Christian Wolanin hasn't played a game in the AHL for over a month but still leads all AHL defencemen in scoring.
That's how good Wolanin's season was going with the Abbotsford Canucks when he was called up to the NHL. His 55 points in 49 games is still four points clear of the second-place Darren Raddysh, who has also been called up to the NHL with the Tampa Bay Lightning, so won't be passing Wolanin anytime soon.
More than just having a strong season in the AHL, Wolanin has held his own with the Vancouver Canucks since his call-up, capably filling in for the injured Oliver Ekman-Larsson. His performance at both levels led to a new contract with the Canucks: a two-year-, two-way contract that will make him one of the highest-paid players in the AHL.
A two-way contract means a player is paid a different salary at the NHL and AHL levels. Wolanin's new contract pays him a league-minimum $775,000 at the NHL level but he'll still be well-paid if and when he gets sent to the minors, with a $500,000 salary in the AHL.
That $500,000 AHL salary is among the highest for players on two-way deals. This season, only Vinni Lettieri of the Boston Bruins has a higher AHL salary on a two-way deal at $550,000.
Considering Wolanin is the top-scoring defenceman in the AHL this season, he seems worth getting paid like one of the best players in the AHL. There's also a benefit for the Canucks, as his high AHL salary might make other NHL teams balk at claiming Wolanin if and when he goes on waivers.
"Christian has been a key contributor at both the AHL and NHL level this season," said Canucks general manager Patrik Allvin in a press release. "He has developed nicely under the watchful eye of our Abbotsford coaching staff and player development team. This has allowed him to step into his current role in the NHL and show that he can help our team get results."
The two-year deal ensures the Canucks will have a solid depth defenceman at a minimum cost for the next two years, available to step into the lineup in case of injury or potentially hold down a spot on the team's third pairing. With the Canucks already over the salary cap for next season with their contract commitments, having some cheap, capable depth available is going to be essential.
The deal also provides some certainty for Wolanin, who has been battling to become a full-time NHL defenceman his entire career. The most games he's played in an NHL season is 30 with the Ottawa Senators in 2018-19, after which he signed the only one-way contract of his career. There's an opportunity available with the Canucks for Wolanin to stick in the NHL, even if only as a seventh defenceman.