August 23, 2010
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.
By Ryan Lambert
At this point, all the waiting is getting a little ridiculous.
It's been brought up a few times here and there over the summer, but look how many perfectly serviceable players are sitting around the house, pacing tracks in their living room carpets.
It took Arron Asham(notes) - a tough guy who can beat the hell out of anyone you want him to, act as a generally functional pest and still pot about 10 goals - until August 20 to get signed, even though he wanted to stay with his old team and ended up taking a cut-rate deal with their archrivals. And really, there's no way Asham should be making less than Derek Boogaard(notes), who can't do anything but fight; and these days he doesn't do that well.
But guys like Asham, and to a greater extent, the Kyle Wellwoods and Bill Guerins and Jeff Halperns and Jose Theodores of the world, are the new casualties of the current salary cap environment.
(Coming Up: The wrestling-n-hockey connection in Carolina; Vince Vaughn loves his Blackhawks; 2-on-2 overtime; Bruins lose Whitfield; the Ducks' new duds; Blue Jacket talks tough; the chance of a Marc Staal(notes) offer sheet; Fisherwood strife; an absurd trade for the Flyers; Toronto Sun mockery; Lecavalier out; and Don Cherry's bold predictions for the upcoming season.)
The other day, someone on Twitter brought up to me how many teams spend a significant portion of their salary cap space on a handful of players. According to CapGeek, the Rangers have more than 55 percent of their total cap money invested in five players. San Jose has 54 percent in five guys; Pittsburgh 53, Chicago 52, Washington 51, and so forth.
And that leaves GMs looking for bargains wherever they can be found. Typically, this means they're more likely to give rookies or marginal guys a flyer and hope their star players carry them to a good enough season that they can make the playoffs.
And obviously, that system works. One need look no farther than the Stanley Cup Finals for validation. The Flyers dropped almost $30 million on the players with their highest cap numbers (Timonen, Pronger, Briere, Richards and Gagne); and despite being, in a word, woeful for much of the season, saw that strategy pretty much pay off. Same goes for the eventual champion Blackhawks, who spent big money on their top guys and got plenty of mileage out of them.
But the question is, what does that mean for veterans who can chip in and be very positive players for whatever teams they end up on?
Guys that should be making more than, say, $1.5 or $2 million are now sitting around all summer hoping that someone, anyone will call and ask if they want a job. As was the case with Asham, we saw that at this point they'll take less than market value for their services so long as they don't have to move to Siberia or simply retire.
Kyle Wellwood's(notes) sitting at home and despite all the richly-deserved talk about his conditioning, he can still pop in 12 or 15 goals for anyone that'll cut him a check. Billy Guerin's got something left in the tank, having scored at least 21 goals in each of the last two seasons. Mike Comrie(notes) was on pace for a 25ish-goal campaign but missed about half the year due to injury.
And no one's willing to float these guys a couple million bucks to fill out a second- or third-line role and play on the No. 2 power play unit? All that shows is the deadening of salaries for the NHL's middle-class players. The rich get super-rich (see: Kovalchuk, Ilya) and the less-talented have to fight for scraps with rookies and guys that would, in any other year, be minor-league call-ups.
Basically, what's going to happen with these guys is that they'll all go without a job for a few more weeks, get some calls for a training-camp tryout (the Islanders have already said they'd employ this strategy) and try to "earn" a contract that their play last season would have earned them by mid-July under normal circumstances.
But this is the new salary cap ecosystem in the NHL. And normal has nothing to do with it any more.
What We Learned
Atlanta Thrashers: The Thrashers are close to re-signing talented forward Bryan Little(notes), which is a positive move because he's one of about three good players left on the team. (Ed. Note: Little deal is done.)
Boston Bruins: Well any concern the Bruins had about where they can squeeze Tyler Seguin(notes) into the lineup pretty much went right out the window if they do fancy him as a pivot: Trent Whitfield(notes) is done for the year. That saves the Bruins $550,000 against the cap.
Buffalo Sabres: The Sabres hosted a "Hockey Fest" outside HSBC Arena for kids to come by and play a couple games of street hockey. Judging by the size of the participants in the video, it also appears they're trying to find someone to fill a fourth-line spot.
Carolina Hurricanes: Tristan Patterson, a Republican running for state office in North Carolina, had the gall to suggest that pro wrestling isn't real, and now he's going to wrestle a local promoter. If he loses he also has to renounce his beloved Hurricanes and wear a Devils sweater. I smell heel turn!
Colorado Avalanche: The Avs still haven't signed forward Peter Mueller(notes) despite his already having gotten over the concussion that sidelined him late in the season. Mueller scored 9-11-20 for them in 15 games after being traded from Phoenix.
Columbus Blue Jackets: Marc Methot(notes) on people (rightly) thinking the Blue Jackets will finish at the bottom of the Western Conference: "I love it. That kind of bulletin board material always motivates a guy like me. I like trying to prove people wrong." Well good luck with that buddy.
Detroit Red Wings: Wing assistant GM Jim Nill on the potential of a 2-on-2 overtime: "Too gimmicky." Yes, nods Gary Bettman in agreement. Let's just have a shootout instead. That'll solve so many problems.
Minnesota Wild: The Wild will be giving out commemorative bobbleheads for the 10 members of its All-Time team at different games this season. I hope the Marian Gaborik(notes) one is on a night when they play the Rangers.
Nashville Predators: The Predators say they want to "take next step into elite status." Kinda need someone that can score 35 or 40 goals for that to happen. Fun fact: that's never happened in team history. And it's not like they're gonna actually PAY a FREE AGENT to do it. That would be crazy.
New Jersey Devils: The Devs' two minor league teams are going to play games in Atlantic City this winter. The 600 old people who wander into the rink thinking it's a really cold bingo parlor are going to love it.
Phoenix Coyotes: Derek Morris(notes) doesn't expect to decline next season. Speaking as someone who watched him play a considerable number of games for both the Bruins and Coyotes, I'd have to imagine that's only because it must be physically impossible to get much worse.
San Jose Sharks: Don Cherry thinks the Caps and Sharks will be the two best teams in the league this year. This is a bold, bold statement. (Of course, this link goes to a Toronto Sun article, so perhaps Cherry read a story online about how good the Caps and Sharks are going to be and decided to pass the idea off as his own.)
Gold Star Award
Blades of Steel. I played it a bunch this weekend and it's still fantastic after all these years.
Minus of the Weekend
Perfect HFBoards trade proposal of the week
User "Kips" may or may not be a Flyers fan.
Well, yeah, you've gotta lock that down.