Mantha putting himself in position for a big pay day with hot start
Anthony Mantha’s hot start has not only propelled the Red Wings to a 2-0 start but could also be the genesis of a career season that could allow the 25-year-old right wing to hit the jackpot at the bargaining table.
After Sunday night’s four-goal outburst in the 4-3 win over the Dallas Stars at Little Caesars Arena, Mantha is tied for the NHL goal lead with five. And his seven points place him second in the league’s scoring race going into Monday night’s games.
Mantha, who was also named the NHL’s Second Star of the Week on Monday, is in the final year of a two-year contract that pays him $3.3 million per season. He’s scheduled to become a restricted free agent next July 1.
And after 24- and 25-goal seasons in 2017-18 and 2018-19 (he had 48 points in each campaign), a standout 2019-20 could double Mantha’s salary with a contract of at least three years, if the deals inked by a few recently signed restricted free agents are any indication.
For instance, after seasons of 48, 49 and 77 points, the Calgary Flames’ Matthew Tkachuk signed a three-year contract worth $21 million. Vancouver’s Brock Boeser signed a three-year extension for an average annual value of $5.875 million after 55- and 56-point campaigns and after topping 30 goals twice with 57 and 66 points, respectively, in his first two full seasons. And Shelby Township native and U-M alum Kyle Connor signed a seven-year extension worth $50 million with the Winnipeg Jets.
If Mantha, 6-5 and 234 pounds, does have a breakout season in 2019-20 and signs a deal comparable to those mentioned above, the reactions of some Red Wings fans would be interesting because he has been criticized for being lazy early in his NHL career.
“The thing about Anthony is he’s a good person who cares and he wants to be a really good player,” Detroit coach Jeff Blashill said after Sunday night’s game. “That has never been anything that I’ve questioned throughout my time with him. He’s also a guy that, when he’s confident, he’s exponentially better, and you’re seeing that right now. … When he skates, he can be a dominant player and the line (with Dylan Larkin and Tyler Bertuzzi) can be real good.”
“His reputation coming out of junior was a big scorer. (On the) world junior team he scored, (at) Grand Rapids he scored,” Larkin said. “He’s always been a scorer. Even here he’s always been a dangerous player. When he’s moving his feet and I’m playing with him, I see him first on the forecheck, and when he’s winning puck battles and doing the little things, that just helps his overall game. When he gets hot, he’s one of the best players in the world. We always knew he had it in him.”
Not only is Mantha using his outstanding shot (two of his goals this season have come on one-timed slap shots), but he is also driving to the net with the puck, which is how he has scored twice, including a spectacular backhand shot while falling in Saturday night’s season-opening 5-3 win over the Nashville Predators.
Mantha is continuing a roll that began late last season when he had eight goals and seven assists in the last eight games of the season. That roll carried into the World Championships in May, in which he had seven goals and 14 points in nine games for Team Canada.
Mantha was then dominant during the preseason.
“Confidence is just there since last year,” he said. “Playing with Bert and Larks, I can’t praise them enough. They’re playing unreal hockey right now.
“How do you get there? It’s playing good hockey last year, playing good hockey at the World Championship, having a great offseason and good camp. And then it just shows off in the first few games.”
The Red Wings made a trade late Sunday night, obtaining 31-year-old defenseman Alex Biega from the Vancouver Canucks for forward prospect David Pope.
… Detroit hosts the Anaheim Ducks Tuesday night at Little Caesars Arena (7:30 p.m.).