Tuesday, July 1, 2008

It Continues

Last night at 7:01pm, I saw word that Boston had a press conference scheduled for 9:45pm Eastern. It was supposed to be 6:00, then 9:00 and finally it was supposed to be 9:45. My heart sank. This was it. They got Hossa. Larry Brooks was right. All of my railing that Boston couldn't afford Hossa was going to make me look like an idiot.

Instead, the Boston Bruins look like idiots because they gave Michael Ryder 3 years and $12 million. Ryder had 31 points last year, 27 fewer than the season before. He only played 70 games because Montreal scratched him for the entire end of the season, including both playoff rounds. He was a -25 in 06-07.

Ryder was one of the players Rayjean considered taking a flyer on from what we hear. Maybe a bit of reclamation project. $4 million a year for a guy who was a healthy scratch for the playoffs. Good luck with that one, Boston. When you buy out Manny Fernandez and Glen Murray, two other $4 million players, don't let that get you down. I'm sure Ryder will be fine.

Everything so far this morning is just speculation, so let's sit back and wait for something actual to happen. I'm a results man!

9:37am - Some notes on yesterday's mania. I immediately thought the Finger and Ryder signings were just ridiculous and indicative of why Boston and Toronto never compete. I also thought Chicago paid too much for Campbell.
According to this guy's writings yesterday (server deleted), most GMs thought Campbell got too much, Ryder's deal was "an eye opener" and the Finger deal was the worst of the day.

From my own notes, Michael Roszival got $5 million after having hip surgery. For those of you who aren't human physionomists, you need your hip to ice skate.

9:45am - Carolina got Joe Melichar for 1 year and $1 million. They also gave Pitkanen a new deal after yesterday's trade, mostly around $4 million a year. The Hurricanes have a definite plan for their defense, and that plan is bring 19 defensemen to camp and hope 6 of them end up being good.

9:46am - Well, the sky done fell. Hossa is going to Detroit. It's rumored to be a one year deal for $7.4 million. Which...he said he would take less money for play for a contender and he did. He also said he wanted a long term deal. All the scuttlebutt seems to say that playing for Mike Babcock sealed the deal for Hossa. Which...he's never played for him before, so I can't imagine what he heard or saw that was so impressive. Maybe he had his mind blown every time he skated past the Detroit bench in the Finals. I like how Rayjean set his prices ahead of time and is not panicking and giving Michael Ryder $4 million a year, but at some point we need some players. I really, really would like to get Huselius. If Ryder gets $4 million, Huselius is a steal at $4.5 million. Malone got $4.5 million. That's the going rate. I'd like to buy gas for $1.25 a gallon, but I can't.

This is why Rayjean is in charge. I'm panicking and trying to win the Cup next season. Rayjean knows this is a young team that can have many shots at the Cup as long as he doesn't muck up the salary structure. Still, if we did win the Cup next year, maybe we could sign Hossa as a free agent next summer.

Since half of the league was waiting for Hossa before they made their next move, I expect the chips to start falling in a hurry. So much talk about the Pens going retro with either Jagr or Naslund. Jagr would be good, but I have zero faith in Naslund. His game is just flat out gone. Even if Demitra joined his line for his standard 30 games next season.

Now all I can do is enjoy the silver lining that I was right about Hossa not going to New York or Boston.

10:15am - There have been some signings besides Hossa, but all of the Melichar variety. Which is to say, non-Earth shattering. The Flames signed Jim Vandermeer and Curtis Glencross, keeping alive their tradition of having Iginla, Phaneuf, Kiprusoff and 18 grit players. Tampa found out you can sign your own players too and brought back Janne Niskala and Ryan Craig. Craig is now a 6th line left winger with Tampa's other signings. Once they were out of the Hossa lottery, Vancouver signed Curtis Sanford, Ryan Johnson and pocketed the other $7 million a year.

10:38am - Sean Avery got 4 years and $15.5 million from Dallas. This is interesting because the statute of limitations on being able to stand Sean Avery on your team seems to be about a season and a half. Also, Michael Ryder-level money is a lot for Avery. Also also, because he's leaving New York for Dallas and will be playing a lot of West Coast time games, except to hear much, much, much less about Sean Avery next season. He won't be on TMZ.com nearly as much.

10:41am -
Word is, the Pens' final offer to Hossa was 7 years, $50 million. About the same annual money as he got from Detroit, plus six more years. Apparently Rayjean and the Penguins are just as confused and disappointed as you and I are right now. TIOSP had gossip last night that Hossa's agent was pushing for Edmonton, aka, the team that offered the most money. My best guess on this situation - and this is pure speculation - is that Hossa and his agent reached a compromise. Play for a winner this year, go for the money next year. If that's the case, and I am a fairly insightful fellow, I would like to point out to Marian that as a client, he is the boss of that partnership. He doesn't have to compromise with his agent on anything. But again, that's just a total guess from a guy who's able to completely size up people within seconds of meeting them.

