Caufield’s Eight-Year Contract: Commitment, Leadership, and the Future of the Montreal Canadiens

2023-06-06 07:00:00

Since the day Auston Matthews signed a five-year contract with the Toronto Maple Leafs in February 2019, the long-term-but-not-too-contract model, without necessarily being a route many NHL players, still set a kind of precedent. Because the players have discovered this possibility of obtaining a very good salary from their second contract, while having the luxury of finishing it young enough so that they can go to the cash register a second time while they are still at the top of their game. their abilities.

This is a path that Cole Caufield could have taken in his negotiations with the Canadian.

After all, his agent Pat Brisson negotiated a four-year deal between Jason Robertson and the Dallas Stars last fall, an agreement that will bring the young star to a year of full autonomy.

Even if we had the impression that this was not the option favored by Caufield, it was not automatic. At any time over the past few months, he could have chosen to give himself a way out. The Canadian is in the bottom of the standings, he is far from the Stanley Cup, and Caufield could have felt the need to negotiate a safe conduct if ever the recovery of the team does not go as hoped in the next seasons.

The fact that Caufield has enthusiastically agreed to an eight-year pact with the Canadiens that will pay him $7.85 million per season confirms his commitment to the organization. He wants to be there no matter what. The star winger will be well paid, of course, but not all young players are offered such a long contract and, in the position where the Canadian is, it may not be everyone who does. wouldn’t accept either.

There has been a lot of talk about culture within the team in the past few months. But it’s that culture that benefits from Caufield’s new contract, as the team’s main individual star puts his stamp of approval on what the Canadiens are trying to build right now.

“To be here for a long time and to help straighten things out here is pretty special to me, and I’m excited for the challenge,” Caufield said in a videoconference Monday.

Caufield seems to have a good understanding of what the Canadian represents and the stone he can bring to the building. Even if he is American, even if he grew up having Joe Pavelski as an idol, he quickly developed from the moment of his draft an attachment to the symbolism of the Habs and the impact he has in the community. Caufield said he wanted to continue the Canadian’s legacy and contribute to its growth, aware that he is part of something alive, which was there long before him and which will not end with him either.

Since the intoxicating but somewhat unreal presence of the Canadian in the Stanley Cup final two years ago, the organization has hit a wall and has been forced to make a turn. In other times, it would have been a time when fans would have temporarily abandoned the team while waiting for it to regain hope of success, as was the case at the turn of the 2000s. Caufield is that of a city that expresses unconditional support for the team, even at the start of a reconstruction.

“For me, every night is Saturday, it doesn’t matter who you play against,” he said. It’s a special city and the fans are the best part of it. No matter what happens, their support is always number one. »

It’s not unusual for a young star like him to feel that way. It should be seen as a sign of the times. Several veterans whose presence around the team he said he appreciated could cite Steve Shutt, who said in the 1970s that the fans were always behind the Canadian, “whether he wins or draws”. The appreciation of the game and the effort, but also the measure of success, has changed in the eyes of the youngest generation of CH fans, to the chagrin of those who judge that today we are satisfied with very little. . But it’s this suddenly healthier and less stuffy environment that helps Caufield feel at home here.

Caufield has his shortcomings, he has flaws as a player, but he’s the kind of personality for the times the organization is going through. And we feel happy to play this role. Happy to no longer be the youngster, but rather the one who, by starting his second contract, is ready to assume leadership.

“I put my pride way ahead of any individual thing,” Caufield said. It’s so much fun to be part of this team. »

Unless health problems or an absolute lack of progress in his overall game somehow cancel his offensive contribution, the Canadian should also find his account in this agreement which seemed obvious. Caufield is neither underpaid nor overpaid. He will earn what players of his caliber earn.

Among the small group of wingers who signed their second contract between the ages of 21 and 23 and who opted for a contract of seven or eight years, Caufield becomes the second highest paid of them after Brady Tkachuk. He’s not in bad company.

Long contracts to young wingers

Player

Average salary

Years

Purpose/JP at entry into force

Pts/PJ at entry into force

8 205 714

7

0.30

0.63

7 850 000

8

0.43

0.68

7 750 000

8

0.29

0.68

7 150 000

8

0.23

0.67

7 142 857

7

0.38

0.72

7 000 000

7

0.36

0.80

Given his 123 regular games of National League experience, Caufield was quick to prove himself as a top scorer, and his production average compared to those other wingers, by the time their second contract entered into force, is very revealing.

However, Caufield no longer wants him to stick to the skin of this one-dimensional player label, and he intends to work on becoming a more complete player. Moreover, we knew that he held Martin St-Louis (another of his childhood heroes) in high esteem, but the avalanche of compliments he paid to the one who will be his main guide in the improvement of his overall game illustrates the infinite confidence he has in his coach.

“I think we have something special in the locker room just because of him,” Caufield said. He’s a guy you can lean on, a guy you can go to. I think his way of coaching is very special. He probably has a different style than you see in most teams. He loves coming to the rink every day. He makes it fun, he makes everyone around him more energetic. He knows when to press the right buttons, when to set our butts on fire, things like that.

“And as a teacher in the locker room, he has a lot of impact and the guys listen to him. He has a lot of power in the locker room. What he has is very particular, and the way he manages his daily routine too. I think Marty is going to teach me a lot of things, as he already does, and it’s obvious that he has a lot to do with it (in my success). I couldn’t be more grateful to be part of the organization.”

Caufield is adored, he is successful, he has a coach he loves, his captain has become one of his good friends and he repeats ad nauseam that the team is heading in the right direction. And there he is asked to “tolerate” this situation by making him one of the highest paid wingers in the profession.

We too would smile in his place.

(Photo: David Kirouac/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

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