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What We Learned: Bad players getting bad contracts from bad teams

Ryan Lambert
Puck Daddy

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Hello, this is a feature that will run through the entire season and aims to recap the weekend’s events and boils those events down to one admittedly superficial fact or stupid opinion about each team. Feel free to complain about it.

There are a few different ways in which bad contracts are given out in the NHL these days.

First is when teams are trying to appear proactive and end up making moves that are actually detrimental to their chances for success in a number of ways. Washington this year falls into that category.

Second is when teams seriously just don't know any better. Toronto seems doomed to live in this kind of void forever.

The third is when teams who know they have no hope of competing are just spending money to get to the cap floor. Calgary and Florida are good examples right now.

Good players can be signed for too long or too much money just as easily as bad ones, but the former is a little harder to accomplish than the latter. I would say that Matt Niskanen, for instance, probably got a few too many years but the right money. Paul Stastny got great term but a little too much money. Mike Cammalleri got too well-paid for too long.

All are players who will help their teams win, but at the price point, or taking aging into account, maybe not as much as those clubs might think. Niskanen isn't going to put up the kind of points he did last year, Stastny is a borderline No. 1 center getting paid like a legitimate one, and Cammalleri is a 32-year-old $5 million second-line wing on a team with more than a few already. They'll do well but probably won't be worth it in one way or another.

Bad players, too, can get bad contracts, and everyone who's paid any kind of attention to the league over the years knows that. There's a laundry list you can go down from this year alone that includes the names Bolland and Orpik and Engelland and several others. Contracts that cannot be logically defended by anyone for any reason.

And it's these that are harmful to the league as a whole. Sometimes if you want a good player you have to overpay. There's no reason to do so where a bad one is concerned; teams really should let someone else take on that deal instead, if it's to be given at all. Knowing who not to sign can be almost as important as knowing who to pursue.

One thing that's often said when teams in the third category — the ones that aren't going to be anywhere near the cap anyway — give out these contracts, though, is that it doesn't matter because they're not likely to face a crunch any time soon. Sure.

People in Calgary, for example, have defended the Deryk Engelland contract by saying that he's undervalued (he isn't), and that they could give him $6 million a season and it wouldn't matter because the team is, as of Sunday afternoon, not even at the cap floor, let alone the ceiling. But that is a remarkably thick way to judge a market; let's say a general manager goes to the supermarket and has $100 in his pocket, but only needs to buy three items. Given that the loaf of bread costs $2 and the dozen eggs cost $3, he theoretically could spend anywhere from $1 to $95 dollars on a gallon of milk. But he shouldn't because the milk's price tag says $2.50, and milk isn't being undervalued. He doesn't know some secret about milk that no one else has figured out that would make such a purchase worth it.

Using another example, Dave Bolland has this new contract, for good or ill (hint: it's ill), that will pay him $5.5 million per season for the next five years, right? Florida is likely never going to be a cap ceiling team so paying a third-line guy that much money doesn't really matter to them.

It does, however, matter to everyone else, and it's part of a domino effect set off by David Clarkson going to Toronto. Guys who are career 40-point guys at best can point to Clarkson's contract and say, “Me too.” That is, essentially, what Bolland did in his alleged demands to Toronto before moving on to get something resembling them from Dale Tallon. He didn't get the max term he probably wanted, but what he got is still crazy. Bolland is frankly better than Clarkson, but if you think he's worth this deal then I have a hockey team in the greater Miami area to sell you.

It's inflationary, plain and simple. It only doesn't hurt the team giving out those contracts because those are the kinds of contracts they need to give out to attract anyone. Florida found this to be true a few years ago when it signed half the mediocre players in the league and ended up regretting most of those deals. Because of deals like this, teams have to pay Cammalleri or Niskanen or Stastny more than they deserve, in one way or another.

So the next time you hear people complaining about why such-and-such a deal for a star player is why the league had to have a lockout, please try to keep in mind that the players aren't at fault here. You accept what the market will pay you, and if it wants to pay you ludicrously, you obviously let it do that. The teams doing this, on the other hand, should be vilified. Doesn't usually work out that way though.

When Orpik doesn't live up to his contract — and he's never going to come close — Capitals fans will make sure he's booed every night, not particularly fairly.

No one is going to boo Brian MacLellan, but he's the guy who deserves it.

What We Learned

Anaheim Ducks: Here's someone arguing passionately in defense of the Clayton Stoner signing, for some reason.

Arizona Coyotes: Don't get this at all. This league is funny a lot of the time.

Boston Bruins: I'm really not sure the Bruins are the clear “team to beat” in the East any more. Pittsburgh has taken a strong step forward already this summer.

