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Throwing Money At UFAs Doesn’t Work

from Eric Duhatschek of the Globe and Mail,

Two years removed from a Vezina Trophy season, goaltender Ryan Miller looks completely lost. Ehrhoff got all that money because he scored 50 points for the Vancouver Canucks last year, tied with Dan Boyle and Kris Letang for seventh among NHL defenceman. This year, he’s been hurt and is nowhere to be found in the top 20. For his last seven years in Calgary, Regehr was always a plus player, someone who adapted pretty well to the “new” NHL, even if he wasn’t the most mobile of rearguards. This year, he’s a minus-13. Leino, who thrived in Philadelphia largely because of a nice fit on the line with Briere and Scott Hartnell, hasn’t found any chemistry with anyone in Buffalo - and 10 points in his first 35 games is the result. Leino’s play with the Sabres is reminiscent of the 55 games he played over two years for the Detroit Red Wings, breaking into the NHL, when he managed just 16 points. As for Brad Boyes, who was picked up at last year’s trading deadline as a salary dump by the Blues, he has been the same maddeningly inconsistent player that has seen him drop from the career high 72 points he recorded in the 08-09 season to just 11 in his first 33 this year.

It’s a mess and cleaning it up is going to be a challenge because of a lesson that every GM with money to burn eventually realizes - the free-agent premiums you pay to sign players on July 1 will come back to haunt you eventually. Strange how roles reverse. The Sabres’ New York state rivals, the Rangers, finally figured that out. They now operate the way the Detroit Red Wings do - with judicious free-agent buys (Brad Richards, Marian Gaborik) supplemented by a whole lot of homegrown talent (just about everybody else on their NHL roster). The Sabres, meanwhile, take a page out of the Rangers’ old operating manual and it blows up in their faces.

more and other topics include, players escrow, the Leafs and the Bruins…

Filed in: NHL Teams, Buffalo Sabres, NHL Talk, | KK Hockey | Permalink



Briere and Hartnell were UFA’s, and one team’s judicious UFA signing is another’s albatross. Once players hit free agency they will be paid a premium for their services. Whether that risk is worthwhile (and hence, the broad strategy of allocating dollars/cap space to signing players) is not demonstrated by cherry-picking examples, especially for just one season.

It makes for an overly simplistic narrative. Having players familiar with a system and their teammates is a positive. Having younger players under favorable contracts is a positive. How exactly you blend the two—who you acquire and when—is the challenge, and deserves real analysis.

Posted by Dave on 01/20/12 at 05:54 PM ET


It makes for an overly simplistic narrative.


“Throwing money” isn’t the problem, the problem is when an owner or GM feels like he needs to make a spash and throws too much money at the wrong UFA (see: Leino, Ville and Wisniewski, James).  Christian Ehrhoff falls under that umbrella as well, but he’s also missed 10 games this season, which will skew some of his numbers.

And frankly, when you use a signing that’s a 9-year deal with the player making $24M over the first two years as an example of a judicious signing, how are you supposed to be taken seriously?

Posted by Garth on 01/20/12 at 06:14 PM ET

MsRedWinger's avatar

Makes the Wings’ signing of Ian White look pretty damned brilliant - which it was.

cool smile

Posted by MsRedWinger from the State where Tigers roam in the Spring on 01/20/12 at 07:28 PM ET

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Paul Kukla founded Kukla’s Korner in 2005 and the site has since become the must-read site on the ‘net for all the latest happenings around the NHL.

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