KK Members Blog
Entries with the tag: free agency
It’s been a strange off-season, what caught you off-guard? I bet these four things are on your list.
It’s August 8th, sunny and warm. But is hockey ever really that far off? Here are a few things I bet you didn’t expect to be the case this late in the summer of 2010:
1) Annti Niemi is a free agent: The fact he won the Stanley Cup was shocking enough, considering he was on few radars at the beginning of the 2009-2010 season. More shocking? His release from Chicago. Walking away from a $2.75 million arbitration ruling may have surprised the hockey world, but I have a feeling it will continue to reverberate with Niemi for years. Why? Well, look at his options.
Didn’t take long, did it? There’s Philadelphia, if they stray from Leighton and Boucher, and create some room (seems unlikely); there’s Washington, if they opt not to go with Varlamov (no word this is a possibility, so unlikely); there’s Montreal, if they can’t sign Carey Price (not going to happen; and then there’s Atlanta, the Chicago-East of the NHL, there’s the Islanders, and, well, that’s about it.
So from Stanley Cup winner to, likely, a Thrasher or an Islander. That’s gotta hurt. Neither team has a shot at winning anything in the near future, and even these potential starting opportunities are questionable. Atlanta already has two goalies, with the newly signed Chris Mason as the starter, but given Rick Dudley’s penchant for adding former Blackhawks, Niemi has to be a possibility. As for the Islanders, Niemi’s chances rest with the health of one man, Rick DiPietro.
While I like to write about hockey generally, I am clearly a Habs fan. So, if you’ll allow me to dabble for a moment, my thoughts on the Canadiens roster - as of August 4.
Sidenote: While I’d like to add Kovalchuk, Selanne, etc. etc. – the cavalry ain’t coming. I have tried to be as realistic as possible with potential additions/subtractions. Now, onto the fun.
Up front, Pierre Gauthier has made some significant changes, but perhaps more significant is what he has not done. Gauthier has brought in Dustin Boyd, a valuable fourth liner at a much lower salary than, say, Glen Metropolit. A good cap move that makes the team younger and faster. The big acquisition of the summer - so far - is Lars Eller. Acquired in the Jaroslav Halak deal, Eller gives the Canadiens a rising young power forward for the 3rd line centre role. He replaces Dominic Moore, bringing much more offensive upside and potentially more physicality.
Perhaps the most surprising move to many Habs fans was the re-signing of Tomas Plekanec to a five year contract. While I am a big Plekanec fan, even I must admit his playoff performance was lacklustre at best. After scoring the overtime winner in game one of the playoffs, he was virtually invisible as the Canadiens defeated Washington, Pittsburgh and then fell to Philadelphia. This suggests two things: one, the Canadiens felt Plekanec was good value at five million a year, and two, the Habs braintrust believes Plekanec will continue to grow into the role. What must be acknowledged is that while Plekanec scored 70 points last year, and 69 three years ago, he is also a great defensive cog for the Habs penalty kill. He is arguably the PK’s hidden secret, a catalyst for the Candiens success short-handed in the past two or three seasons.
What wasn’t done? Well, while Sergei Kostitsyn was shipped to Nashville in the Boyd deal, brother Andrei still finds himself in Montreal. Owners of perhaps the largest biceps in Quebec, Andrei Kostitsyn possesses incredible physical talent, but often seems out of synch with the rest of the team. Will having his meandering little brother out of the way lead to Andrei’s coming out party? Only time will tell.
You threw the bums a dime in your prime, didn’t you?
Training camps are a mere five weeks away, and yet numerous NHL veterans remain unsigned, actively searching for work in a league that has priced them out. While the current CBA has seen salaries skyrocket at the top of the league, the middle and bottom-end players have been pinched. Though it’s difficult to have any actual sympathy for folks making millions to play a game, the facts are undeniable: record setting long-term contracts for the Kovalchuks, Luongos, and Keiths of the world, while solid NHLers such as Bill Guerin, Paul Kariya, Andy Sutton, Eric Belanger, Marty Turco and Jose Theodore remain on the sidelines. Sure, these guys may be past their prime in many cases – but they still make a difference. Unfortunately, if Mathieu Darche is available and willing to play for $500k, or a rookie at $750k, why sign a 3rd or 4th line plugger like Belanger for $1.5 or $2 million?
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: