I like this contract very much.
Three years at an AAV of 2M$ for a defenceman that can score and move the puck efficiently is a fine deal indeed.
From Wiercioch's perspective he gets a secured roster spot in Ottawa, something I imagine he pegged as far from a certainty only a few months ago. Not to mention the third year pays 2.7M$, a boon when it comes time to be qualified.
Seems a pretty fair deal for both sides.
When looking at comparables over the length of an entry-level contract, Alex Goligoski matches real well based on games played and production:
The salary cap is 7.5M$ higher than it was in 2009/10, so Wiercioch's contract is reasonably a little richer despite playing fewer minutes, most of the difference can be chalked up to power-play time anyway.
To my eye Wiercioch had an excellent rookie season, opening day in Winnipeg I thought he and Benoit were for much of the game the Senators best pairing. The flashes of his skill and hockey sense on the power-play were evident early, and later we saw his patented stretch pass and total cannon. His shot per game rate of 1.92 is very strong for a first year player…or a veteran for that matter. Next to Alfredsson and Karlsson, Wiercioch had the best even-strength scoring chance differential on the team at +32. I'm also of the mind whatever defensive deficiencies he might have are overblown, and easily outweighed by what he brings elsewhere.
That 71% of his assists were of the primary variety also bodes real well going forward.
Over 82 games Wiercioch's scoring pace in 2012/13 would have been good for 37 points, 10 of them goals. Granted it's never advised to project based on such a small sample, but there is reason to think his production is real.
For one at 5on5 when Wiercioch was on the ice he and his teammates shot 6.2%. To put that in perspective of the 210 defenceman who played 20 games in the league last season only 31 had worse on-ice shooting percentages. Had Wiercioch and his teammates shot league average his 5on5 production would have been boosted by about a third.
Factor in increased ice-time and Wiercioch could be poised for a breakout offensive season, I don't think it's unfair to say he's capable of 40-50 points with good health and better luck.
While Wiercioch was a superb possession player as a rookie, he likely won't be getting the same soft minutes. Penciled in on the second pairing with Cowen one would expect he'll see more difficult quality of competition and less advantageous zone starts. Furthermore at least one of Cowen or Wiercioch will be playing out of position on the right side, which could complicate things.
There were promising signs last summer and well as during his stint in Bingo that Wiercioch was trending back up – but I don't think anyone could have foreseen him being the sixth leading scorer in Ottawa out of the lockout. More than anything it's just really cool to see a prospect develop and successfully make the jump after a challenging transition to the AHL.