Buffalo Sabres: When you're told you fit the present plans of a team that's actively and obviously trying to tank, I'm not sure that's a compliment.

Calgary Flames: Johnny Gaudreau is nominated for an ESPY as college sports athlete of the year. However, he's not sure if he's going yet because his parents haven't given him permission, because they're closely monitoring his workout schedule. Just wonderful.

Carolina Hurricanes: The Hurricanes' big addition this weekend was a two-way AHL center. This is a team that's going to be very close to the bottom of the East.

Chicago Blackhawks: Great headline.

Colorado Avalanche: Well, that's not going to happen. Bye.

Columbus Blue Jackets: The way the Metro has changed this summer doesn't really affect the Blue Jackets' chances for success. They're going to be a strong team in the East. Clearly not better than Pittsburgh and New Jersey probably takes a big step forward, but Columbus is better than the rest of that division.

Dallas Stars: The thing you don't hear a lot about the Stars, given their moves so far this summer, is that their defense wasn't great last season. They have a lot of young guys who might help though. Whether they will, though, remains to be seen.

Detroit Red Wings: In a shocking turn of events it seems the Red Wings might (be forced to) let Anthony Mantha go right from juniors to the big club. That'd be something.

Edmonton Oilers: Leon Draisaitl wants to be in the NHL next season. The Oilers should just sign a decent No. 2-3 center instead. Take a run at Derek Roy.

Florida Panthers: There's a lot of talent on that development camp roster. Man.

Los Angeles Kings: At some point bringing the Cup back to his hometown is just going to become old hat for Justin Williams.

Minnesota Wild: The thing that might hold the Wild back from really competing in their division is the fact that Mikko Koivu and Mikael Granlund really don't stack up against Alex Steen and Paul Stastny, Jonathan Toews and Brad Richards, Matt Duchene and Nathan MacKinnon, or Tyler Seguin and Jason Spezza. Still better than Nashville, though.

Montreal Canadiens: PK Subban officially filed for arbitration. Hope he makes it there. Would love to see how the Canadiens badmouth him.

Nashville Predators, America's Favorite Hockey Team: Olli Jokinen signed in Nashville because he wanted to play for Peter Laviolette and also there's a Waffle House every five miles.

New Jersey Devils: Yeah, teams don't want to sign Martin Brodeur because he's too much of a legend. Not because he's terrible. Makes perfect sense to me.

New York Islanders: Rumor is the Oilers are looking to trade a defenseman, maybe to Long Island, for a center. Why on earth would the Islanders take a defenseman Edmonton doesn't want?

New York Rangers: Summer vacation plans for the Rangers? Everyone's going to arbitration!

Ottawa Senators: Shout out to the people of Edmonton for finally getting it. A great thing to do these days is read all the replies to any tweet Eugene Melnyk makes.

Philadelphia Flyers: And heeeeeere come the comparisons to Mike Richards and Jeff Carter. Yeah, trade Claude Giroux to LA too.

Pittsburgh Penguins: Jim Rutherford is actively talking about how Kasperi Kapanen could make the NHL team right away. That's very interesting.

San Jose Sharks: Still laughing about this one. This isn't how you “rebuild on the fly,” or whatever.

St. Louis Blues: How many times over the next four years do you think we're going to hear that Paul Stastny is a St. Louis native? Over/under is set at a 999,999,999,999.5.

Tampa Bay Lightning: So excited to see Jonathan Drouin in the NHL next season. It's going to be great.

Toronto Maple Leafs: Looks like the Jets might be in the market for James Reimer. They'd actually be good if they had a goalie who's as effective as Reimer, though, so I doubt it.

Vancouver Canucks: I'm so glad this exists. Click on this link. Click on it forever.

Washington Capitals: Barry Trotz seems to be bullying the organization into conforming to his image already. Still think they do a lot better next year because of him.

Winnipeg Jets: Winnipeg media still taking shots at Atlanta. All these years and failures later, and it's the Thrashers' fault. What a world.

Gold Star Award

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Photo by Dave Sandford/NHLI via Getty Images

Photo by Dave Sandford/NHLI via Getty Images

I love that Chicago and Philly are both over the salary cap already (though at least in the Flyers' case that's because they haven't knocked off the Chris Pronger money yet).

Minus of the Weekend

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Another sad look — in a terribly long line of them — at the concussion epidemic in sports. Lots of good stuff about hockey in here.

Perfect HFBoards Trade Proposal of the Week

User “SFD22” is bout it bout it and rowdy rowdy.

TO TOR: B. Schenn + L. Schenn

TO PHI: Kadri + Franson

The world would explode.

Signoff
Move off explosives.

Ryan Lambert is a Puck Daddy columnist. His email is hereand his Twitter is here

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