KK Members Blog
With August only a few days away, a surprising number of quality free agent forwards are still available. And with the way the market is moving, there’s no reason to believe all of these players will be scooped up in the next month.
What we’re seeing is another byproduct of the salary cap era in the NHL. Many of the expected Stanley Cup contenders for next season are looking at big holes in their lineups and little cap room to fill those voids. The non-contenders, builders, and small-market franchises are more willing than ever to hit the cap floor and then fill in with youth. The result? Dozens of solid veterans, 3rd and 4th liners—some of whom are strong penalty killers or have the talent to move up to the 2nd line in a pinch—are waiting out the general managers who know they can strike late and get a bargain.
It’s not an entirely bad situation for these free agent forwards. The best example from last season is that of Manny Malhotra going to San Jose in September on a pseudo-tryout basis, then signing an under-market, one-year, $700,000 contract with the Sharks. Malhotra is a solid all-around centerman, excellent in the faceoff circle, a decent penalty killer who was coming off his best offensive season, a 35-point campaign with the Columbus Blue Jackets.
After a flurry of activity in the first couple days of the free agent season, the market cooled off, leaving a lot of players sitting on the sidelines waiting for their phones to ring. There was a sense that everyone was waiting for Ilya Kovalchuk to sign and then the remaining pieces would start to fall into place. Well we are approaching August and although Kovalchuk is not officially signed, I would be surprised if he did not end up with the Devils shortly.
This past week a couple of the remaining UFA’s (Alexander Frolov and Alexei Ponikarovsky) were inked to one year deals. It appears as though there isn’t an appetite to sign these mid tier free agents to multi year deals. That does not bode well for the players on my list as they too will probably have to settle for a one year deal in hopes of cashing in next year.
I will preface my list by saying that probably the best available UFA, even at the tender age of 40, is Teemu Selanne. However, it is pretty clear the Selanne will either retire or sign on for another year in Anaheim.
Here are my top 10 remaining UFA’s:
The Toronto Maple Leafs ended last season with a 10-5-3 record after the Olympic break, giving them the fourth best record in the Eastern Conference for that time period. Many people consider this garbage time, when the games don’t matter, but the team put up this record playing against teams whose games meant a hell of a lot. Now I do not think the Leafs will finish in the top 4 of the Eastern Conference based on these results, however, with the additions of Versteeg, Armstrong, Lebda, and a healthy Komisarek, this team should be able to obtain a playoff spot. Anything less than a playoff spot should be considered a failure. This may seem like a lofty goal for a team that finished second to last overall last year, but Burke has made moves to make this team better immediately, not five years from now.
Looking at the Leafs roster they are set in between the pipes this year with Gustavsson and Giguere sharing the duties ($7.35M cap hit for the pair). This tandem ended the season well and Gustavsson was much better down the stretch compared to early in the season. On the blue line the Leafs have a log jam with 8 NHL defensemen ($25.5M cap hit) on the roster. Up front the Leafs have some holes to fill. They currently have 10 (Bozak, Kessel, Kulemin, Versteeg, Armstrong, Grabovski, Sjostrom, Brown, Orr, Mitchell) roster spots filled ($20.6M cap hit). Overall the Leafs have committed approximately $53.5M in salaries, along with another $2.4M in buyout and carryover penalties, and another $0.665M in bonus allowance overages. That gives them a total cap hit of $56.55M, leaving the Leafs with $2.85M in space to work with to add 3 roster players (minimum roster size is 18 skaters and 2 goalies, maximum roster size is 23 players).
Probably the most interesting story to all Leaf fans this summer is whether Tomas Kaberle will be dealt or if he will stick with the Buds. More importantly, if he is dealt, what kind of talent will Brian Burke get in return. Although the Ilya Kovalchuk saga has yet to come to an end, a Kaberle deal is likely to happen soon if there is one at all.
Brian Burke has been stubborn on his view of trading Kaberle since he has taken on the Leafs GM job. Burke is looking for a young top six forward as well as a prospect in return. If he doesn’t get that he says that Kaberle will stay a Leaf. In my opinion, if Burke can get a young top six forward OR a high level prospect for Kaberle he will have done well. I don’t see how Burke can hold on to Kaberle as the Leafs have too much money tied up in their defense. The only way I can see Burke keeping and extending Kaberle is if he can some how trade Francois Beauchemin, which doesn’t seem possible right now.
So if Kaberle is going to be traded, then where will he end up and what will the Leafs get back in return? I took a look at the other 29 teams and gave my thoughts on whether I think they could be in on the Kaberle sweepstakes, and what the Leafs would be looking for in return. I assigned a percentage value for each team’s likelihood in acquiring him.
In light of the recent debacle, known as the Ilya Kovalchuk contract saga, and listening to and reading wide ranging opinions on various radio stations and print media, I can’t help but thinking back to the lockout and lost season of 2004-2005.
The main issue of the CBA negotiations was the idea of creating “cost certainty” for the owners. Gary Bettman wanted to ensure that player salaries were linked to league revenues. After a lost season, Bettman and the owners were able to get the salary cap or “cost certainty” that they desired. Player’s salaries are now guaranteed to be 54% of league revenues and teams must meet a salary cap floor.
