years.

Logan Couture (Five years, $30 million, $6-million cap hit)

Barkov and Couture are both excellent in all three zones and can be tasked with shutting down an opponent’s top line. Couture has star power like Joe Pavelski, Joe Thornton and Patrick Marleau around him, so he’s not relied on as heavily as Barkov is. Barkov averages nearly 20 minutes of ice-time per game, while Couture is averaging just 16:31 this season. In fairness, Couture is coming back from a broken leg. The Sharks are 11-3-3 with Couture in the lineup this season, which speaks to his value.

Matt Duchene (Five years, $30 million, $6-million cap hit)

Duchene is more focused on offence on the Avalanche’s top line since he can rely on teammates Gabriel Landeskog and Carl Soderberg on the second line to go up against opposing teams’ top lines most nights. While Barkov uses his size incredibly well to create offence – he’s playing on a line with Jaromir Jagr, learning from one of the best ever in terms shielding the puck – Duchene relies more on his tremendous speed. The only player selected ahead of Barkov in the 2013 draft was Duchene’s teammate, Nathan MacKinnon.

Ryan Nugent-Hopkins (Seven years, $42 million, $6-million cap hit)

Nugent-Hopkins is one of four first-overall picks on the Oilers, so he sometimes flies under the radar. Even though Nugent-Hopkins has never been a plus player in an 82-game season, his defensive play is improving. The Oilers coaching staff trusts him enough on the defensive side of the game to use him on the penalty kill. Unfortunately, the No. 1 pick from 2011 recently broke his hand while blocking a shot penalty-killing.

Jordan Staal (10 years, $60 million, $6-million cap hit)

Staal signed his 10-year extension in 2012, prior to the current limit on contract length (eight years if re-signing, seven years if joining a new team). Staal also went second overall (2006) and like Barkov is praised for his two-way game. Barkov has averaged about 0.55 points per game so far in his NHL career, which is nearly identical to Staal’s 0.56 points-per-game average.

Mikko Koivu (Seven years, $47.25 million, $6.75-million cap hit)

Barkov is somewhat of a successor to Koivu on the Finnish hockey landscape. They share many traits. Stylistically they play a similar game, they’ve both shown excellent leadership qualities, they’re universally respected around the league, and both were sadly unable to help Team Finland at the 2014 Olympics due to injuries. Koivu is 12 years Barkov’s senior and signed his extension in 2010.

Tyler Seguin (Six years, $34.5 million, $5.75-million cap hit)

Seguin is the black sheep when compared to the players mentioned above. For one, he’s the only right-handed shot, but he also spent much of his pro career as a winger. Barkov isn’t in the same league as Seguin in terms of offensive production, but considering the Stars sniper is a fellow second-overall pick expected to lead his team to success, Barkov and Seguin will inevitably draw comparisons to one another.

Other cap comparables:
Dave Bolland, five years, $5.5-million cap hit
Brandon Dubinsky, six years, $5.85-million cap hit
John Tavares, six years, $6-million cap hit
Derek Stepan, six years, $6.5-million cap hit
Ryan Kesler, six years, $6.875-million cap hit
Travis Zajac, eight years, $5.75-million cap hit
Patrice Bergeron, eight years, $6.875-million cap hit
Nicklas Backstrom, 10 years, $6.7-million cap hit
Henrik Zetterberg, 12 years, $6.083-million cap hit

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