The aftermath of Marian Hossa's signing with the Chicago Blackhawks yesterday is more astonishing than the actual deal. Like, for example, how some believe Chicago Blackhawks management went from the smartest guys in the room to a collection of blithering, Milbury-esque dopes on free agent day; or, in Martin Havlat's(notes) case, disloyal insult artists.
First off, to state the obvious: Chicago GM Dale Tallon isn't infallible. Last summer's Brian Campbell(notes) contract ($7.14 million cap hit until 2016) has made one of the fastest defensemen in hockey immobile from a trade perspective. So there's no rubber stamping the Hossa deal just because the Blackhawks' braintrust, a.k.a. "The Men Who Saved Chicago Hockey," orchestrated it.
That said, this notion that Tallon rushed into the Marian Hossa(notes) deal with little consideration for next summer's trio of free agent headaches -- Patrick Kane(notes), Jonathan Toews(notes) and Duncan Keith(notes) are all up for restricted free agency -- is just preposterous. It's comical. It's armchair GM'ing at its worst. Yes, he'll have to work a little magic. But to claim he couldn't see the expiring contracts through the trees is just fantasy land analysis.
Coming up, the Hossa fallout, and some really startling news about Martin Havlat and from Los Angeles Kings GM Dean Lombardi.
First, on Hossa and the Blackhawks -- Take it away, the ever-dependable Alan Muir of Sports Illustrated:
Adding a player with Hossa's skill set for just $5.166 million per year (Ed. Note: TSN has it at $5.23 million) makes the Hawks a more formidable team over the short term. But the deal makes you wonder if Dale Tallon has completely lost sight of the team's future.
Don't get hung up on the duration. That's what keeps the cap hit reasonable. But even if the durable forward comes in at a decent value, this deal could come back and bite the Hawks hard next summer.
Remember, the contracts of Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane and Duncan Keith all expire after next season, setting up Tallon for a troika of tough negotiations. Best case -- and I mean absolute pie-in-the-sky -- scenario: he gets the trio for something in the range of $15 million per year. Add that to about $36 million that's already committed to just nine players plus the likelihood that the $56.8 million salary cap will shrink significantly, and it looks like Tallon has painted himself into a very tight corner with this deal.
And yet he made the deal, saying this to the Chicago Tribune: "We took that into consideration ... The type of contract Marian has agreed to will not influence our core."
The core is the key. It's the best negotiating ploy Tallon has: Here are 5-7 outstanding hockey players who have a chance at the Stanley Cup; adjust your salary expectations accordingly. Despite initial blasts against this deal from Detroit Red Wings fans (cue Snapshots) and some bloggers, Tallon isn't signing Hossa to lose either Kane or Toews or Keith. That's insanity. Tallon made this Hossa deal knowing its implications financially, knowing its potential impact on the roster.
But more to the point: If the choice is Marian Hossa at $5.23 million on the cap for 12 years (*cough*notachance*cough*) or a fragile Martin Havlat at $5 million for six years (which is what the Minnesota Wild gave him), it's a no-brainer. Even if it means shedding someone like Dustin Byfuglien(notes) and his salary at some point. Tallon wanted the best, he got the best; and it wasn't at Campbell money.
The Hossa move is a shrewd investment, and elevates the franchise even higher than Tallon and Co. already have. From Commit 2 The Indian:
Now like Campbell, Hossa will probably be hammered at times for not living up to his huge contract by the fans and the press, but just like Campbell, I expect that the actual knowledgeable fans will appreciate that he was well worth the price paid, especially when you factor in that the Hawks didn't lose any talent in acquiring him. Both guys are veterans who have rare skill sets and make their biggest impact when it matters most. A lot of money, a lot of years, but the Hawks will be successful because of it.
Now, about Havlat, whose contract with the Wild includes a no-movement clause: We previously blogged about his bitter thoughts on leaving the Blackhawks. Today, his agent is revealing why his client was a little perturbed. From Allan Walsh's Twitter feed:
"Havlat received multi year offers from several teams...except Chicago. After 3 months of negotiating a long term contract, Chicago would not offer anything more than a 1 year deal. So much for taking care of the team MVP."
Disloyalty? Perhaps. It could be successfully argued that Havlat earned something longer with his effort this season. But what would have been fair? Three years at a high salary with a no-movement clause? The six-year deal the Wild offered him? It's hard to slam Tallon for putting the Blackhawks in an awkward situation against the cap next summer with the Hossa deal, yet argue that Havlat -- not nearly Hossa's equal, in numbers or durability -- should have been re-signed under any circumstances.
It's business. Wondering what sort of sympathy Hawks fans are having for Havlat on the day after? Second City Hockey had this:
Simply put, the Hawks acted as a business, which is exactly what they should do. They gave the better player, the more durable player, the long-term deal they no longer felt they could trust to Marty. Because this group under Rocky and McD has done its best to act in the classiest manner possible, I doubt this will ever get into a he-said-she-said slap fight. The thought of Havlat rolling into the UC twice a year with a chip on his shoulder gives me nightmares, but the Hawks made the right decision.
Finally, Dean Lombardi continues to be one of the most candid general managers in sports when it comes to pulling back the curtain on negotiations. He spoke with Rich Hammond of Inside the Kings and spilled the beans on his team in the Hossa hunt:
Question: Can you go through the day, and talk about anything you might have been close to getting done?
LOMBARDI: "Obviously we went into this for wingers. Like I've said, it's one of the positives of being in our situation now, as opposed to three years ago, when we were looking for everything and signing seven guys. The No. 1 guy we targeted was Hossa. I got permission to talk to Hossa at the draft. There were three teams, us and two others. Detroit gave me permission, and we started the dialogue at that time. Detroit, if he got signed, they would get compensation. We met with his agent there, at that time, and he was interested in L.A. He said he thinks we could be the next Chicago. But he said, 'That's down the road,' and that's fair, that's realistic. He said it was important to go to a 100-point team. I said, 'I don't know if we can guarantee that, but you're the type of player we're prepared to commit to.' He was the one player we thought was a top player. I don't know that he's a 'mail carrier' type guy, but he's still a top player.
"That dialogue continued until July 1. He was throwing (contract) numbers out there, but it was very vague in terms of numbers. We talked again last night and I got the sense that this was probably going in a different direction. I said, `What would it take?' but we never really got an answer. I think he had his eye on something else already. We thought it was Boston. He told us this morning that it was probably unlikely that he would come here. It wasn't really the 12-year term that got us out of it. It never got to that point. Part of this is that you're frustrated, but the other part is that you want guys like that. I've always said you want guys who want to win first. And you look at Chicago, where they've come in the last seven drafts and where they're at. Chicago, it took six years; we're three years in. That's the process they went through, and then they broke through. We're hoping that if we break through like they did, we can compete (for players) at that level. We were prepared to talk about the cash and the 12 years."
Wow. Got all that?
Lombardi had plenty more to say about free agency, including the Kings sniffing around Mike Knuble(notes) and why they decided not to "roll the dice" on Havlat or Marian Gaborik(notes). Incredible stuff.
But again, to reiterate: Lomdardi thought Hossa "was the one player we thought was a top player."
So while the rest of the hockey world screams to the heavens about how the Blackhawks can't afford Cam Barker(notes) anymore, Dale Tallon can rest assured that he landed the most coveted player on the market.