NHL Rumors: What’s the hold up on Trevor Zegras?

Today’s NHL Rumors follows up on a brewing situation in Anaheim, where the Ducks and their young star Trevor Zegras appear to be on different pages regarding his projected salary on a new deal. Ultimately, the longer he remains unsigned, the higher the chances another team makes a move to acquire him.

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As training camps begin across the NHL, there are still four notable restricted free agents waiting for new contracts, including Tim Berni (Columbus), Shane Pinto (Ottawa), Jamie Drysdale (Anaheim), and Trevor Zegras (Anaheim). Interestingly, Zegras is the biggest name left in the RFA market and is now one of the most curious cases in the NHL. 

As a 22 year-old, he’s tallied 139 points in 180 games with 49 goals and 90 assists. Since debuting with the Ducks in 2020-21, he’s the second-leading scorer on the team behind Troy Terry, who has 148 points in the same period. Although Terry has three years of seniority over Zegras, he’s only tallied 37 additional points in 94 more games. 

After signing a bridge deal on July 14, 2020, worth $4.35 million ($1.45 million AAV), Terry signed a massive seven-year extension worth $49 million in August, equaling an AAV of $7 million. Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman suggests that with over $16 million in cap space, management shouldn’t extend Zegras with a massive payday. It seems the logical play is a bridge deal with an AAV of just $3-4 million. 

Furthermore, Zegras is a first-round pick (ninth overall), while Terry is a fifth-round selection (148th overall). Ultimately, when Terry was up for renewal, the Ducks offered him $4.35 million over three years, with an AAV of $1.45 million. At the time, he had just 28 points in 81 games and didn’t even have ten goals yet. 

Statistically, Terry performed during his second NHL deal, securing the significant rise and term he got in August. However, Zegras already outperformed Terry through his first three seasons, so a contract offer of less than $3-4 million would cause unnecessary friction based solely on production value. 

With a deeper look into the statistics, Zegras will potentially be underpaid

NHL: Anaheim Ducks at Calgary Flames
Apr 2, 2023; Calgary, Alberta, CAN; Anaheim Ducks center Trevor Zegras (11) reacts during the third period against the Calgary Flames at Scotiabank Saddledome. Mandatory Credit: Sergei Belski-USA TODAY Sports

During the 2022-23 season, Zegras collected 65 points, good enough to finish 79th overall in league scoring. Of course, since he was still playing on his entry-level deal, his salary was only $950,000. Interestingly, he finished with more points than the following players, who made almost double what the Ducks are willing to offer their young superstar.

  • Tomas Hertl ($8.1 million)
  • Patrick Kane ($10 million)
  • Nazem Kadri ($7 million)
  • Matt Duchene ($8 million)
  • Blake Wheeler ($8.2 million)
  • Evgeny Kuznetsov ($7.8 million)
  • Andrei Svechnikov ($7.7 million)
  • Kevin Hayes ($7.1 million)
  • Patrik Laine ($8.7 million)
  • Tyler Seguin ($9.85 million)

Even though most of the players on this list earned top-dollar salaries based on previous achievements, a handful signed expensive extensions after their entry-level deals expired, eventually cashing in on these mega deals. Additionally, a handful of these skaters are now on the back side of their careers, meaning their performances no longer equal the value of their contracts. 

However, no one is saying that Zegras, who recently appeared as the cover athlete of NHL 23, is worth a contract with an AAV of over $7-8 million. But, with such a small offering on a reported bridge deal, the Ducks risk souring the relationship between player and team since it appears they don’t value what he brings and could bring to the organization. 

NHL teams keeping a close eye on the developing situation in Anaheim

Usually, when news like this breaks, there is never enough time to browse social media to read the reactions of insiders and fans who love gossip. But there’s one interesting developing story involving the Buffalo Sabres, who appear interested in acquiring Zegras to add another young star to their core. 

Surprisingly, no one has submitted an offer sheet (at this time) for Zegras, who would be a catch for any team in the league, while forcing the Ducks’ hand about whether he will be a part of their future. Considering offer sheets usually turn into a circus, they are less common in the NHL, with just ten in the salary cap era, which started in 2005. 

Although some of the game’s biggest names like Joe Sakic, Sergei Fedorov, Scott Stevens, Teemu Selane, and Guy Lafleur have seen their name on offer sheets. If an NHL general manager has the guts and sees the value in Zegras that Anaheim disagrees with, there’s a chance that this young star will find a new home before the 2023-24 season starts. 

Unfortunately, Zegras is not attending training camp, and every day lost is precious time wasted when he could have been preparing for the long grind of the NHL season. Ultimately, this won’t be the last time we hear about him in the news, but until he gets a new deal, there will be many questions about whether or not he stays in Southern California.