Saturday, July 01, 2006


Canada Day: Free Agent Insanity!!

The more things change, the more they stay the same. The New NHL certainly hasn’t meant an end to old, bad habits. The opening of the Free Agent silly season has seen a whole whack of high-dollar, long-term deals signed which make you wonder what the NHL was ever crying about before? Wasn’t the league in major trouble?

Oh, I guess not, judging by the crazy deals we’ve seen signed in the past 72 hours.

  • Let’s start here in Vancouver, where the Sedinbots got identical 3-year deals for $3.525mil a season. Apparently, they used different pens to sign the contract to be ‘dangerous’. Geez, isn’t this a little creepy? Anyway, the dollar figure is more than fair and expected. Thumbs up!

    What wasn’t expected is the Canucks giving big bucks to Willie Mitchell, who signed a 4-year/$14mil deal to help replace Jovocop. I like Mitchell, I really do. He’s huge and can clear the crease well. The problem is that he’s a guy who puts up very little offense (10-15 points a year) and not far above average overall. $3.5mil a year for a guy like Mitchell is definitely overpaying for the performance they are likely to get. He’s only 29, so the length is no big deal. Still, thumbs down.

  • Besides losing Jovocop (more below), Nolan Baumgartner signed a 2-year dealio with the Flyers. Well, hah to the Flyers. Baumer was a good PP guy early in the season, but his offense dried up and he’s quite poor defensively. He’s certainly better than he was earlier in his career, and a decent option to have as a 6-7 guy, but nothing more. I’m kind of glad he’s gone, because his play in the latter half of the season was atrocious.

  • We now go east to Edmonton, where Kevin Lowe looks to be back to stupid mode.

    Fernando Pisani was a definite playoff hero, but like Dave Lowry, he’s a 3rd line forward now and for always. Would you pay a 3rd line winger $2.5mil a year for 4 years? No, but the Oilers will be. Since when do guys who score under 40 points a season deserve $2.5mil? Well, besides Mike Peca. The simple fact is that guys like Pisani are fairly easy to replace, and that’s why you don’t pay them big bucks.

    Dwayne Roloson was also a hero for the Oilers, and we saw how deadly the Oilers could be when they got some NHL-level goaltending. Still, d00d’s 37 years old and just had his knee popped severely. Kevin Lowe decided to throw caution to the wind and signed Roloson for $11mil over 3 years. Yep, Roloson will be 40 when this contract is done, and is in very dangerous career territory. We’ve seen it before in Ed Belfour where an old goalie fighting injuries can very quickly turn into a poor goaltender.

    Now, let’s see some insane money thrown around

  • Apparently, Todd Bertuzzi’s pleading wasn’t enough to convince Jovocop to move back to Florida, because Phoenix came by with a truckload of money and scooped up Jovo with a $32.5mil/5 year deal. Yikes!!

    I believe Jovo is the type of player who will age well (lean and quick), but d00ds missed 38, 26, and 15 games in the past three seasons respectively. He’s got special skills, but Special Ed got his nickname because of the mental mistakes he makes far too often. Jovocop is not the type of defenseman that you can count on to anchor your defense corp. Mattias Ohlund was always the true #1 during his tenure here, and Robert Svehla was the #1 guy when he was in Florida.

  • The fact that he’s getting the same money was Wade Redden just isn’t right. I understand why Phoenix did what they did, but there’s far too much risk in this deal and I wouldn’t have done this deal myself.

  • Boston…when they decide to actually spend money, they sure like to make a splash. There are like the rich misers who are generally too cheap to buy a new car. When they decide to buy a new car, they spend foolishly and buy a garage full of Ferraris and drive maybe one of them.

    First, they signed Zdeno Chara to a $37.5mil/5 year deal, making him the 2nd highest paid defenseman behind Nicklas Lidstrom. He’s only 29, so the 5 year term isn’t as bad as it could be. If Chara is healthy, he can really be a huge anchor for the Bruins. I just wonder if he can do well on his own. Chara has great support in Ottawa and is notoriously needy on having a mobile partner to back him up. There is a marketing aspect to this deal, so I understand why they did it. This is a much better deal than giving $5mil a year to Martin Lapointe.

