The Vegas Golden Knights have seen enough from Zach Whitecloud to know they want him to stick around. The team has announced a six-year extension for the young defenseman that will keep him under contract through the 2027-28 season. The deal comes with an average annual value of $2.75MM. PuckPedia tweets the full breakdown:
- 2022-23: $1.0MM salary + $2.0MM signing bonus
- 2023-24: $3.0MM salary
- 2024-25: $2.75MM salary
- 2025-26: $2.75MM salary
- 2026-27: $2.5MM salary
- 2027-28: $2.5MM salary
He may not be the name that draws the most attention on the Golden Knights roster, but Whitecloud is one of the organization’s biggest success stories. Overlooked for basically his entire career, Whitecloud didn’t play alongside other top prospects in the WHL, suiting up in the Manitoba Junior Hockey league instead where he was even cut multiple times. He wasn’t drafted by any NHL team–or even really considered–and was recruited by just one college program, Bemidji State University.
It’s with the BSU Beavers that he started to gain notoriety, and in 2018 after his sophomore season, he signed a three-year entry-level contract with the Golden Knights. He stepped directly into pro hockey and was a dominant performer for the Chicago Wolves, putting up the AHL’s best plus-minus in 2018-19 and then led all defensemen in playoff scoring. The following year he got a taste with the Golden Knights and then played in 20 postseason games with the team. In March 2020, he signed a two-year deal that still paid him just the league minimum.
Now a full-time roster player (when healthy), Whitecloud has rewarded that early faith the Golden Knights showed in him by signing away a good chunk of his career. Six-year contracts don’t often come about for players with just 72 regular season NHL games under their belt, but given his postseason performances and steady development, Vegas obviously believes he can be a long-term piece for them.
Given he’ll turn 25 in November, a six-year deal is buying out four years of unrestricted free agency. It also completely avoids salary arbitration and keeps him in the mix at a reasonable cap number through his prime years. Whitecloud will be in his thirties by the time he hits unrestricted free agency, something that seems a long way off right now.