When Niklas Hjalmarsson signed an offer sheet with the San Jose Sharks, it was clear that Chicago would have to further reduce the number of remaining Blackhawks from their 2010 Stanley Cup winning team. Gone already were Andrew Ladd, Ben Eager, Dustin Byfuglien, Kris Versteeg, John Madden, Brent Sopel, Colin Fraser and Adam Burish. Cristobal Huet is presumed demoted to the AHL to save salary cap space. That huge list of players who are gone wouldn’t be enough. When Antti Niemi was given a $2.75 million arbitration award, it was clear that he would be the player gone. Chicago would try to defend their Stanley Cup championship with neither of the goalies who took them there.
Instead, the Blackhawks relied on the glut of unsigned UFA goalies to bring in Marty Turco on a one year $1.3 million contract. Their backup will presumably one of Corey Crawford or Hannu Toivonen.
Last year Peter Regin a rookie with the Ottawa Senators scored 29 points in the regular season in limited playing time and with limited power play time while playing against relatively weak opposition. In the playoffs when he started to get a larger role, he tied for the team lead in playoff goals with three. He showed some very good signs that he might develop into a top player, especially his high Corsi rating which when adjusted for team and zone start effects finished 16th in the league. That is quite an accomplishment given that all the players above him had significantly more ice time.
A player like that should expect to see a significant raise in a contract year. Peter Regin filed for salary arbitration likely expecting a significant raise from his entry level deal that had paid him $620,000 plus bonuses last season. However, before his arbitration case could be heard he blinked and signed a two year contract with a $1 million a year salary cap hit.
Duncan Keith won the Norris Trophy as best defenceman in the NHL this season. That makes it clear that he is a pretty good player, but just how good is he?
There is a thread up on hfboards about the top 10 defencemen in hockey and many do not rank Keith at the top. He is often third, fourth or even fifth on the lists people offer. The Las Vegas odds for the Norris Trophy had Duncan Keith in a distant second place. There is a considerable lack of respect for him and a failure to pick him as the best defenceman in hockey.
In today’s sabermetrics and hockey post, I will combine team and zone start effects to adjust Corsi Numbers. The Corsi Number is the difference in the number of shots directed at goal (shots on goal, missed shots and blocked shots) for a team and its opposition. It is a strong predictor of puck possession in a game.
There are several reasons why looking at raw, unadjusted Corsi Numbers can be flawed. The biggest two are team effects and individual usage of players. If a player is on a good team that possesses the puck well, he is likely to have a good Corsi Number as a result of his teammates. The reverse is true on a bad team. If a player is consistently used for defensive zone starts and not offensive ones, he is more likely to have shots directed at his goal and vice versa for players who get many offensive zone starts.
In 2007 Sami Pahlsson, then of the Anaheim Ducks, looked like he was an NHL star. He finished second to Rod Brind’Amour for the Selke Trophy and some made a strong argument that he should have won. Pahlsson was part of the Stanley Cup winning Ducks squad, where he led the playoffs in +/- despite playing a shutdown role against the toughest opposition to the Ducks. Some even suggested he should win the Conn Smythe Trophy. Many people thought it was just a matter of time before Pahlsson won his Selke, but it hasn’t happened.
Injuries derailed him in his next season. Pahlsson only managed 56 games played and then his contract status led to his moving around the NHL. As a free agent to be, he was traded to the Chicago Blackhawks along with Logan Stephenson for James Wisniewski and Petri Kontiola in a trade deadline deal and then he signed as a free agent in Columbus.
This is calculated by observing which players are on the ice at faceoffs by zone. The players ranked here have the largest difference between their faceoff starts in the defensive zone and those in the offensive zone. For this study, neutral zone starts are ignored. The players here played tough defensive roles with their respective teams. This will hurt them in both their offensive numbers and in their puck possession stats (+/- ratings and Corsi). Thus it is necessary to take their zone starts into account when trying to rank players properly by any of those metrics.
In 2007 the Nashville Predators were in a bad situation. Their owner was Craig Leipold, who wanted out. Jim Balsille made overtures about buying the team and moving it to Hamilton, but Leipold instead accepted an offer form $193 million (less than Balsille offered) from a local ownership group. As payment for not selling the team to Balsille, Leipold wound up as the Minnesota Wild owner, which is a team in a much stronger financial situation than Nashville.
It turned out that the local group was not in good shape. William “Boots” Del Biaggio, who held a significant minority share, turned out to be a fraud. The NHL had not investigated his background significantly and it turned out he did not have the money he claimed. Del Biaggio declared bankruptcy and went to jail, but the question of who owned his 26% share of the team remained a question looming over the team.
Salary arbitration hearings began on Tuesday. Here is the arbitration schedule. Notice that most cases have been settled before the actual hearing. So far only two cases have been heard. On Tuesday, Jannik Hansen of the Vancouver Canucks had his case heard and yesterday Clarke MacArthur of the Atlanta Thrashers had his case heard. Usually there is a 48 hour delay after a case before the result is announced. The Hansen case has yet to be resolved. However, the MacArthur case was heard quickly and we have a result.
Clarke MacArthur was awarded a $2.4 million contract, but Atlanta walked away from the deal instead of accepting it. This was rumored before the arbitration hearing occurred.
In the off season, any controversy that keeps hockey in the news is a good thing. At least it keeps people talking about it. The NHL has its controversy. They rejected the contract Ilya Kovalchuk signed with the New Jersey Devils as being an attempt to circumvent the salary cap. Of course they are right that the 17 year term with six years at the end where Kovalchuk is paid less than $1 million is done to keep the average annual salary down. The $6 million salary cap hit exists only on paper and it is almost a certainty that Kovalchuk will retire long before the contract expires, thus making his average payment higher than the salary cap reported figure.
The problem is that the NHL has accepted several contracts that are set up to reduce the salary cap hit by adding on several low paid years at the end when the player in question is likely retired. I think the worst one before Kovalchuk is Marian Hossa`s contract with Chicago.
Yesterday the highest profile free agent of the 2010 summer, Ilya Kovalchuk re-signed with the New Jersey Devils. He signed a 17 year pact worth $102 million. This gives him an annual salary cap hit of $6 million. This is a glorious example of legal contravention of the salary cap. Nobody seriously believes that Kovalchuk will still be playing in the NHL at age 44 when the deal ends. Nobody seriously believes that Kovalchuk will play for the 17 year term or have an annual average salary as low as $6 million.
That said there is nothing the NHL can do about the deal right now. There is significant precedent for these long term deals with declining pay in the sunset seasons to keep the annual salary cap hit down. There are more than a handful of players signed to these deals who are not expected to complete them.
About The Puck Stops Here
Who am I? A diehard hockey fan.
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