Jordan Binnington’s new contract with the Blues is good for both sides.
I say that because the goaltender and team could have gone hardcore and created animosity by digging in on contract demands and terms.
And both sides were also willing to take a risk.
In the aftermath of a Stanley Cup championship, and parade of all parades, it’s nice to see such a fine spirit of cooperation between Binnington, his agent Mike Liut, and Blues manager Doug Armstrong.
All parties had the right attitude: get something done now, and a long-term deal can be taken care of later.
The Blues wanted to make sure Binnington felt respected and rewarded by making a two-year commitment instead of handing Binner a one-season deal.
After taking over as the starter on Jan. 7, Binnington led a Blues’ regular-season comeback and postseason insurgency that captured the first Stanley Cup in franchise history.
Binnington had 16 postseason wins, went an incredible 10-3 on the road, and finished a close second to teammate Ryan O’Reilly in the Conn Smythe voting for NHL postseason MVP.
In his new partnership with the Blues, Binnington’s compensation zoomed from the $625,000 he made this past season to an average of $4.4 million over the next two seasons.
No matter how you look at it, that’s a sweet payoff.
And with a two-season agreement, the Blues benefit in a number of ways. Please read on, and I’ll explain why — and offer quick opionions on other aspects of the Binnington-Blues agreement.
1. No one expects Binnington to go from season-saver and hockey hero to one-hit wonder, but NHL goaltenders are notoriously volatile in their performance fluctuations. (See: Jake Allen.) A two-year contract rewards Binnington but protects the Blues from an unanticipated decline in performance.
2. By settling the Binnington account on a two-year term, the Blues aren’t bogged down with a more expensive long-term deal that could impact Armstrong’s flexibility to sign defenseman Alex Pietrangelo and center Brayden Schenn to lucrative contract extensions. Both can become unrestricted free agents after the 2019-2020 season. And looking ahead, Jaden Schwartz can enter free agency two seasons from now.
3. Translation: the Blues have to spread the cash out a little to maintain some open payroll space. And this gives them insurance in the event of a Binnington injury or decline. It’s one thing for Binnington (or any player) to lose form on a two-year contract. It’s much worse, and damaging, for a key player to lose form when the team must pay him massive salaries over six, seven or eight seasons.
The new deal with Binnington gives Armstrong time to study the future payroll landscape — while also making sure to avoid snap, small-sample judgments and assess Binnington over a longer period of time.
4. I am not suggesting that Binnington requires motivation — he’s a maniac — but a long time ago I gave up trying to understand why some athletes (any sport) lose their competitive edge and aren’t quite the same.
After toiling for years in the Blues’ system, Binnington has a fierce underdog mentality and I don’t think that will soften. Having said that, this is also true: Binnington can become an unrestricted free agent when this two-year contract expires.
So while the Blues have paid him, taken care of him, and shown faith in him, Armstrong is also putting Binnington in position to bet on himself and his future earnings.
That huge, long-term free-agent contract is still out there for Binnington — but only if he maintains his standard of performance. Binnington’s hunger won’t subside over the next two seasons. And that’s a positive for him, and for the Blues.
5. OK, but what about the possibility of losing Binnington when his two-season deal expires? Obviously the Blues are willing to take that risk. But if Binnington remains stellar in goal over the next two seasons, the Blues would have every reason to keep Binnington in place. And that sets up “Winnington” for a big contract.
6. Aren’t the Blues spending too much money on goaltending? You could say that. Jake Allen will receive a guaranteed $4.35 million in each of the next two seasons. Binnington is on the same timeline, at $4.4 million annually.
According to CapFriendly, the Blues will spend $8.75 million on goaltending this season. That’s a lot, yes. But upon further review, it’s not that bad. I don’t know if it’s bad at all. First of all, as of now (and subject to change) nine NHL teams will invest at least $8 million of payroll on goaltending this season. Six teams are on line to spend more on goaltending than St. Louis: Montreal ($11 million), Chicago ($10 m), Florida ($10 m), Boston ($9.75 m), Ottawa ($9.75 m), and the New York Rangers $(9.3 m.)
7. Jake Allen is a good No. 2 goaltender. Perhaps overpriced to an extent but again, nothing to lose sleep over. Allen was terrible for the first two-plus months of 2019-2010, but settled in nicely after Binningington became the No. 1 goaltender. From Binnington’s first start to the end of the regular season, Allen had a .927 save percentage at even strength in his 13 starts. He was terrific (.931 save rate) on the road. For the most part, Allen has performed well, and fared well, when part of a two-goalie system that alleviates some of the pressure on him. Think of his time-share experience with Brian Elliott. This won’t be a true time-share scenario; Binnington is absolutely the No. 1 goaltender. But Allen is a comfortable fit at No. 2. And that’s important.
Thanks for reading …