If you are a fan of karma or irony, the Penguins will win the Cup this season. If you're a fan of life, you want that to happen!

2:10pm - Went to lunch and when I came back, all of my Penguins friends were bald from pulling their hair out. Let's take a step back, take a deep breath, then take a step forward and slowly exhale. Right now, Rayjean is giving us steel cut oatmeal, fish oil pills and grapefuit juice for breakfast when what we want is two donuts and a latte. It tastes horrible now, it feels horrible now, but in the long run, we'll be better off. Rayjean had a plan coming into July and he didn't panic when things took a different direction. Hossa wanted to play for Detroit, Rayjean wasn't going to break the bank to persuade him. Orpik is going to get more money than Rayjean thinks he's worth and we're not moving off of that. Ruutu wanted three years and got it from Ottawa. $1.3 million a season, right in line with what he made last year and what we probably offered. Rayjean didn't want to go past two years for a guy that can get a penalty called on him for illegal skating and so he held firm. Huselius is looking for $5 million a year and Rayjean thinks he has too much bust potential, so he's not going to overpay.

It's not that we can't afford this players any more. This isn't five years ago. Rayjean is choosing to be wise, not a follower. You didn't like the breakfast analogy? Okay, here's another one to stuff in your shoe. In fawning media coverage, opposing fan backlash and the front office's icy cold heart and steel will to not overpay even their own free agents, the Penguins are a lot like...the New England Patriots. Minus three titles, of course, but the link is shaping up.

Another reminder to calm you down. Petr Sykora wasn't signed on the first day of free agency last season. He practically was an afterthought and he almost had 30 goals. For what it's worth, the day he was signed, I told friends Sykora could score 30 for us. I saw enough of him in Anaheim to know he had an awesome shot and knew how to find creases in traffic. I also realized that he's the type of player that needs to be set up. He's not lugging the mail end to end. And he wasn't getting that in Edmonton, so he demand dropped.

Still, I'm very high on Huselius. But even higher on Rayjean! And look at that! We just signed Brooks Orpik for 6 years, $3.75 per. Brooks had about 10 offers across the league and choose to stay home. I guess he doesn't hate Therrien after all! By the way, Rayjean held the line and signed a defenseman that one-third of the league wanted for the same money Toronto gave Jeff Finger. Have some faith.

Oh! And I almost forgot! We signed Malkin to a 5-year extension. So even though we lost Ruutu, Roberts, Malone, Hossa, Hall and are about to lose Laraque, we still have the two best players in the league. There's a long future for this team. We don't need to make a panic FA signing. If that's not calming you down, go to yesterday's post and look at some of next year's free agents, then realize we'll be well under the cap, unlike Tampa, Chicago, New York and some others. Plus, we're still in the hunt for some big names this season. Calllllllllllm, please.

2:22pm - So much other action. Atlanta signed Ron Hainsey at 5 years, $22.5. Ron Hainsey is actually pretty good, but Atlanta is actually pretty bad. Even with Armstrong, Christensen and Esposito. Still, it was a good signing for Atlanta as they needed a defenseman after trading the young and talented Braydon Coburn for Alexei Zhitnik last summer and then cutting Zhitnik last week.

The Senators signed former temporary Penguin Shean Donovan. He's been in the league for 12 years, believe it or not.

Colorado kept Wojtek Wolski. He's young, so it's understandable that he completely disappeared in the playoffs this spring. Jeff Finger was holding him back.

The Wild kept Kurtis Foster.

2:28pm - Hey! A trade! Since they signed two defensemen yesterday, the Rangers decided to ship out two today. They sent Christian Backman and Fedor Tyutin to Columbus for Dan Fritsche and Nikolai Zherdev. Zherdev is alllllllllll potential. All unrealized potential. He's one of those guys with so much skill that could be so good, but it hasn't clicked for him yet. He's also going to make $3.25 million this season. The Blue Jackets tried him with Nash, they tried with a fellow Russian, Fedorov, they tried putting him on the ice as the only forward in a 1-4 formation...nothing worked. But I'm sure the magical $7 million playmaker, Chris Drury, will be the guy to draw 40 goals out of Zherdev.

