League sources confirmed to the Sun Thursday the Senators have tabled an eight-year, $28-million offer — an average of $3.5 million per season — to Cowen’s camp.
That's a long commitment to a player with 90 NHL games under his belt.
The offer seems to be following a bit of a trend, however, where young defencemen are signed to long-term extensions right after their entry-level deals expire. Others include teammate Erik Karlsson (seven years, $45.5M), Travis Hamonic (seven years, $27M), Ryan McDonagh (six years, $28.2M), and Oliver Ekman-Larsson (six years, $33M). Those four players, however, had far more experience when their deals were signed than Cowen has today.
On the other hand, those contracts all carry higher annual values than this offer, as well. This offer from the Senators seems to be their way of balancing risk and reward: Although Cowen might not be a $3.5M defender next season, he should be one within a few years--provided his development continues. And if it continues as many expect it to and he becomes a good top-four defender or better, then $3.5M is a pretty good ticket from the team's perspective. With recent contracts to Kyle Turris and Zack Smith, Ottawa has shown a willingness to offer extra term in exchange for lower dollar values on deals (although neither of those deals went as long as this one would).
For reference, some other defencemen who will have a $3.5M cap hit this season are Niklas Hjalmarsson, Bryan Allen, Nick Schultz, Willie Mitchell, and Nicklas Grossmann. It's largely expected that Cowen will be a top-four defenceman on the Senators this year, and $3.5M is pretty well market price for a player of that ilk.
Another benefit from the team's perspective is the ability to begin it with a low actual salary, gradually building up to a higher one and having the average come to $3.5M per season--meaning less actual expenditure for this season, while the Senators are obviously hurting for cash. Although the proposed structure of the reported eight-year deal wasn't revealed, a structure of $2M/$2M/$3M/$3M/$4M/$4M/$5M/$5M keeps the salary low for the time being and compensates for it with higher values later, when Cowen will (presumably) be a more dominant defender.
Of course, that's the team's view on it--and, obviously, the team made this offer because they thought it would work for them. If Jared Cowen believes he'll be better than a top-four defenceman in short order, his best bet would be to refuse a long-term deal such as this one in order to get to unrestricted free agency more quickly. That might mean a bridge contract, and the Senators and Cowen are apparently discussing "a lot of different scenarios," according to the above-linked Sun article. We'll see where they land in the end.
The good news: Cowen's agent Rick Valette a) isn't J.P. Barry, and b) told the Ottawa Citizen he expects the deal to get done before training camp.