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64m for Juraj Slafkovsky: Tony Marinaro expects contract extension this summer
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Over the summer, there are only two players (in my opinion) who will get the most attention on the heels of their restricted free agent status with the Habs: Justin Barron and Arber Xhekaj.

The others? They’re lower-priority files, let’s say.

And since Justin Barron’s demands are somewhat suspect, since he doesn’t have the upper hand in negotiations, it’s always the Sheriff’s job when it comes to summer RFAs.

But that doesn’t mean Kent Hughes can’t talk to guys whose contracts expire in a year’s time. A player with a multi-year contract can sign a contract extension 12 months in advance.

And in a year’s time, two names will be at the heart of the discussions: Kaiden Guhle and Juraj Slafkovsky.

We know that the Habs’ management is thinking of exploring the case of both men, who crossed swords yesterday at the World Championships. This doesn’t mean that a contract will be signed, but it does mean that the club is thinking of moving forward with the two young men.

And according to what Tony Marinaro told JiC on TVA Sports yesterday, it wouldn’t be surprising to see Slaf sign a long-term, eight-year contract a year before his entry-level contract expires.

– What could it look like? – Jean-Charles Lajoie

– Eight years, eight million. Why not? – Tony Marinaro

The comparison with Nick Suzuki is important here. After all, Suzuki signed his eight-year, $63 million contract in 2021. Marc Bergevin didn’t wait for the future captain’s entry-level contract to expire and gave him an eight-year contract quickly.

Today, if he were to sign, Suzuki would probably be worth a little more than $7.875 million a year.

Doing so with the Slovak (who took big steps forward in 23-24) has its merits, since like Suzuki or Jack Hughes in New Jersey, not waiting might allow the Habs to stay within their self-imposed salary structure with Suzuki and Cole Caufield.

But two questions remain.

  • Is it too early to give Slaf, who had a 50-point season this year, $64 million?
  • Can he earn more than the captain?

JiC, for his part, thinks it’s too early to give him that. He sees him signing a three-year, $15 million bridge contract (3X5, in other words), bearing in mind that the forward could earn a huge amount ($12 million a year?) afterwards.

After all, in his eyes, he can’t overtake Suzuki just yet. “It’s too early” for that right now.

The debate is interesting because it’s exactly what Habs executives have had to discuss since Slaf’s in-season blossoming. Sign him now for the long term or wait: that’s the question.

At least the good news is that the Habs don’t have to decide this summer, since Slaf’s entry-level contract expires in 13 months. There’s still time… but the debate must exist, nonetheless. And it especially needs to be with the player’s agent, to find out what Slaf thinks of all this.

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