Morgan Rielly's deal looks even better now in comparison to Jake Sanderson's massive overpay

Mike Armenti
September 7, 2023  (9:32)

There are still plenty of wide eyes and dropped jaws following last night's announcement that Senators defenseman Jake Sanderson had inked an 8-year extension in Ottawa, which will pay him a staggering $8.05M per season, beginning in 2024-25.

The extension comes following Sanderson's first NHL season, in which he dressed in 77 games, producing just 4 goals and 32 points. We know that Sanderson is a high draft pick and a solid prospect, but this one still seems risky, as it can be very tough to gauge how a defensemen will project out at such a young age.
Sanderson's contract does one thing for the Leafs, however. It gives us a glimpse of just how much of a discount Morgan Rielly really took on his 8-year, $60M contract, which Rielly signed back in October of 2021. Sanderson's AAV comes in $550,000 higher than that of Rielly, who carries a $7.5M cap hit throughout the duration of his deal.
At the time that Rielly signed his deal, he had already had a 52-point and a 20-goal, 72-point season under his belt. Yes, the cap was a touch lower than it will be when Sanderson's new deal kicks in and yes, Sanderson has a chance to produce a 50-point season this year before his new deal kicks in, but the point in all of this is that Rielly was already a proven commodity when he inked his deal.
The Maple Leafs have often been viewed as the team who likes to throw money around carelessly. However, if the salary cap had gone up as expected had COVID never hit, the Marner, Matthews and Tavares deals probably wouldn't have ended up looking as problematic as they do now - especially with how the Leafs have handled working around the edges and finding discounts elsewhere on the roster.
With the Senators, however, they continue to throw big money at players who still have a lot to prove - and there are plenty more on the way. Shane Pinto is still a restricted free agent and will need a deal before the season begins - though a bridge is more likely there. Other prospects, such as Ridly Greig, Jacob Bernard-Docker and Lassi Thomson are also coming due for new deals over the next couple of seasons.
I see some celebrating Pierre Dorion on social media for getting out ahead of this one and signing Sanderson now before his value increases. In my mind, there's just as much reason to criticize Dorion for handing out big money before a player proves anything. That's a significant commitment for a player who could just as easily crash and burn during his sophomore season and post another sub 40-point season with concerning underlying numbers.
The question here is, is this a case of Sanderson being overpaid or a case of Morgan Rielly simply putting his team first and taking a substantial discount, as a proven commodity, to try to win now? Honestly, it could be both.
Morgan Rielly's deal looks even better now in comparison to Jake Sanderson's massive overpay

Is this comparison a case of Sanderson being overpaid, or Rielly taking a sweetheart deal to try to win in Toronto?

Sanderson is overhyped and overpaid4735.1 %
Rielly just took a sweetheart of a deal3626.9 %
Maybe a bit of both5138.1 %
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