The salary cap for the 2005-2006 season was set at $39 million with a salary cap floor just over $21 million. In comparison, the current salary cap for the 2010-2011 season is set at $59.4 million with a cap floor of $43.4 million. The salary cap has increased by over 40% in its first five seasons of existence and the cap floor has more than doubled! That is a pretty impressive growth rate considering that returns in the stock market and most people’s pensions have shrunk. What is even more perplexing is that the salary cap floor is now more than 10% higher than the original salary cap.
It’s not being called a “merger” officially, and it’s uncertain if it’s a flat-out absorbing of 4 (maybe 5) of the 6 remaining IHL teams, but at any rate and at the very least it certainly sounds like 4 or 5 of the IHL teams will be playing under the CHL name and rulebook next season.
The announcement appears to have no effect on the NHL-affiliated ECHL “AA” league.
So PSH, who just claimed he could be better than half the GM’s in the league (see his last comment in this post, it is amazing) completely made up an article again. This time, however, he got caught red handed.
Remember the little article PSH wrote where he decided that since a kid left his junior team to play in the World Championship, he clearly was going to play in the KHL and was a sign of the downfall of the NHL?. Here’s a taste of the idiocy.
Over the last few years, the Russian hockey system has had top talent in Alexander Ovechkin, Evgeni Malkin and others depart for the NHL. Kirill Kabanov choosing Russia over the NHL might signify the end of that trend.
And from the comments:
It is clear that Kirill Kabanov is going to be in the KHL in the short term. he is abandoning North America in the playoffs to play for Belarus. It is a leaky pipeline. Players that do that rarely come back. It is a safe assumption that he is KHL property for the next few years and likely his whole career.
Introductory note: I asked PSH what his point was in the article linked here. I received an email noting that my comment was deleted and he only wrote it so he could delete a comment. I asked again, stating I was serious. I received this email in response from PSH:
If it is a serious question, I recommend you re-read it and try to understand it, perhaps sit on a grown up’s lap and ask them to help you with the big words.As I expect my comment to be deleted in PSH’s post, I posted a members post in retort that the point was obvious. Here it is:
Seriously. There is no need to ask what the main purpose(s) of the post was (were). It (they) should be obvious to any reader. Basically it is my reactions to Pittsburgh’s elimination from the playoffs. It touches off several points.
Big words are tough, I’ll agree. Anything over four letters requires me to take a minute to look it up in my handy dictionary I keep with me in case of emergencies.
Anyways, now that we are straight on that, lets go over the points you make in your article.
Well, it’s not Herm to Hockeytown, but it might be the second best chance for those of us who live on the west coast to get together, put some faces to the names, and watch the Wings and Sharks pitched in battle towards the cup.
The wife and I will be watching game 2 this Sunday from the 6th row of the visitor’s corner. I’ve found club level is the only way to avoid the more troglodyte-like sharks fans. Here’s the rub - I’ve got one extra ticket for anyone who wants to come along, throw me the loot and it’s yours.
Beyond that, I wanted to take this opportunity to gather anyone else who’s a KK reader and a west coaster just crazy enough to head all the way out to San Jose to watch the game, and congregate somewhere in San Jose beforehand for drinks, food, and good-natured trash talking.
Who knows how long it’ll be before the Wings and the Sharks face off in the playoffs again. I still wistfully remember the two-fingered salute the wife gave the crowd when Schneider scored the OT winner a few years back. At least I think it was Schneider. I was pretty hammered. Good times. Memories in the making. C’mon, you know you want to go.
Folks interested in coming post below; I’ll be taking the stress train down from San Francisco, beers on board, and have no idea where a good place to meet up beforehand is. Anyone know of a good bar near the tank? Maybe we meet up in SF first and train down as a posse.
If anyone wants that spare ticket, or wants to help organize a meet-up, email me at hippydave @ gmail.com. Please preface the subject with TRAIN2TANK so I can pick it out from all the other spam.
Let’s do this thing!
If anyone still had visions of this group of Sabres skill forwards someday leading their team to a Stanley Cup run, then the events of the past six games should pretty much run the hope tank to empty.
What we witnessed during the Boston Bruins 4-2 series win over the Buffalo Sabres was a colossal vanishing act by Derek Roy, Tim Connolly, and Jason Pominville. Sure, you can point fingers at other players like Paul Gaustad and Drew Stafford, but on a team desperate for big goals it is pretty evident where the biggest holes are in this lineup.
Gritty efforts by players like Mike Grier, Tyler Ennis and Steve Montador were overshadowed by the poor all around performance of the three players in question, who stood out like sore thumbs in every facet of the game. They were the top three leaders in ice time on the power play that went 0 for 19. All three played major roles on the penalty killing units that allowed Boston an ugly 27% conversion rate.
This series was supposed to be money in the bank for Buffalo. They had arguably the top goaltender in the league and were facing an opponent that withstood a ten game home losing streak following the Winter Classic, boasted only one 20-goal scorer and was missing their most dangerous forward and two of their regular defensemen.
About KK Members Blog
If you want to be a hockey writer, be our special guest!
How to Post
We only ask that you avoid profanity, and that you're careful to credit your sources -- news media or other bloggers -- and provide links to those other sites when appropriate.
Need help? Check out our help page.