Monday was a busy day when it comes to new contracts, specifically for goalies in the Metropolitan Division. Three Metro goalies signed new deals, and all three contracts were their second NHL contract. Ilya Samsonov of the Washington Capitals signed his second deal with the team. His deal is worth two million dollars for one year. The Flyers signed Carter Hart to a three year deal worth $11.937 million, $3.979 annually. The cherry on top was the contract the New York Rangers gave goalie Igor Shesterkin. Shesterkin signed a four year deal worth $22.67 million, meaning Shesterkin is making $5.67 million per year for the next four seasons.
Shesterkin’s deal is now the most lucrative second deal an NHL goaltender has ever signed. He’s now the 13th highest-paid goalie in the entire league. His new contract goes to show just how much faith the Rangers organization has in him. Samsonov comes back at two million dollars a year, and likely looking at more of an expanded role. He played second-fiddle to Vitek Vanecek last season, but looks to show the Caps brass he can carry a heavier load during the 2021/22 season.
Carter Hart is coming off of his worst statistical season of the three he has in the NHL. His record was bad, his stats even worse, there’s absolutely a chip on his shoulder coming into the 2021/22 season. Add in the signing of Martin Jones, who could be looking to rejuvenate his career, and you have plenty of motivation for the youngest goalie of the bunch. He remains the undoubted starter for the Flyers, but there’s some major work to do in order to get back to the performance we saw during the 2020 playoffs in the bubble.
Needless to say, the discussion needs to be had. Are these goalies worth their contracts? How does Carter Hart’s deal stack up against Samsonov and Shesterkin? It’s time to take a look at each goalies performance this past season and throughout their short careers and pick it all apart.
Samsonov was drafted by the Caps in the first round of the 2015 NHL draft. He decided to stay put for three seasons with Magnitogorsk of the KHL where he dominated. A career .929/2.20 in the KHL, Samsonov built up the hype as he made the jump to North America for the 2018/19 season where he played in 37 games for the Hershey Bears. During that time, he posted a .898 save percentage and 2.70 goals against average. Less than ideal for a player of his caliber, but not disastrous.
He arrived at the NHL level the very next season, playing in 26 games and posting a 16-6-2 record. His .913 save percentage and 2.55 goals against average were the best among Washington goalies. Trying to build on the hype of his first taste of NHL play, he faltered a bit. He lost his starting gig to Vitek Vanecek, but still posted a respectable .902/2.69.
Altogether, Samsonov stands at and impressive 29-10-3 with a .908 save percentage and 2.61 goals against average over his career. While things didn’t pan out the way most thought they would this past season, Samsonov has a fantastic opportunity in his second consecutive contract year. He’s playing for another deal, meaning added motivation to be the best goalie he can be.
Call it an anomaly, call it a blip on the radar. The 2020/21 season was not kind to Carter Hart. Coming off the heels of an uber-impressive playoffs in 2020, expectations were high for Carter Hart entering the 2020/21 season. He failed to live up to those expectations, plain and simple. His 9-11-5 record was rough. Even rougher was his .877 save percentage and 3.67 goals against average this past season.
What needs to be kept in mind is the fact that this contract is based off of potential. A three-year term means Chuck Fletcher knows what Hart is capable of, and is banking on him outperforming his $3.979 cap hit in the later years of the deal. That’s fair especially considering the defense that was in front of him last season compared to the defense that will be in front of him next season.
Shesterkin was a fourth-round gem for the Rangers in 2014. His career KHL/MHL numbers mimic those of Samsonov, and so does his career trajectory to this point. He spent two more years in Russia than Samsonov did, but made his jump during the same season as Samsonov. His first season with the Rangers saw him go 10-2-0 with a .932 save percentage and 2.52 goals against average. His sophomore campaign didn’t match his rookie output, but was still a solid outing.
Sharing time with another young stud in Alexandar Georgiev, Shesterkin outdueled the talented Bulgarian and earned the majority of starts during the 2020/21 season. He was 16-14-3 for the Rangers this past season with a .916 save percentage and 2.62 goals against average. While not nearly as eye-popping as his 2019/20 season stats, he followed up that performance with a solid season this past year.
Many will argue that before this past season, Carter Hart had the higher ceiling than the other two netminders. While that may be true, that’s not how the GM’s see it according to these goalies current price tags. The Samsonov deal should come as no surprise. He came into the NHL and played well, only to stumble a bit this past season. Blame it on a sophomore slump. Blame it on the added pressure from his teammate Vitek Vanecek. Any way you cut it, he didn’t build upon his solid rookie campaign the way the Caps organization surely wanted him to.
Carter Hart’s deal came in a bit higher than most anticipated, but it makes sense now that Chuck Fletcher has revamped the blueline. There’s no way around it, the Flyers defense was absolutely abysmal last season. They allowed more goals than any other NHL team, and subsequently allowed the most goals per game. With the additions of Ryan Ellis, Rasmus Ristolainen, and Keith Yandle, the Flyers have upgraded in a major way, giving Hart the jolt he may need to snap out of his funk.
Shesterkin’s deal is the most complex of the bunch. Yes, he’s been fantastic on a less-than stellar Rangers team. His level of play is unmatched by any goalie teammate of his. With such a small sample size however, it stands to reason that this deal may not pan out the way they want it to.
The biggest difference between these goalies and Carter Hart is the fact that Hart has played in twice as many games as Samsonov and Shesterkin combined. He’s also the youngest of the bunch. He has 12 more starts than both of them combined as well. If we’re going to really comb through the differences, Hart also doesn’t have a Norris Trophy winning defenseman in front of him. The Flyers also allowed almost a whole goal-per-game more than the Washington Capitals this past season. As ticky-tacky as that may sound, it makes a difference.
This isn’t meant to poo-poo on Shesterkin for signing the deal. The man earned the money, and New York is forking it over. Good on him for getting what he thinks he is worth. It may seem like an overpayment at the moment, but considering New York is paying their backup in Georgiev a shade under two and a half million dollars, it’s money well-invested for a bonafide starter.
The Capitals have a capable starter in Samsonov for two million dollars while they’re paying Vitek Vanecek a shade over $700k. They have under three million dollars invested in their crease, which is a luxury in this day and age. The Flyers have a conundrum, but one that easily could fix itself with Hart and Martin Jones. They’re paying just under six million dollars for the tandem, which is a better figure than New York, but the quality has yet to be determined.
On the surface, Shesterkin’s deal looks a little heavy. If he continues to impress, the deal will be well worth it by the time it expires. Samsonov’s deal is pretty simple. It’s two million dollars for one year in hopes that he can take back the starting gig and earn a bigger deal next offseason. Hart’s deal is a bit more complex. It came in a little over what many expected, but it’s hinging on a rebound given that the defense in front of him can perform like an adequate defense should.
Either way you split it, goalie contracts will likely never be the same. The next great young goalie will likely get upwards of Hart’s deal. It’s a new day for young goalies, and a day that they should be incredibly excited about while their teams dread negotiations.
Photo Credit: Alex McIntyre