Friday, July 02, 2010

All Quiet on Fun Street....And That's a Good Thing

We’re about to head into the Fourth of July holiday weekend, and before the cousins go off to see what they can blow up over the next few days, we caught up with them to talk about the first two days of free agency and what the Caps…

“The Caps signed someone?”

No, Cheerless, the Caps didn’t sign anyone.

“Well, cuz, there is Dany Sabourin.”

“Hey, what happened to the other ‘n?’”

What’s that, Cheerless?

“The other ‘n’… what happened to it?”

I don’t follow.

“Shouldn’t ‘Dany’ have two ‘n’s?’”

Guess he doesn’t use the other “n.”

“That makes two Sabourin’s that have been in the Caps’ organization, Ken being the other one.”

“Lemme guess…that’s a record.”

“Nope, two Sabourin’s played in the Maple Leafs’ organization – Bob and Gary.”

Guys… free agency? The last couple of days? Can we focus?

“Focus on what? The Caps haven’t done anything.”

Now, now… it’s early.

“Yeah, cuz, there’s…. what, nine months until hockey season starts, right?”

It starts in October, Cheerless.

“I think he means playoff season, cuz… right?”

“uh, yeah, sure… that’s what I meant.”

Well, anyway, what do you think of the Caps being quiet so far?

“Given what some of those free agents are signing for, the Caps would have to be nuts to have outbid those teams for those players.”

What do you mean, Fearless?

“OK, the Caps need a second-line center. You know that, doofus over here knows that, even John Wall knows that. But who is out there? Olli Jokinen? Three million a year for a guy who has gone from 91 points to 71 to 57 to 50 over four seasons. You want him centering your second line? And then there is Matthew Lombardi. Might have been a good fit here, but three-and-a-half million for a guy who has topped 50 points once in six seasons? Makes that $2.8 million for Mike Knuble last year look like a real bargain.”

“Tell ‘em about the defensemen, cuz.”

“Six years for Anton Volchenkov? OK, so he’s 28. Look at this history I found over at…

2010/04/01 Missed 1 game (upper body injury).
2010/01/26 Missed 1 game (upper body injury).
2009/12/01 Missed 14 games (dislocated right elbow).
2009/01/27 Missed 9 games (shoulder injury).
2009/01/03 Missed 3 games (upper body injury).
2008/12/19 Missed 2 games (lower body injury).
2008/01/04 Missed 15 games (broken finger).
2007/04/03 Missed 1 game (headache).
2007/01/13 Missed 1 game (ankle injury).
2006/11/30 Missed 2 games (lower body injury).
2006/05/11 Missed Game 3 of Round Two against the Buffalo Sabres (head injury).
2006/04/08 Missed 2 games (neck injury).
2006/03/30 Missed 3 games (slight concussion).
2005/11/05 Missed 2 games (rib injury).
2004/03/31 Missed 52 games (shoulder surgery).
2003/11/13 Missed 7 games (concussion).
2003/04/12 Missed the last 7 games of the regular season and Game One of Round One against the New York Islanders.
2003/03/13 Missed 5 games (left leg injury).
2003/01/08 Missed 6 games (dental surgery).

"Yeah, he’s costing the Devils $4.25 million a year – less than a lot of folks thought he might go for – but that doesn’t include what you’re paying that guy who is going to be in his place for 15 games, either.”

I take it he’s not the only one…

“Jordan Leopold… $3 million a year for what, exactly? He’s been a minus player at every stop – Calgary (twice), Florida, Colorado. OK, he was a plus player in 20 games at Pittsburgh. Color us unimpressed. At least not impressed to the tune of $3 million a year.”


“The Penguins bought Paul Martin and Zbynek Michalek. They’re going to pay their top four defensemen $16.25 million next year. They are $2 million under the salary cap and aren’t bringing back a winger who had as many as 40 points last year. On a team with Crosby and Malkin?”


“Henrik Tallinder… nice player. $3.4 million nice? $5.5 million for Sergei Gonchar, who will be 39 in the last year of that deal?”

“Geez, cuz… you’re on a roll.”

“For heaven’s sake, look at the top seven defensemen signed so far – they just so happen to have the seven biggest contracts in total dollars. Those seven defensemen will average $4.2 million a year for the 33 total years of their contracts.”


