When you look at Bo Byram's two-year, 7.7 million-dollar contract, it's easy to dismiss it as a typical bridge deal. A closer look should allow you to see it as contracting the services of the league's next great defender at a heavy discount for the next two seasons. Moreover, leaving the carrot on the stick for Bo should incentivize even stronger performances and earn him an even bigger contract soon.
It doesn't take more than a glance at his career stat line to feel confident he has more to give. His numbers have grown exponentially with each year of experience, most notably in the GP column. It's no secret that Byram struggled with concussion-induced symptoms early in his career. He has battled back from injury every year he's been a pro. If he matches his PPG production from the 2022-23 campaign but plays 60 games instead of 42, and you prorate that, he'd have finished with 31 points. That would have been enough to rank him 58th among all NHL defensemen. Give him all 82. He'd have finished 30th in points from a defender at 21 years of age.
For Byram, it's not really about proving his ability in favor of earning a big-time and long-term contract as a defender. It's about proving he can be available consistently. If he plays at least 130 of the 164 games over the next two seasons, he will be a lock for plenty of security from his next deal. That's what I'll be keeping an eye on.
Look at it this way: if you want big-time money, you must post big-time numbers, which only happens when you have ample opportunity. Just one member of last year's top-10 defensive point-getters played less than 78 games. That one defender was Cale Makar, by the way.
I know he's a defender, so it is more important to improve in that aspect, but I wonder if that is truly a part of Bo Byram's identity. He can be decent as a defender and elite in production and still contribute and earn. Look no further than last year's Norris winner, Erik Karlsson. I know he's got a lot of growing to do to be mentioned in the same breath as Karlsson, but I don't think becoming a point-producing superstar is out of the cards for young Bowen Byram.
Suppose he does turn into a superstar over the next two seasons and is getting paid a prove-it contract during that same time. In that case, the Avalanche should be able to weaponize that savings and maintain depth throughout the roster. It reminds me of MacKinnon's second deal. MacKinnon had some left to prove in terms of production after the 2016-17 year and thus struck a friendly deal that helped Colorado acquire talent year after year. Now, he's the highest-paid player in NHL history, and the Avs got their 3rd cup in the second-to-last year of that deal. I'd say that worked out for both parties.
MacKinnon bet on himself and came through while giving his organization financial freedom to surround him with depth. That is, until it was his time to sign a more than-deserved contract. Bo Byram has the opportunity to do the same thing. The market and compensation required to garner the services of an elite defender will only inflate over the next two years. Add to that the impending cap increase, and Byram has plenty of incentive to stay on the ice and produce at an even higher clip than last season. I'm here for it.
Let me know what you think in the comments!