If I sat here and wrote something psychotic about every idiotic deal that has been signed since the start of the July 1st NHL Free Agency free-for-all I’d never stop writing.
So what did I do instead? I holed up in a bunker while the NHL contract nukes dropped and now that nuclear winter has settled in and things are cooling off (after all the biggest name left to go after is Alex Tanguay), went to New York City to take in some baseball games and now sit here and wait for the NHL schedule to come out so in-season road trips can be planned.
Yeah, it’s hockey’s off-season all right.
What’s particularly special about this off-season is how some teams seem to think the fountain of money is never going to run dry and how the salary cap managed to stay in basic neutral (with some help from the NHL Players Association) despite grim financial stories flying in from around the league’s warmer climes.
Chicago appears to be going for it all in the 2009-2010 season even in spite of having three key young players eligible for restricted free agency next season. An epic contract to Marian Hossa followed up by a potential paperwork snafu that lead into Chicago locking up their cast of restricted free agents this year has made Chicago’s salary cap in the seemingly doomed-for-dropping 2010-2011 season an incredibly amazing storyline that we’re going to have to wait a full year for.
Let’s hope this plays out like an old school Heinz ketchup commercial.
That Matt LeBlanc… He’ll become something someday.
James O’Brien over at Cycle Like The Sedins did an epic, and I do mean epic, job of breaking down Chicago’s hopes and dreams in what they hope is the post-coitus afterglow of the team’s first Stanley Cup since the 1960s.
I’ll give you the punchline of one of James’ scenarios in hopes that it’ll tickle you in dirty places and motivate you to click the link to his full rundown that I’ve so nicely provided for you.
d) So, if the Blackhawks lived in a dream world in which they could rid themselves of Brian Campbell, Cristobal Huet, Dustin Byfuglien and Patrick Sharp …
… while signing Kane, Toews AND Keith to trio of bargain contracts …
They would have five forwards and three defensemen for $30 million. This would give them $20 million to fill (at the minimum) seven forward spots, three defensemen and two goalies. To ice a hockey team, they would have approximately $1.67 million per roster spot.
Without a goalie. Without even two full lines of forwards or defense.
This is if the Blackhawks unload a murderer’s row of idiotic contracts.
Even if this situation played out with the current cap, they’d have $2.16 million per open spot.
And this the DREAM scenario.
How boned are the Blackhawks if Cristobal Huet, Corey Crawford or Antti Niemi can’t carry them to the Stanley Cup this year? “Pretty damn boned” is my amateur in-the-basement assessment.
The one pretty bow I can tie around Dale Tallon’s neck for this incredibly short-sighted and reckless means to win it all is that he’s at least being ballsy enough to say, “Screw it, we’re going for it all and don’t give a damn.” It’s really ballsy, but it’s also epically freaking stupid.
Jonathan Toews is their captain, Patrick Kane is the face of the franchise and Duncan Keith is a borderline Norris Trophy candidate and they’re ALL ripe for the picking next offseason and at least one of them is likely done in Chicago after this season.
That, my friends, is mind blowing.
After all, this kind of stupid isn’t at all like what New York Rangers general manager Glen Sather has done. You know Slats, he’s the guy who just a couple years ago signed both Chris Drury and Scott Gomez to ridiculous virtually identical $7 million dollar per year contracts that don’t run out until the sun goes supernova.
Glen Sather gave Rangers fans hope for all of one day that he had learned the error of his ways when he packaged up Scott Gomez and some never-will-be prospects to the Montréal Canadiens for Christopher Higgins and two semi-stud prospects. Higgins was a restricted free agent waiting to be signed and off went over $7 million dollars per year until 2013-2014 from the ledger.
An unbelievably stupid move for Habs GM Bob Gainey and a brilliant stroke of genius for Glen Sather to pull one over on a savvy general manager in his own right in Gainey.
