There's lots to like about Johnny Boychuk's seven-year, $42 million contract extension, the biggest reason being the obvious one: The Islanders get to keep a key contributor to this season's success for seven more years at a decent salary-cap number for a team not interested in pushing the upper limits of the cap.
Digging down a bit into the numbers and details reveals another reason to like this deal if you're an Islander fan, or better yet an NHL agent: Boychuk received a full no-move clause for the first four years of the deal (it goes down to a partial no-trade clause for the final three years) and will get $11 million of the contract in signing bonus, including a $5.5 million bonus on July 1, as first reported by TSN's Pierre LeBrun. The contract also begins with Boychuk earning $7.5 million next season and slowly dives down to $4 million in actual salary the last two seasons.
Those are common features to many free-agent deals and contract extensions around the NHL. They are not common to deals that players have signed with the Islanders in recent years, where front-loaded, bonus-heavy contracts have not been part of the plan for Garth Snow or owner Charles Wang.
With the team in transition to a new home and in transition to new majority owners, Jon Ledecky and Scott Malkin, who will take over the controlling interest in a bit less than 18 months, there appears to be a transition away from the stricter contract offers that had been made in years past.
As of now, only Boychuk, Lubomir Visnovsky and John Tavares have any sort of no-trade clauses in their deals. It's unclear who has received significant bonus money among the current Islanders, but if any of them have, it's not a long list.
Lack of big bonus money didn't help Snow's cause when trying to sign defensemen like Dan Hamhuis, Christian Ehrhoff and Paul Martin back in the summer of 2010, nor did it help with offers to the likes of Thomas Vanek last year, though Vanek turning down seven years and $50 million said more about the player than it did the owner or GM.
There were loads of rumors about Boychuk's feelings from the minute he was traded to the Islanders, quotes out of Boston saying he was devastated by the deal, whispers that he was hoping for a return to his Edmonton hometown in July. Ultimately, Boychuk had the benefit of experiencing what players like Martin and Vanek could only wonder about: A winning Islanders team.
"Our team's good, that made it easier,'' Boychuk told Newsday. "When you're on a winning team, that makes it a lot easier to come to the rink. It's a lot different atmosphere. You can go in there [to free agency], go to a different team, but you want to win. Why not stay and try to win here when you know what you have in this dressing room?''
Kyle Okposo has seen plenty of NHLers spurn his team over the years. Boychuk's signing is the latest example of how much has changed in such a short span.
"I was reading something before the trade deadline about no-trade lists, teams that guys would not allow a trade to, and we weren't on anyone's list, it seemed,'' Okposo said. "I think guys around the league are paying attention to what's changed in here. People have been hesitant in the past, obviously. I think that's gone now."
Dal Colle's special season
Michael Dal Colle, the fifth pick in the 2014 draft, stopped by the Air Canada Centre on Monday to watch the Islanders' game. His Oshawa team is having a pretty superb season in the Ontario League, sitting at 48-9-5 through Friday. Dal Colle leads the Generals with 38 goals and 87 points.
Dal Colle said his first Islanders training camp has helped him this season. "I'm doing a lot more maintenance stuff now, I'm in the gym a lot more trying to keep weight on," he said. "That's always been an issue for me during the year. I just learned a lot from watching guys like John Tavares, how they carry themselves, how they prepare. I think it's been a big boost for me."