I’m at a loss to explain it.
Tom Gilbert signed a 6-year deal at age 25, giving the Oilers a full 4 seasons of his free agent career in the deal. You’re going to pay for that kind of contract and the Oilers certainly did, but it would appear to me that it makes sense considering the comparables league-wide. The Brent Seabrook contract is not a comparable because no seasons of free agency were purchased (Seabrook will be 25 when his recently signed 3-year deal expires, summer 2011) and I would suggest a better comp would be the Nick Schultz deal in Minnesota. He is 25 this summer and has recently signed a 6-year, $21M deal. Barret Jackman’s recent 4-year, $14.4M deal is also similar, except that the Blues purchased fewer seasons so paid less. Kevin Bieksa signed for three seasons at $3.75M per year and that is the one in the group I would identify as a clear overpay.
The Nilsson contract buys three seasons (ages 23-25) for $1.83M a season. Toronto purchased 2 seasons of Alex Steen for slightly less, and Columbus locked up 4 years of Jason Chimera for about the same price as the Nilsson contract. The Islanders got 5 seasons of Trent Hunter (several of them free agent seasons) for $2M.
I’m no expert in this area, but there’s some evidence here that we as a fanbase are off the mark with both contracts. Gilbert signed a deal that is similar to Nick Schultz (with added dollars for the difference in offense) and you can be critical of the deal because Schultz has a few more NHL seasons (Schultz has played in over 400 NHL games). It’s an overpay but knowing Kevin Lowe as we do that should have been (and was) anticipated and as the summer wears on and as more Gilbert comps get signed this contract will probably find solid ground.
We have to be careful not to view this deals through a window of trying to adjust for the Penner and Souray deals. Different players, different summer.
And buying free agency seasons is expensive, especially for multi-dimensional talent.