Puck Daddy Bag of Mail: Free agency fallout

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Summer can’t start until <a class="link rapid-noclick-resp" href="/nhl/players/4491/" data-ylk="slk:Erik Karlsson">Erik Karlsson</a> is dealt. (Getty)
Summer can’t start until Erik Karlsson is dealt. (Getty)

Despite the fact that we’re now well past July 1, there remains no shortage of intrigue around the league. Buzzards are circling the Senators in hopes of landing Erik Karlsson. Islanders fans are still thrashing around in disgust and anguish over the departure of John Tavares.

And everyone has already begun sizing up potential playoff pictures, three months before the season even starts. Hey, you gotta do something at this time of year.

So as usual, people have plenty of questions about how the events of the last week will affect various teams around the league.

Let’s get after it:

Tom asks: “Is there anything I can look forward to in the upcoming Islanders season?”

Mat Barzal might turn into one of those “worth the cost of admission” kind of guys, but otherwise yeah it’s looking like a long, uncomfortable season for Barry Trotz and Co.

Honestly, I’m not sure this wreck could have been avoided at all, but it was certainly a foreseeable slow-motion car crash.

The Islanders could have traded him, and for all the acrimony like they couldn’t, the guy only had an eight-team no-trade clause. You look at the list of teams, you call the other 22 and say, “Make me an offer.” But Garth Snow kept Tavares around in pursuit of a playoff berth that was never going to happen, realistically, and to save his own job on the off chance that he could keep the guy. That it didn’t happen is entirely on Snow and not at all on Tavares, who always had at least a good chance of leaving.

So the Islanders season is going to be a brutal slog, in all likelihood. But you never know, Robin Lehner could pull a .927 out of his back pocket. That kind of thing happens more than you might think!

Josh asks: “Why give Vanek and Green no trade clauses?”

Because it gives them the ability to say “Don’t trade me to Edmonton,” or some equally undesirable destination where they might not be able to accomplish much, don’t want to live, etc.

If teams come looking for those players, since Detroit will almost certainly be quite bad this year, simply giving them the right of refusal on any trade is not uncommon and would certainly be an enticement for veteran players of that quality. You have to spend money on someone and it’s wise for Detroit to allocate their money to these guys because they can use retention as a bargaining chip and also potentially field more offers.

So if you have to give guys the chance to pass on playing for, say, Carolina, well you’ll probably find interested bidders elsewhere anyway.

Ryan asks: “After missing on Tavares, do you see any other viable impact player the Sharks can acquire to make another run or is it the ol’ ‘stand pat until the deadline’ trick again?”

There aren’t really any impact UFAs left so they’d have to either offer-sheet someone (won’t happen) or pursue someone like Max Pacioretty via trade.

I said it the other day but they cleared so much space and got nothing to show for it, which sucks for them but maybe not that badly, since they’re still a pretty good team (for now) and their division is probably the worst in the league.

What that means for them long-term is a different story entirely but if the worst that happens to them is that they “stand pat until the deadline” I think they’ll be fine in the Pacific specifically.

Matt asks via email: “Given that speed is one of the major assets that tends to go with age, and given that John Tavares has developed an elite game without relying on it much, wouldn’t it stand to reason that that bodes well for his longevity/productivity over the seven years?”

Yeah I’d think so.

He was never swimming in accompanying talent on the Island, which he obviously will be in Toronto, so the fact that he was a pretty reliable 70-plus-point guy bodes well for him to put up those kinds of numbers as he ages into his 30s over the course of this deal.

One wonders how much that actually means he’ll score when he’s 32 or whatever, sure, but as the cap goes up, the cost (in practice) of his $11 million AAV kinda goes down. If this is a guy who’s certainly among the top 10 in the league in points per game over the past five seasons at probably a little less than 1.0 — I just looked it up and it’s 0.98, good for seventh, so I was right again — then even his diminished capacity is going to mean he’s producing pretty effectively.

