What Shea Theodore’s new contract means for the Golden Knights

The national nightmare has ended.

I have never breathed a sigh of relief as deep as the one last night. It’s ... known that I’m a fan of Shea Theodore. So him signing a seven-year contract worth $5.2 million AAV is, in my opinion, very good. Both for the Vegas Golden Knights and for Theodore.

While there are some questions about this term and that cost in the long run, it has been mentioned that Theodore’s ceiling is very high (think top-pairing, huge part of a contending core) and he’s shown more and more flashes of achieving that over the past season. But he’s not a guarantee because no player is. Just on the Knights’ roster, Griffin Reinhart was a fourth overall pick yet no one saw Jonathan Marchessault coming.

Shea had an incredible first extended season, however. He was the number one scorer on the Vegas blueline in the postseason, scoring 10 points in 20 Stanley Cup Playoff games. Theodore also led Knights defensemen in primary scoring per 60 in both the regular season (.87 primary assists and goals per 60) and the playoffs (.91). All he does is generate points.

With Nate Schmidt out the first 20 games of the season, it was a necessity to get Shea back under contract. George McPhee said the team was always interested in a longer contract, willing to devote years to Theodore. Theo wanted a short bridge deal, but took more cap space, something he’ll hope to earn over the coming years.

He’s not the first defenseman to take a deal like this immediately after his entry-level deal. John Klingberg took an eight-year, $4.25 million AAV deal back in 2015. Roman Josi signed a seven-year, $4 million AAV contract in 2013. With cap inflation, Theodore’s contract is right in line.

It can also be argued that Theodore has that same potential as either Klingberg or Josi — neither of them are the primary defenseman of the future on their team (there’s a reason the Dallas Stars took Miro Heiskanen third overall when they already had Klingberg, Nashville has PK Subban), but both are incredibly important parts of their blue line. They are both also excellent offensively and in the Norris conversation. That’s Shea’s ceiling.

When Josi signed, he was coming off an 18-point campaign in 48 games, paired with Shea Weber. He had .38 points per game and .27 primary points per game (.96 points per 60, .69 primary points per 60 across all situations). Compare that to Theodore — 29 points in 61 games, .48 points per game, .33 primary points per game (1.4 points per 60, .97 primary points per 60 across all situations). Better than Josi.

Klingberg had better stats (though Theodore beat him in shot share and high-danger goal share) but he also had a better puck-moving partner in Alex Goligoski. Theodore had ... Deryk Engelland. The difference is, Klingberg was better with Goligoski than without. Theodore was better without Engelland.

So the money is right about where it should be for the Golden Knights. They’re paying a premium for a young defenseman, but that has been done before by other GMs who could be considered good at their jobs.

Neither Josi nor Klingberg were coming off being the leading defensive scorer on a Stanley Cup Final team, which also boosts Shea’s price point (by the way, the last five years’ players in that position: Drew Doughty and Ryan McDonagh, Duncan Keith and Victor Hedman, Brent Burns and Kris Letang, Roman Josi and Justin Schultz, Shea Theodore and John Carlson. Pretty good class for young Theo).

Theodore should be in contention for a top-pairing position this season, especially with Schmidt out. Even when Schmidt returns, if Theodore can remain a top-pairing worthy defenseman, he’ll be that much closer to reaching his potential.

While his Game 3 performance lingers, he recovered nicely in the two games proceeding. It’s tough to gauge what Theodore’s game looks like after the (extended) summer, but that should become clearer in the coming days.

This is likely lower money than Theodore could have gotten in the long term after a two-year deal, which is what he was reportedly interested in. It also gives the Knights a very affordable long-term deal for one of their most important defensemen, taking him until his age 29 season in 2024-25. All of his prime years should be with the Golden Knights, and that’s a terrific thing.

Now, it will just be about proving that Theodore has what it takes for more than just one good year. He may never be the elite number one defenseman who runs every unit on a team, but if he’s the number two guy, who’s in charge of the power play and drives offense at even strength, and plays controlled minutes on the penalty kill, that may be what the Golden Knights need.

Let the loud sighs of relief wash over Las Vegas. The prodigal son has returned, for what should be a long time.