At first glance, it's hard to say Nicklas Backstrom is underpaid, considering he just signed a 10-year contract. At the same time ... well ... he kind of is underpaid, considering, at 22, he's already one of the five best offensive players in hockey.
SB Nation's hockey blog From the Rink agrees. Mike Chen takes a look at several similar players and makes this conclusion.
Did Backstrom give a bit of a hometown discount? It seems like based on the four guys listed above, Backstrom could have received more. And the other thing to keep in mind is that Backstrom is foregoing his second contract extension, typically given in the 27-29 range -- that's where players really break the bank. Perhaps the new unofficial ceiling for star players not named Sidney Crosby or Alex Ovechkin is $7 million. That seems to be the case for recent extensions involving young players after a few good years.
The part about the second contract is the key here. Non-hockey fans might freak out at the 10-year contract, but as Chen notes, that's what it takes to keep talent in the NHL. Considering the Capitals won't have to deal with Backstrom being a free agent when his market value is likely to be highest, it was worth it to lock him up.
For his part, Backstrom was pretty sensitive about the subject in today's press conference, as noted by Tarik El-Bashir.
"I don't want to answer that," Backstrom said when asked if he accepted less money for the stability of a decade-long deal. "I am just happy to be here."
Pressed on the subject, he added, "I think this was the fair value."
I feel for him. It's a tough question to answer, especially when the press conference is supposed to be his coronation.