“See any all-stars in that group.”

“Well, there is that Gonchar guy.”

“Yeah… in 2008. Fat chance he repeats that in Ottawa.”

What’s your point, cuz?

“There is a real disconnect between what many of these players are worth and what they signed for. Nice players in some respects, but paying a second pair defenseman top-two money? And frankly, once you get past Kovalchuk, this forward class is really, really thin.”

I see your point.

“What were Caps fans expecting, given these signings? They have almost $17 million in cap room and ten roster spots to fill, according to the folks at, if you assume Tyler Sloan is not on the parent roster in October. They have to make signing decisions on Eric Fehr, Boyd Gordon, Tomas Flesichmann, Jeff Schultz, and Andrew Gordon. All of them could be on the opening night roster, and so could Mathieu Perreault. That would be consistent with the aim of promoting from within, and the Caps might have 20-21 roster spots encumbered with maybe $7 million or so in cap room.

“But then again, the Caps will have decisions to make on Alexander Semin, Brooks Laich, Mike Knuble, Matt Bradley, and Tom Poti next summer, not to mention the kiddie goaltenders coming up for renewal. Doesn’t mean the Caps need to worry about the cap space this year as much as term regarding any potential free agents. They can’t have much in the way of long term contracts hamstringing their ability to keep their own – and in many cases better – players.”

I guess in the end, relying too much of free agents is at best a two-edged sword. You’re getting good players – although this seems like a lackluster class, in general – but you’re almost certainly going to overpay. Sometimes you do it because you have a hole, and you don’t have a remedy in your own system. A Mike Knuble for example last year, and you could make a case for the Penguins signing a Michalek or a Martin (although the Penguins signing both leaves them no room to address their winger problem). But it’s almost as if some teams saw that the cap went up by a couple million dollars, and they thought they had to spend the new found money.

We get that the off season has barely started. There are a number of free agents that might yet be a decent fit for the Caps, which is why we cannot get all bent out of shape over the Caps being quiet through the first two days. With signings – of their own RFAs and whatever unrestricted free agents they might acquire – and trades yet to come over the next three months, plus figuring out how their own pieces will fit into their plans for the fall, it’s hard to reach a judgment on how the Caps have done based on two days of work.


Docciavelli said...

Agreed on Volchenkov--65 games a year is all Lamoriello can count on with that guy. But I have to disagree on Michalek/Martin. Neither of those guys are "second pairing defensemen," and neither is in his thirties yet.

Neither's an "all star" either, but there was no All-Star game in 2010 because of the Olympics. Martin, sans injury, would've been on the top pairing for the U.S. Olympic team, and Michalek was the Czech team's best D. It's quite reasonable to pay $9M/yr for (i) a player comparable to Scott Niedermeyer and (ii) a 27-yr-old shutdown D. Or you could waste it on Kovalchuk.

As for the Pens' winger situation, Malkin's shifting to wing alongside Staal. That may go a ways towards addressing the issue.

red4z said...

So the plan is to go cheap on second line center and do nothing to upgrade the defense. I think I've seen this movie before. It ended with a first round loss to an inferior opponent.

At some point, you have to come to the conclusion that what you have in-house isn't good enough. Wasn't in 2008, wasn't in 2009, wasn't in 2010. You can either keep rationalizing it (young team in 2008, just short in 2009, hot goalie in 2010), or fix your shortcomings. One more good piece probably gets them past any of the last three opponents that eliminated them. If the Caps continue to stand pat, I fear we'll be out of rationalizations by 2011.

exwhaler said...

The problem with that "do nothing to upgrade the defense" comment is that it completely ignores that Alzner and Carlson will be having their first full seasons in a Cap uniform. While both are young and you can make an argument that the Capitals need more experience on the blueline, they are both a serious upgrade on the Jurcinas/Pothiers/Morrisonns of the world (all of which are gone). Those are two elite prospects that are experienced playing with each other, and neither one looked out of place.

I'd still like the Capitals to bring in a solid veteran on the blueline. I don't want to see Erskine in on the ice every game, and Sloan should be in Hershey. But the Capitals do not need to blow their salary structure out on signing a top-notch guy. Especially when everybody but Ovechkin and Backstrom will be needing new deals within the next year or 3.