Tuesday, June 15, 2004


A 'Primeau' Price for a Checking Center

The impending CBA doom and gloom hasn't stopped the Flyers from opening up the Comcast vaults.
Keith Primeau has agreed to a new 4-year deal with the Flyers that will see him earn $17 million over 4 years (4.5/4.5/4/4), and, according to Michael @ Confessions of a Hockey Fanatic, ex-Canucks prospect R.J. Umberger has followed the money and also signed with the Flyers.

Primeau - Much hub-bub has been made over the fact that Primeau took a paycut (He made $5mil last year), especially considering the previous insane free-agent contract given to Robert Holik, and the fact that Primeau was a greedy holdout in the past.

Given today's economic climate, it shouldn't be all too surprising that Primeau and other UFA's will be taking some form of pay cuts or signing 'lesser' deals than they had in the past.

Still, how could $4.25mil (averaged) a season be considered much of a sacrifice on Primeau's part? Primeau will be paid well for the decline phase of his career (He will be 36 when this contract is over), and none of the years are 'options' on the part of the Flyers.

Primeau is a guy I'd normally like on my team, but there is no way that I would pay that kind of money to a guy that scored 7 goals and 22 points in 54 games.

Of course, the Flyers paid for the 'intangibles' and character traits such as leadership, defense, size, and physical presence.

According to Bob Clarke, "Now that we have signed Keith it means that we can start filling in the other places. I don't think you have any chance of being good without top leadership and Keith is a great leader on this club. The players that are around him respond to Keith. His on-ice performance was obviously above anybody else in the playoffs. Had we made it to the Stanley Cup Finals he would probably have won the Conn Smythe Trophy as MVP of the playoffs."

Sure Primeau had a great playoff run, but that type of production cannot be counted on again in the future. In the previous 22 playoff games before this year, Primeau had a whopping 1 goal and 5 points. Given his major decline in regular season production, Primeau is no longer a good offensive player, and the Flyers are definitely paying a high price for a big checking center.

The fact is, only a 'High Revenue' team like the Flyers could afford to pay this kind of premium for a checking center without the contract seriously hampering their ability to be competitive in the long run. If a team such as the Oilers had given Primeau kind of dough, it would have hampered them in keeping other good or better players around.

Now if the NHL manages to get some kind of salary cap system installed, the Flyers may very well regret this contract down the line when Primeau is playing on the 3rd line and providing his current level of offense.

Of course, comparing this deal to other ones, you could look at this contract as a glass half-empty/half-full deal:

Robert Lang - $5,000,000 per season - One of my personal favourites, Robert Lang is a good 2-way center who was an offensive force last season with the Capitals and Red Wing$.
Lang produced 30 goals and 79 points in just 69 games last year, and his offensive production has been great the past few seasons.
Like Primeau, Lang is a big and powerful centerman, although unlike Primeau, Lang does not play a 'power' game, but instead uses his size to his advantage for purely offensive gain. In the end, Lang provides a much better value for about the same money.

Todd Marchant - $3,000,000 per season - Coming off of a 'contract' year in 02/03, where Marchant put up an outlier performance if 60 points in 77 games, Todd returned to Earth in 03/04 with 34 points in 77 games.
Like Primeau, Marchant is generally a checking center with decent, but limited offensive skills. While Primeau is a powerhouse, Marchant is a speed merchant.

Many thought Marchant was overpaid by the Bluejackets, and he probably was, so does Primeau really deserve $4.25 mil a year?

Really, Primeau and Marchant are quite similar in their roles and effectiveness. But, nobody held a gun to Bob Clarke's head, and the Flyers were obviously willing to pay Primeau the primo bucks because they simply can.

RJ Umberger - Now here is a story that makes me ill.
In his 2 years as a Canucks prospect, he consistantly held out for his millions, despite the fact that he never played 1 game in the NHL, and never proved he deserved such a rich deal.

In his time since draft day, RJ played one rather mediocre NCAA season, and then sat out the entire year, expecting a big pro contract from the Canucks. Sincehe hired an agent, the Canucks had the leverage as Umberger couldn't go back to the NCAA.

Well, the Canucks traded his rights to the Rangers, who surprisingly couldn't find any money in their huge vault to sign Umberger.

Enter the Flyers, who have no trouble throwing around money like the Miami Heat at the Gold Club.

Umberger may turn out to be a good player, but I have my doubts. Players like him as really a 'dime a dozen', and he'll likely make it as a role player at best. In the end, Umberger will lose out by missing a year of crucial development in any league, while the Canucks will lose out for wasting a 1st rounder on the guy.

Money - Makes happiness doesn't it? :)

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