Victor Hedman (John Russell/NHLI via Getty Images)
One of the top blueliners in the game today, Hedman could have gotten more money on the open market, but he clearly sees what Tampa Bay can do in the next year or two and has taken a bit less. And there's no way either side will regret a new eight-year relationship.
As one of the best blueliners in the game today, Victor Hedman could have commanded a princely sum when he came up for unrestricted free agency next summer. Instead, the towering defenseman has signed an eight-year extension worth $7.8 million per season. That's a bargain for Tampa Bay and the Lightning know it.
"Victor has matured into one of the top defensemen in the NHL and coming off the recent re-signing of our captain, Steven Stamkos, we've secured another extremely important member of our team,” said GM Steve Yzerman. “I'm very appreciative of both Victor and (agent) Peter Wallen's efforts to reach an agreement with us at this time.”
Stamkos just noted yesterday, when he re-signed with the team, that the Lightning's core would have to sacrifice a bit if the players all wanted to stay together. Had Hedman gone to open market next summer, he easily could have gotten $9 million per season. But in helping the Bolts save more than $1 million of cap space, as Stamkos did, perhaps Hedman has allowed the team to keep another asset on the roster – Tyler Johnson, or Ondrej Palat, for example.
So Hedman benefits the Bolts in two crucial ways. Because primarily, he has already been an incredible defenseman for the team and he may still be reaching his peak. A puckmover with mobility who comes in at 6-foot-6 and 233 pounds, Hedman was a beast in the playoffs, playing a career-high 27:26 of ice time per game while notching 14 points in 17 games. I would not be surprised if he makes a run at the Norris Trophy next season.
And even though it is very difficult for teams to make multiple runs at the Stanley Cup, would you really bet against the Bolts at this point? Not only is their core devilishly good, but they know that 2016-17 will be their best chance. The expansion draft will almost definitely take away one of the team's two goalies (Ben Bishop or Andrei Vasilevskiy; most likely the veteran Bishop) and if not, another excellent asset.
The sacrifices made by Stamkos and Hedman will surely help, but there will be a cap crisis next summer unless the cap goes up and the Bolts get more help from their charges. But here's the crazy thing; even if Tampa Bay loses a couple players, they still have an incredible core, headlined by Stamkos and Hedman. This team will be good for a very long time.
And while Hedman is working his way towards Cups and/or Norris trophies, he'll be heading for some franchise records, too. Currently third in career scoring among Tampa blueliners, he will most likely break the high watermark in 2016-17. Hedman has 229 points, while Dan Boyle's Tampa record stands at 253.