    Second, they signed Marc Savard to a $20mil/4 year deal. I am quite surprised that they got a supposed ‘bargain’ on Savard, because I fully expected a guy getting 90 points to clean up in this market. I guess GMs noted how his point totals were pumped up by his linemates and the fact that Savard is very one-dimensional. I don’t think Savard will give the Bruins the kind of impact that they expect, but at least he’s only 28 so 4 years isn’t the killer. The price is, and they are likely to be very disappointed in this signing down the road. Savard is the type of player you don’t mind when you get him cheap, but not the type you want to be spending a huge chunk of salary on. I’d rather have any Sedinbot, and we got them far cheaper.

  • Up to Toronto, where JFJ continues to overpay defensemen with two signings today. Pavel Kubina, who was pretty for the two seasons prior to this one, gets $20mil/4 years and Hal Gill gets $6.3mil/3 years. OK, so 5mil a year for a defenseman coming off of a shaky season and is normally just ‘above-average/good’ and a clod who can’t skate at all gets $2.1mil a season? This is after giving Bryan McCabe a huge chunk of change… yeesh

    So, the Leafs are now paying the Top 4 of McCabe-Kaberle-Kubina-Gill a combined $17.1mil and Mats Sundin $7.6mil That leaves $19.3mil in cap room for 18+ other players.Yep, JFJ is one rockin’ GM eh? Maybe they ought to sign Sean Avery just to really screw things up.

  • Carolina has been very busy patching their roster up, and their latest deals saw them give John Grahame $2.8mil/2, Mike Commodore $2.5mil/2 and Eric Staal $13.5mil/3. I didn’t like the Brind’Amour deal because it was far too long, but all 3 of these deals are A-OK. Commodore has proven himself to be a reliable defenseman and he’s paid a reasonably cheap salary. Grahame can be slotted into a role more suitable to him as a backup goaltender who can play a significant chunk of games while Cam Ward settles into the role of #1 over the long term. Staal has played only2 seasons, but he’s established himself as one of the NHLs best players and will be paid for his expected performance rather than past performance. Thumbs up, overall.

  • Scott Mellanby signed a $1mil/1 deal with the Thrashers. Mellanby is one of the first players that I remember from my childhood, since that Flyers/Oilers series is pretty much the best early memory I have of the game (other than the Lafontaine OT goal against Washington). He’s also one of my faves from when I was a Panthers fan, so I’m glad to see him sticking around.

  • Tyler Arnason gets $950k/1 from the Avalanche, who have a sudden habit of signing players of questionable heart and mind (Turgeon, Brisebois, Theodore). The guy can produce, but you can see why he was signed for just 1 year and for so cheap. He’s the perfect type of guy for this type of deal, because you can hope he’s got the burn in his ass to prove himself and put up some big numbers, hoping for a big future deal. The trick is to not be fooled by his lone good year and then cut him loose after you’ve used him in this matter. It didn’t work for the Avs when they signed Paul Kariya, but the risk is so low.

  • The Ottawa Senators signed Joe Corvo from the LA Kings to a $10.5/4 deal just announced by Sportsnet.

    This is a good deal for them, and he’ll make a decent replacement for Chara. No, he is no Chara, but he put up 40 points last year and played a significant role for the Kings. Corvo has pretty good size and I believe the Sens will be able to help him continue his defensive improvements.

  • Jaroslav Balastik, in the biggest signing of the day (shut up!!!!), signed a one-year deal with the Dinner Jackets for around $550,000. This is the make-or-break year for Balastik, and I’m glad he’s getting another shot. We’ll see if he can make it good during his second season now that he’s had a year to learn the ways of the NHL.

  • ---
    So, what have we learned? Well, GMs aren’t afraid of albatross deals and long-term deals, despite being burnt in the past by them. We’ve also seen defensemen have been signed at a very large premium while forwards are generally being signed cheaper. Teams seem to be valuing good defense more than any other commodity at the moment. Good and average/adequate goaltending seems rather plentiful, so only a guy like Luongo was bound to cash in.

    Sundin's cap hit is much lower, something like $6.2M. I don't have the figures in front of me, but assuming the Leafs RFAs all sign for modest raises (none of them particularly deserve big raises), we'll have about $4-5M to play with to get a winger for Mats, and yeah, that includes the buyout cap hits.

    The CBA doesn't prevent teams overspending on individual players, and was never meant to. It just allows all GMs a more equal ability to do so.
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