The Winnipeg Jets and defenseman Zach Bogosian came to terms on a long-term, seven-year contract Monday, per the Canadian Press (h/t TSN). The payout is worth $36 million over the course of the seven-year deal. That’s an average annual value of roughly $5.14 million.
That’s a lot of years and a lot of money for a defenseman who hasn’t proved much in the NHL.
The Jets are taking a huge risk by signing Bogosian to a contract of this stature. There’s no guarantee that Bogosian will be the next best defenseman in hockey. There’s no guarantee that he’ll even be better than average a few years from now. The entire contract is based off future potential—keyword: potential.
Sure, Bogosian has a lot of it.
So why not sign Bogosian to a short-term, two- or three-year deal? Why not let him prove his worth as a top-tier defenseman before signing him to a long-term deal with top-tier defenseman money? Instead, “untapped potential” will cost the Jets a cap hit of $5.1 million.
Bogosian has a huge upside to his game. He’s more of an all-around, two-way defenseman, but he excels in a few categories. He’s extremely physical and isn’t afraid to lay the big hit. He’s also a talented skater and can generate offense from the back end.
Defensively, Bogosian is reliable in his own end. Offensively, he can score goals, make the vital outlet pass and run a power play. The concern with Bogosian is consistency. He has to be more consistent on a nightly basis. If he can take care of that aspect, he’ll be well on his way to elite status.
Bogosian was a former third-overall pick by the Atlanta Thrashers back in 2008, so obviously he was highly touted coming into the league to begin with. Bogosian wasn’t given any time to develop and was thrown right into the deep waters of the NHL instead.
As an 18-year-old rookie, Bogosian scored nine goals in 47 games. He looked on pace to win the Calder Trophy before an unfortunate lower-body injury. His career high in goals came the following season when he scored 10.
When his career in Winnipeg began in 2011-12, Bogosian accumulated a career-high of 30 points in 65 games. In the shortened lockout season, he finished with 14 points in 33 games. Injuries have been an issue with Bogosian since entering the NHL. If Bogosian stays healthy, he'd probably have a 40-point season under his belt by now.
General manager Kevin Cheveldayoff and the rest of the Jets management obviously believe that Bogosian is going to be a franchise defenseman, or he wouldn’t have been signed to this contract. Cheveldayoff didn’t give him a year or two to prove himself. He gave him all of it.
There are only two outcomes from this contract—Bogosian lives up to it, or he doesn’t. That’s the case with every professional contract in sports, but some are more significant than others. Bogosian is certainly capable of living up to it, but how many times have we seen these types of contracts come back to bite the teams that issued them? Obviously, it’s a risk the Jets are willing to take.
The Jets are pressed against the cap after the Bogosian signing. The good news is the salary cap is set to go up next year. With the cap going up, Bogosian’s contract could become a steal if he lives up to the potential.
The next few seasons will be defining years for Bogosian. He has to stay healthy, continue to learn the game and perform to the best of his abilities. There's no doubt that he can be a top defenseman in the NHL. He's an important piece to this franchise, especially in the long haul. The Jets made it clear that they want to build with defense.
The good news is that Bogosian just turned 23 and already has those five seasons to his name (297 career games in total). This is about the time when a defenseman such as Bogosian is ready to take that next step in the NHL and take over. This is when all eyes will be on Bogosian game after game.
Prepare to see a lot of critiquing going forward, but Bogosian is set to prove people wrong.