Friday, June 27, 2008

Ten minutes...

"If someone puts an offer sheet in front of one of our players, we'll match it - probably in less than 10 minutes."

-- Capitals General Manager George McPhee

Yesterday at 5:00 pm, clubs could begin entering into negotiations with other clubs’ restricted free agents on new deals. And now we enter a gray area in the matter of the Caps’ most coveted prize – Mike Green. That gray area is the range of picks designated as compensation and that of the level compensation that might cause the Caps to think for a little more than 10 minutes about matching an offer sheet tendered to Green.

Consider an article written by Scott Cullen for In it, he lays out the compensation categories for restricted free agents and notes a few of the gems that could be available in each of those categories.

Where this starts to impact a player like Mike Green is in that hazy area of $5.2 - $6.5 million – where Green might see an offer sheet and where a free agent returns two first-rounders, a second-round pick and a third-round pick. Let’s look at this from a couple of different perspectives.

First, equivalence. Let’s say you’d look at this as a “trade.” And suppose – just suppose, mind you (The Peerless not being Eklund) – that this “trade” was with Edmonton. Further, let’s say that Edmonton, with Green, would be drafting in the middle of the first round the next few years. Would you trade Mike Green for Jordan Eberle (taken 22nd overall this year by Edmonton), Alexandre Plante (taken 15th last year), Jeff Petry (taken 45th in 2006), and Theo Peckham (taken 75th in 2006)?

You say you don’t know much about those guys? Well, GM’s do – a lot more than thee or me – and it is still an inexact science (that of evaluating the sort of talent you have to look at for the draft and in predicting where you might find yourself in the draft order).

Second, there is the matter of money, and here it gets even murkier (this is the grayest of the gray area). At the low end of the equivalence category for the picks coming in the scenario described above, you have the amount of $5,231,249. So, a team tenders an offer sheet to Green for seven years and $37 million ($5.285 million per year). If you’re the Caps, I suspect you don’t take those ten minutes, you inform the parties that you’re matching the offer, and everyone goes on their way.

OK, but what about at the top end of the range? There, the amount is $6,539,062. Let’s say that same team offers that seven-year deal, but instead of $37.1 million, it is for $45.5 million ($6.5 million per year). You’re only getting the same draft picks back – the two first-rounders, a second-round pick and a third-round pick – but you have the additional consideration of the additional $1.215 million in cap hit to consider.

Mike Green might be worth that extra $1.215 million – by himself – but you have to ask now if you are also going to be willing to cut loose or not re-sign a player you might have afforded (Brooks Laich?...Sergei Fedorov?) to accommodate that within the cap or, perhaps more relevant to the Caps – within your target budget.

In the end, I suspect Mike Green will be wearing a red sweater (no, not Calgary and not Carolina, not Ottawa and not Montreal, not Phoenix and not…hey, there are a lot of teams with red jerseys) come the fall. But I also suspect that the Caps are going to lose a name player or two in accommodating Green’s breakout season of last year. That’s all part of the new NHL, too.

GM’ing isn’t easy these days.

The patience of development

"Patience is the companion of wisdom."

-- Saint Augustine

With as many of our species as there are in Caps Nation, it is bound to happen from time to time that certain blogging topics will overlap (or collide, if you prefer). Such is the case this morning. The folks over at On Frozen Blog posted an entry yesterday on the time it takes for draftees to make the big time and make a difference. The money quote there is…

“Brooks Laich is the norm in NHL development. Mike Green is not.”

Over the past couple of days, as time allowed, we took a look at first round draft picks since 1999. We were curious to compare the number of regular season games they played at each step of the way before making their debut at the next level and then, when they finally “made it” – defined here as playing in at least 40 games at the NHL level. Here are the results…

Some of the interesting aspects of the results…

- Only one first round pick went from being drafted to being in uniform for opening night of the next season – Steve Eminger. He played in 17 games with the Caps before being returned to Kitchener.

- There is the expected apprenticeship served by most picks – particularly the North Americans -- and it goes something like this…the player is drafted, then they spend the next year with the club they were with when drafted. The following year they get a taste of NHL play (though not enough to crack the 40 games-played threshold), then they stick with the club the next year. Using that benchmark, John Carlson should be a reasonably stable fixture on the Caps blue line for the 2010-2011 season.

- There aren’t enough Europeans in this group to draw strong conclusions, and the three that have been drafted and dressed with the club have taken different paths to get here – Semin had some bumps along the way, Ovechkin stepped right in after the lockout, Backstrom paid his year of dues in Europe. It would be hard to predict what will happen with Anton Gustafsson other than he’ll be in Europe this coming season (way to step out on that limb, Peerless).

- You can see the effect of injury on the progress of Eric Fehr. Last season might have been his first with at least 40 games played with the club, but not for an injury that robbed him of a full season. If healthy, this should be his year to reach that level of play.- As you will note, the first three Caps in that list are no longer with the club (Beech with Pittsburgh, Sutherby with Anaheim, and Eminger with Philadelphia). However, all of the subsequent picks remain with the club.

This is a representation of the progress of first round picks. Even for such picks, development cannot be (and, in the Caps’ experience, isn’t) rushed. One might and should expect to perhaps add a year, perhaps two, in the development schedule for players drafted after the first round. For fans wondering when a Francois Bouchard (a second round pick) or a Mathieu Perreault (a sixth rounder) might crack the lineup, be patient. It takes time.