Lost in all the speculation on Luke Schenn extension talks has been Carl Gunnarsson, who also seeks a new contract this offseason.
The 25-year-old two-way defenseman played his second season with the Toronto Maple Leafs this year, and can be said as a divided year for the Swedish-native, which saw him sit in the press box 14 times. In the first half the 82-game schedule, Gunnarsson posted eight points with a minus-2 rating in 38 games.
In his second half the season, he raised his offensive production by 50 percent (8-12 points) and saw his plus minus rating end at even in eight less games. Things that can't be noticed on the score sheet also significantly improved, most notably his turnover rate and positioning on incoming forwards.
Also playing factors in determining the value of a defenseman like Gunnarsson is the other ways he contributes on the ice. Much to the Leafs' brass delight, he vastly improved his positional play during his second half. This saw his plus/minus rating improve from two-under to exactly even. Yes, not the biggest jump, but when you consider his ice time increased by roughly seven minutes after the All-Star break (15-22 minutes), it's impressive for the type of team he was on.
Now we know what Gunnarsson is: an improving, young two-way defenseman who will be heavily counted on next season. But what's his numerical value?
Well, recent extensions suggest somewhere in the $2.5-3 million range, here are a few examples:
James Demers—2 years, $1.25 million per
Marc Staal—5 years, $3.975 million per
Jeff Schultz—4 years, $2.75 million per
Alex Edler—4 years, $3.25 million per
Alex Goligoski (when with the Penguins)—3 years, $1.83 million per
However, Burke already knows and Gunnarsson should know that all the above defensemen (with the slight exception of Demers) are superior to the Swede when it comes to terms of production and worth, right now anyways.
Gunnarsson can be expressed in the same sentences as Demers and Schultz, but most definitely cannot be with Edler, Staal and Goligoski. Thus, somewhere in the range of $2-2.5 million will most likely be the result of an extension. Discussing terms, three years seems to be the consensus feeling among many analysts, as it seems the Leafs want to be in the same situation with Gunnarsson as they were with Mikhail Grabovski two years ago—a wait-and-see approach, but on a leash so-to speak.
Does a three-year, $2.3 million per a year sound reasonable for Gunnarsson? Yes, as long as his production warrants it and he doesn't flail out next season. For this thought, Burke could shy away from a deal over $2 million, but expect a deal with Gunnarsson to be in this range.
Let me know what you think Gunnarsson is worth in the comments, and I'd greatly appreciate a follow on Twitter! @degratenhlsport