On a recent episode of The Athletic Hockey Show, they were discussing Dom Luszczyszyn’s article about the best contracts in hockey. Dom named Matthew Tkachuk’s contract as the best, but some might call that revisionist history after he led the Florida Panthers to the Stanley Cup Final. One of the hosts of the podcast, Ian Mendes, says that Jack Hughes actually has the best contract in the league. The New Jersey Devils signed Hughes to an eight-year, $8 million per year contract in the middle of the 2020 season.
Luszczyszyn did have Hughes second, to be fair. He was pretty weary of the contract at first, but he made it clear the Devils hit a home run with their star center.
"“But under the surface, Hughes was already a superstar in the making with his incredible ability with the puck,” Luszczyszyn said in his piece. “He was a monster-in-waiting, a risk worth taking for a 20-year-old who was picked No. 1 two years prior. The epic point production was coming and in hindsight, the Devils were really fortunate to put pen to paper with Hughes when they did.”"
Now, as we look a few years removed from that contract, Hughes is 22 years old, coming off a franchise-record-breaking season with 99 points, and he looks like he will only get better with time. Hughes had 99 points despite being on a putrid power play. He had 99 points in the first successful season he’s had with the Devils. This was beyond a breakout. Hughes jumped right into superstardom.
Hughes might become a top-five player relatively quickly. He’s already a team leader, and he’s put the team on his back when it matters most. He broke the record for longest shift as he tried to pull the Devils back from an impossible deficit against the New York Islanders. He played more than six minutes in one shift.
Hughes is the type of player who puts his money where his mouth is. He doesn’t care about how much he makes or where he is in the lineup. He will find the best way to win. He’s like Sidney Crosby in that ilk. Crosby could dominate with Chris Kunitz and Conor Sheary. Hughes is doing it with Erik Haula and Ondrej Palat.
The reason Hughes is higher on our rankings than Tkachuk is his premium position (center is second to a right-handed defenseman in importance in our opinion), and the fact he hasn’t hit his ceiling. Tkachuk is probably this for a long time, but Hughes can be so much better than he’s already shown. Can Hughes hit 130 points? He absolutely could. It will not be easy, but it’s in the realm of possibility.
This is a deal that runs through 2030. Think about how that sounds. The Devils don’t have to deal with this contract until 2030. It’s a luxury that makes him the best deal in hockey.