Fritsche is fine. Just another energy and grit player. A lot like Callahan, Betts, Orr and Hollweg, who the Rangers already have. If the Rangers let Marek Malik go and resign Paul Mara (their best guy last year), their defense will be Redden-Mara, Roszival-Girardi and Staal-X. Their forward lines will be something like Prucha-Gomez-Zherdev, Rissmiller-Dubinsky-Sjostrom, Betts-Drury-Callahan and Dawes-Hollweg-Orr. For this, they will spending more than the Penguins. Just be glad with have Rayjean piloting the yacht and not the Rangers' brass.

Oh, can I point out that Wade Redden was bad most of last season, absolutely terrible against Pittsburgh in the playoffs and got beaten up by Ryan Whitney, who never fights? $6.5 million a year. Classic Rangers.

3:31pm - The Islanders maybe have signed Doug Weight, one of those rare signings that will have absolutely no effect on the league whatsoever. The Flyers resigned Randy Jones and Riley Cote. Word is, Cote's contract will pay him a bonus of $25,000 for each goal he scores this year, which means he could make up to $0 in bonus money.

Philadelphia is about $3-4 million over the cap, even when you cut out the retired Sami Kapanen's contract. Derian Hatcher and Mike Rathje each make $3.5 million a season. They should start looking for real estate agents.

6:36pm -
The man who knows things says Huselius is going to Columbus. I guess he didn't hear that the Jackets lost Hainsey. Columbus' 4 years, $19 million was just that much nicer than Pittsburgh's rumored 4 years, $16 million. Since we haven't gotten any of the guys I wanted to see us land, I'm fully expecting the next day or two to deliver guys I want nothing to do with. Ruslan Fedotenko and Ladislav Nagy, come on down!

9:02pm - Looks like that's about for Day 2. Sundin and Jagr are the big names still out there and I would love to see some team blow $8 million for 75 points and a playoff vacation from Sundin next season.

TIOSP has a nice item that multiple calls from Penguin teammates convinced Orpik to stay in town.

Elsewhere, Jim Kelley absolutely went off on the free agent deluge. Kelley makes some good points about some of the ridiculous deals that went down and I wouldn't defend Gary Bettman under any circumstances, but the cap and the floor went up this year. There was extra money. The same thing happened in the NFL this spring.

But this NHL spending spree is different from when Bobby Holik getting $9 million signaled the end of civilization because there is a cap in place. If Vancouver wants to give Mats Sundin $10 million a season, that's their problem. They have to manage that for themselves. Kelley cites the papers signed by Campbell, Redden, Rolston, Huet, Malone and Roszival as major trouble, and they are. Not for the league, but for the teams that offered them. New York is probably going to lose Jaromir Jagr because they gave Redden and Roszival so much money after giving Gomez and Drury so much last year. Those are all bad contracts and if those four guys plus Lundqvist don't excel, the Rangers are in trouble for a while. Because of the cap, the Rangers are losing Jagr, Shanahan, Straka, Backman, Tyutin and Avery from last year's playoff team.

There's already talk that Tampa wants to trade Dan Boyle because he makes $6.67 million. That will enable them to afford all of these new forwards, but it will also make Filip Kuba their #1 defenseman and leave them absolutely gaping in net. Tampa will not be good next year and these new contracts will make it hard for them to improve quickly. And if Malone is a bust, my gosh are they in trouble.

Chicago has to figure out how to get rid of Khabibulin before other teams in the league remember that he's not good any more. It'll extra hard to move him because he has a huge contract. That's their fault and it's additionally their fault they didn't line up a move before signing Huet. If Campbell doesn't live up to being a $7 million player, that's a further anchor around their necks. Thanks to the cap, they'll probably lose Lang and Havlat next summer.

Kelley argues that the big market teams are once again able to hoard the free agents from the smaller teams. Except Chicago and Tampa aren't big markets. I mean, technically Chicago is, but they barely had a local TV deal until last year and they definitely weren't selling out the building. Tampa just has rich new owners looking to have some fun. As for New York, you could argue they did the rest of the league a favor by giving Wade Redden $6.5 million. It's no coincidence Glen Sather had his team out of the playoffs for eight straight seasons. I can promise you the conference don't come down to New York vs. Tampa Bay and Chicago vs. Detroit.

On the other hand, Los Angeles is an enormous market and they're owned by one of the richest men in America. He's just more interested in real estate and Christian allegorical movies than his hockey team.

Hey, if Bettman is fired, I'm all for it. And if the salary floor means we have to contract Sun Belt teams, I'm all for that too. But this crazy deals aren't going to hurt the league. When Jeff Finger is a bust, that will hurt Toronto, not Nashville.

Besides, there are some prudent GMs out there that simply refuse to budge off of their budgets. Hello, Rayjean!

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