Sunday, June 10, 2007

The off-season

In terms of hockey news, there really isn't much of an off-season anymore.

The NHL Awards are on Thursday. The draft comes up a week later on June 22-23 in Columbus. And then, of course, is the mammoth trip to the free agency trough on July 1, which this year with a cap figure hitting the $50-million mark will be it's usual old self — hockey's version of the sin of gluttony.

I guess the only question is: When do you start pumping out the free agency speculation? The 'who goes where?' business is going to be unbelievably complex this year, as by my count there are 110-120 significant UFAs, or roughly 20 per cent of the league, up for grabs.

That's a group made up of around 60 forwards, 40 defencemen and 10-15 goaltenders who can make an impact on a roster, and with teams like the Islanders with only $20-million committed to their payroll, it could get messy.

In an expensive sort of way.

The Grade A free agents — J-S Giguere, Chris Drury, Daniel Briere, Scott Gomez, Ryan Smyth, etc. — are going to be due anywhere from $5.5- to $7.5-million, and with the individual max set for $10-million, we could see figures even higher than that. I've heard figures in the neighbourhood of a seven-year, $49-million contract for Smyth in Long Island, and that's the type of deal that would get done early and set the bar high.

There's a team that is looking for the next face of its franchise, and given past history, a ridiculous term is the only way to go.

As long as you don't mind buyouts.

Other than a week-long hiatus in the week leading up to the draft, I'm should be around most of this summer. Just when we start wading into this free agency frenzy, however, I'm not sure.

One thing's for certain: Fans of the 28 teams who weren't in the finals have suddenly perked up, and there's actually more demand for hockey news now than there was last week during the Anaheim-Ottawa tilt.

It's a curious thing when interest in the NHL actually dips during the pinnacle of the on-ice action — and peaks when everyone's throwing money around.



At 10:25 p.m., June 10, 2007, Anonymous cjl said...

$9 to 10 million seems an awful high number considering the lockout and associated rhetoric, but then I remember what the NHL owners are all about, so I bet someone gets $9 mil or more per season. Who will it be, though?

James, maybe you want to set up a pool for which UFA gets there first? I choose Drury.

At 8:32 a.m., June 11, 2007, Blogger Matt said...

You think it's bad now? Just wait until someone throws a max offer sheet at Crosby and the Penguins have to pay him $12 million a year because the cap's up to $60 million.

At 8:32 a.m., June 11, 2007, Blogger Matt said...

When his entry level deal is up, of course, not now. ;)

At 10:25 a.m., June 11, 2007, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Sidney will take a hometown discount according to "The Hat" in order to ensure that the other Staal and Malkin can be signed as well and so that they can also sign Carey Price to replace Fleury when Price becomes an RFA in three years.

At 10:48 a.m., June 11, 2007, Blogger Matt said...

Anon, that means NOTHING if another team gives him a max offer sheet. If the Penguins don't match, they lose him. It's that simple.

Has nothing to do with a hometown discount. I'm sure that he would take one for his initial offer, but what's going to stop the other 29 teams from offering the max and forcing the Pens to pay him that?

At 11:06 a.m., June 11, 2007, Blogger El Brucio said...

110 to 120 significant UFA's? I suppose if you consider the likes of Radek Bonk, Martin Skoula and Jamie MacLennan significant, than yes...

If Giguere re-ups before July 1, the goaltending market completely switches to trade mode and I think we will see a couple of trades happen. Guys like Garon, Weekes, Aebischer, and the even too old for Toronto goalies really aren't that desirable of options and the teams that need goaltending will seek out other options.

This summer is actually a pretty week UFA pool... which is very good news for Briere, Drury, Timmonen, Smyth and Gomez.

At 11:39 a.m., June 11, 2007, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Do you think the Sergei Samsonov disaster in Montreal will keep some teams away from the "Plan D" free agents this year?
It was hilarious earlier this spring when Don Meehan's right hand man and I can't recall his name was threatening Montreal about Mike Johnson saying something along the lines of "Mike wants to play in Montreal and there aren't many players that do"
Yeah Mike, there's a lot of guys that want to play in Montreal currently in Hamilton willing to provide the same contribution at a fraction of the cost.
This year we'll see top dollar for the premium free agents while the bottom feeders that are hanging on might get minimum wage or an invite to training camp.

At 12:50 p.m., June 11, 2007, Anonymous Anonymous said...

The smart strategy would be to stay away from the stupid bidding wars surrounding players like Drury and Smyth, give yourself some cap room, and then add players after Christmas as struggling teams look to dump pending '08 free agents. Samsonov's wasn't the only bad contract last summer -- do you really think the Coyotes are happy to have an injury prone Jovanovski under contract for the next four years at $6 million per? The next full season that guy puts in will be his first. Also look at Vancouver and the salary cap jail they are in with Naslund and Morrison consuming about $9 million in cap space between the two of them.

The true sign of the apocalypse will be when Ryan Smyth, a great guy but not deserving of a rich, long term deal, will get precisely that out of someone. Teams will eventually learn that long term deals are deadly under this new CBA, but that lesson hasn't been fully absorbed quite yet.

At 6:02 p.m., June 11, 2007, Anonymous Anonymous said...

What if Washington has enough cap space to offer Crosby a max deal, and they still have Ovechkin?

Will they really need any other forwards, or could they just throw out a bunch of guys wearing the same clothes?


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