Unless injuries get in the way, at worst I see him turning into a good (albeit expensive) No. 2 center by the end of this deal.

Dixon asks: “Why is the JVR contract better than Lucic’s or Bobby Ryan’s?”

This is a tricky question. James van Riemsdyk is older than both the guys referenced here were when they signed, so the term (shorter) and money (roughly comparable now) make it a bit interesting.

Not that JVR played with a bunch of stiffs in Toronto, but Ryan’s production with Anaheim was pretty dependent upon the fact that he played a ton of minutes with Getzlaf and Perry. Ryan was also coming off a bit of a down season (23-25-48 in 70 games) but had posted 30-goal campaigns in each of the previous seasons. He didn’t have the same kind of help in Ottawa, and his production dipped.

Worth noting, by the way, that though Ryan makes way too much money for what he brings to the table (if he can stay healthy, which…), but he’s still a solid middle-six guy on any team in the league.

As for Lucic, that contract was a mistake on Day 1 because Lucic was already largely seen as a relic of a bygone age, and had been on the decline since he left Boston.

I’m not a huge fan of the JVR contract but it makes a lot more sense just because they can put talent around him that keeps him productive for years to come, and he’s the kind of guy that is neither ultra-fast nor too slow for the modern NHL. He’s a bit redundant until Wayne Simmonds get traded, but he can play at a level neither of the other guys could.

Brandon asks: “If you’re a rebuilding team like the Rangers do you go after an Erik Karlsson still or continue on in your rebuild without trading assets?”

I don’t really know where this Rangers rumor came from yesterday but it got shot down pretty quickly. I like the question just in terms of what a guy like Karlsson means for a rebuilding team.

Obviously he mega-mega-mega moves the needle for even a rotten team, like Ottawa, so if the Rangers or a team generally in their position could add him, that would be huge.

However, much like the team referenced in the next question, I would urge caution from a team trying to accelerate out of a rebuild by pursuing even top-end talent. Because while Karlsson or someone of his approximate value would probably turn the Rangers into a playoff team, again, to what end? They might be able to fluke their way to a conference final like Ottawa did, but look where the Senators are now.

The Rangers are better off keeping their prospect pool intact and going through a rebuild in the traditional fashion.

Yaya asks: “If all Vegas does with their insane amount of cap space is sign Stastny, where do they rank among free agency losers?”

I don’t think that makes them losers.

They needed to get a guy who could help them and they did, but they’re still not going to be that good unless they can get another .930 season from Marc-Andre Fleury. Which they won’t.

I thought their making the Cup Final might get them to accelerate their internal timeline, and I thought that would have been a mistake, so it’s good to see they’re not doing that. Whether they can sell that to their own fans is a different kind of question, because it’s not hard to see them being bottom-10 even with their first line and having added Stastny.

But they’re a Year 2 expansion team. They shouldn’t be trying to win a bunch of games. They should be stocking up on draft picks and prospects. This is all fine.

Tom asks: “Worse contract for the Pens on Day 1: Scuderi in 2013 or Jack Johnson today?”

Definitely Scuderi.

You can say what you want about the Johnson contract (and it’s very bad) at five years, $3.25 million AAV, for a 31-year-old). But he’s the fifth-highest-paid defenseman on the team. And that number makes up less than 4.1 percent of the salary cap. He’s not a good defenseman but the problem with the deal is the inexplicable term, which will keep him under contract until he’s 36.

Meanwhile Ray Shero gave a 34-year-old Rob Scuderi a four-year contract worth $3.375 million when the salary cap was $64.8 million. That’s 5.2 percent of the cap, for a guy who turned 35 on Dec. 30 that year.

It might not sound like a lot of money, or even a big difference, in today’s dollars, that’s equivalent to $4.14 million — that’s Jake Gardiner money.

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

All stats via Corsica unless noted otherwise. Some questions in the mailbag are edited for clarity or to remove swear words, which are illegal to use.

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