Then July 1st happened and Sather used all of that new found cap space on a guy who tweaks and twerks his groin more than just about anyone that doesn’t play goal in the league in Marian Gaborik. Goal scoring was something the Rangers severely lacked and they went right out and got themselves a guy that will score in bunches. He’s a legitimate scoring superstar who fell out of favor in Minnesota with the Wild for both not doing what coach Jacques Lemaire wanted all the time and for being an oft-injured bitch that seemed to disappear in the playoffs.
Of course when you’re the only scoring talent on a playoff team that is otherwise offensively neutered it’s not hard to just shut down one guy.
Huh… Maybe the Rangers weren’t paying attention to that. Nor did they seem to pay attention to Gaborik’s games played over the last few seasons in Minnesota. In his last four years Gaborik has played in 65, 48, 77, and 17 games respectively.
When he plays, he’s dynamic – flat out. He’s an incredible offensive talent. Problem is keeping him healthy and if fans in Minneapolis grew frustrated and impatient with Gaborik’s inability to stay on the ice… Well, New York City won’t be rolling out the red carpet for him everywhere.
What’s incredible about this is that Gaborik managed to get an even bigger contract out of the Rangers than the one they gave up in Scott Gomez and one that ends the same year after 2014. If Gaborik’s next five years go erratically with the games played the way his last four in Minnesota have Rangers fans are going to go out of their minds. Thankfully for them the Islanders and Devils have done next to nothing to improve themselves this off-season.
Even more fun for Rangers fans is the fact that the Philadelphia Flyers managed to only get scummier by adding Chris Pronger and Ian Laperriere and reverting to their old side show ways in goal bringing Ray Emery back from Russia and then getting former backup Brian Boucher to back him up.
At least they didn’t lock Professor Elbows up to an obnoxious deal that they’ll never be able to get rid of now that he’s in his waning years.
Wait, they DID do that. From Ken Campbell:
When Pronger signed his seven-year contract extension Tuesday, it was front-loaded the way almost all long-term deals are. The extension kicks in for the 2010-11 season and carries a salary cap hit of $4.92 million per season. Pronger will make $7.6 million in each of the first two seasons of the deal, then is scheduled to make $7.2 million, $7 million and $4 million in the next three seasons before dropping to just $525,000 in Years 6 and 7 of the deal, which are the 2015-16 and ’16-17 seasons.
Now, nobody in the game expects Pronger to fulfill the terms of this contract. With Pronger earning $33.4 million of the $34.45 million in the first five years of the deal, it’s a virtual certainty Pronger will retire after the 2014-15 season.
Under the terms of the collective bargaining agreement, the Flyers would be on the hook for the entire $4.92 million cap hit for each of the next seven seasons regardless of whether Pronger retires or not, because the contract kicks in after Pronger turns 35 (he turns 35 this October). But there is speculation the Flyers believe that since Pronger actually signed the extension prior to turning 35, they might not have to absorb the cap hit if he retires…
But the spirit of the provision is that it governs contracts that kick in when a player turns 35, not when it is signed.
“The league has sent out memo after memo after memo alerting teams about this,” said one former NHL executive. “If this is what they’re doing, they’re trying to drive a 747 through a loophole.”
The league has yet to hear from the Flyers about this and considers it to be unambiguous. And given that Holmgren has said the Flyers are willing to live with the negative ramifications of signing Pronger to a seven-year deal, it might not be an issue.
Whoops. It’s almost as if Bobby Clarke is still the guy running the show there.
I don’t know about you, but I’m ready to just blow through this next season just to see how things go in the NHL. After all, the league that beats them over the head for attention and media glitz and glam, the NBA, just had their salary cap drop by a cool million dollars recently and they’re supposedly awash in cash.
That makes the situation for the NHL, a league without a blockbuster media contract, even stickier and one that bears watching.
Gary Bettman may have been playing the part of Baghdad Bob and saying that everything is OK while we can all see what’s on the horizon, but I will enjoy playing the part of Nero while Rome burns mixed in with my consistent ability to keep telling the Emperor that he’s got no clothes on.