Tuesday, March 27, 2007


NHL's Bargain Boys: Andrew Brunette

by Jes

Most bargains in the NHL come in the form of superstar youngsters, such as Sidney Crosby and Alexander Ovechkin, who are signed to entry-level deals and have yet to cash in on the big contract, or other young player players who haven't quite made the leap and are still rather cheap.

With the advent of increased free agency, finding a veteran bargain is going to be more important to clubs faced with cap restrictions.

Enter in Andrew Brunette, who skates slower than Rosie O'Donnell chasing a Chihuahua up a staircase, and makes a whopping $800,000 US a year.

After 3 decent seasons with the Minnesota Mild (164 points in 245 games), the offensive-minded winger wasn't finding a lot of love on the free agent market. Slow skating, pillowy soft giants who don't put up huge numbers can sometimes have a hard time finding a good home (ask Jason Allison and Oleg Kvasha about that some time).

Alas, Brunette had to settle with the Avalanche, who were one of the few teams interested in his services, to the tune of $800,000 a year. Yes, even Jan Bulis makes more than that, and he has far less of a track record behind him. It's not like the Avalanche was banking on Brunette to be more than a decent 2nd liner that they could plug onto a team facing some cap issues, so the signing didn't get much attention.

What the Avalanche got was a tremendous bargain, and a player that has meshed perfectly with Joe Sakic. As it stands right now, Brunette is 20th in league scoring with 25-51-76 in 75 games. Contrast that with Markus Naslund and his $6mil salary, which has produced 55 points in as many games.

Chemistry in hockey is a funny toy, and sometimes the right combination can turn an average player into a star. Remember the old Czech unit of Hlavac-Dvorak-Nedved for the Rangers? Hlavac and Dvorak were rather useless as offensive players in every other situation, yet found the magic with each other.

Brunette has been the perfect foil for Joe Sakic, as Andrew passes the puck well, goes hard to the net, and is good at finding open spaces in the offensive end.

Brunette has also been durable, with 3 complete 82-game seasons to his credit, and 2 81-game seasons as well. For what the Avalanche are paying the guy, they are getting both production and a reliable name to slot in the lineup each and every night.

Just think about it: Signing Brunette for peanuts allowed the Avs to spend over $5mil year on a luxury backup goaltender. Nice!

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Saving money on guys like Brunette, Stastny (for now) and Budaj is pretty much all the Avs have going for them at this point.
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