Thursday, August 26, 2010

Well, that's that

So… he stayed out west after all.

Willie Mitchell signed with Los Angeles. A two year deal for $7 million (capgeek.com). Think that’s a price the Caps should have paid? That’s a tough one. And it isn’t even the second year that’s the issue (that essentially replaces Tom Poti’s cap hit). It’s the first year. A $3.5 million cap hit in the first year puts the Caps at $58.45 million with one roster spot to fill (using capgeek.com’s cap calculator, including Mathieu Perreault, and taking off Tyler Sloan).

If Marcus Johansson makes the squad, the Caps are less than $100,000 from the cap, and this does not include the compensation for Eric Belanger, widely reported to have signed a $1.875 million deal. You could then argue that the Caps would make another move (they would have to make some move), perhaps Tomas Fleischmann’s $2.6 million contract. Making those moves puts the Caps at $58.62 million, about $777,000 under the cap (note: Karl Alzner has $850,000 in bonuses included in these calculations), and this does not account for whatever return might come for Fleischmann.  And this doesn't include whatever premium the Caps might have had to pay above $3.5 million a year to convince Mitchell to come east.

Now ask yourself, is $777,000 enough flexibility for the club going forward this year? It’s just hard to make that first year’s set of numbers work for Mitchell, given the deal he accepted, not to mention the risk the club assumes in light of Mitchell's coming off a serious injury. You could say, “well just move John Erskine ($1.25 million)…or just move David Steckel ($1.1 million).” We’re leery of any sentence involving a personnel move that includes the word “just,” as if one could snap one’s fingers and rid themselves of a problematic contract. Professional managers in sports franchises are paid to make these kinds of moves, but we don’t think for a moment that it is as easy as all that, given that there are two parties to every transaction.

There will be a lot of wailing about how the Caps (again!) were asleep at the switch as another club improved itself with a player that would have been a good fit (on paper) with the Capitals. And to tell the truth, there is a little voice in our head saying just that. But as much as we like the idea of adding a veteran defenseman (and Mitchell brings elements lacking on the Caps’ blueline), every deal has to be looked at in the context of the salary cap.

13 comments:

Steve said...

Peerless - insightful as always, but the counterpoint is the Cup winning teams always find a way to make those moves - to add the final needed piece. Given that the Hershey roster is somewhat depleted, and while I can't confirm this, I suspect neither Erskine or Steckel have NMC's in their contracts, there were some options available to the Capitals in terms of roster flexibility. Poti's contract is off the books for next year, giving further flexibilty going into 2011-2012

Can I say with 100% certainty that Willie Mitchell was the missing piece in a Cup-winning team? Nope. Did he bring/would he have brought an element that was missing from the Caps lineup? You said so yourself. Having salary-cap wiggle room does an organization little good if ultimately they don't use that wiggle room to bring in the needed pieces to compete for a Cup. I think we can both honestly say that the Caps aren't missing a whole lot, but what they are missing, they had the chance to secure - can't say if money and term were equal, Mitchell still doesn't sign with LAN, but they didn't. Now, the options for acquiring that missing piece are fewer, and the cost could be greater. We'll have to wait and see how this whole thing shakes out.

The Peerless said...

I agree, but there is the matter of timing. I'm less concerned about not making a move now than I would be in February. The Caps will get what amounts to a 50-game audition with this squad, if they don't make other moves. But I'd have a hard time seeing the club sit on its hands at the trading deadline if there is any asset out there that would help push the Caps over the top, even if it costs a prospect/pick/etc.

This is their year to go for that ring.

dan dc said...

my frustrations stems from the cumulative effect - not just this specific deal. mitchell would have been a good fit for several obvious reasons - but it APPEARS that those reasons simply don't resonate with mcphee.

willie mitchell doesn't equate to playoff success - but he would have made this team better. i am a firm believer that young defensemen do best when mentored on ice by established players (look at the effect langway had on stevens, hatcher, and others). i believe in order for our young d to be there best, they need that kind of support and influence.

12 years of mcphee's defensive philosophy has yielded pitiful post season results. until they prove they can succeed in the post season with a flimsy defensive corps, i will be vindicated. carlson could be a stud on defense - but how much better a player would he be if he had a mitchell on the roster to help him, rather than a poti or shutltz?

if gmgm valued this type of player - he would have acquired him. good gm's get the job done. bad ones make the same mistakes over and over and over again.

Anonymous said...

I would have been OK with $2.5M/yr. But that extra million really leaves the team with not much room. We've seen what happens with teams when they don't leave themselves any wiggle room.

Wasn't it Calgary that only dressed 16 skaters one night because they couldn't fit people under the cap? Or Vancouver that couldn't call up an injury replacement or some such?

I'm just looking at the UFAs next year, and there's going to be someone available at the trade deadline if needed. Now, it may take a major offer, but if the team feels it's close, might as well go all in. (As in, maybe you overpay for someone like Chara or Thornton if you're sure that they're the final piece.) But if you don't have the cap space to do it, then you're screwed.

Anonymous said...

In a world without a salary cap would prefer WM - however I still think 2C is a bigger need. Especially in the playoffs where goals are tough to come by.

exwhaler said...

I have an issue of the idea that the Capitals were "asleep at the switch" for Mitchell--it's been confirmed that the Capitals were one of the teams that were bidding on him, and were one of the three final teams. To be perfectly blunt, I have absolutely no problem in refusing to go a second year on Mitchell after his major concussion this year. There's a serious question of whether Mitchell is still the same player he was before the injury, aside from the fact he's one bad hit away from being done. That's an unacceptable risk for two years at that price.

Just ask the Flames how playing too close to the cap worked for them.

Scott said...

One of your points is that the Caps would be okay in the second year of the contract, but not in the first (this) year. How does that fit with reports that the Caps only offered a one-year deal? If it's the first year that hurts, that wouldn't make sense.

Steve said...

Peerless -

the wares available at the trading deadline might not be as good as the wares right now. One, I think you'll have more people bidding on them. Two, the guy that we're talking about adding - a shutdown d-man, is not often moved at the deadline, as teams that have them, generally want to keep them. Generally, teams are reticent to pick up guys at the deadline with contracts extending beyond the current year, and looking at the crop of 2011 FA defensemen - they all fit into one of two descriptions - they'll be in the middle of the quest for the Cup with their current teams (Chara, Phillips, Ehrhoff, etc), or they're not a significant upgrade over what is already here, at least not in my eyes. Having the player to fill an obvious need from training camp through the season I suspect is a better solution, and GM still may have a trade in the works, if the stories surrounding the Belanger signing are to be believed.

Again, I'm not completely convinced Mitchell signs here given equal money and term, but can't help but feel an opportunity has been missed.

toymechanic said...

Too much $. There will be better options at the trade deadline, I'm the meantime the caps can learn about the players they have under contract.

Justin A. said...

I wonder if someone like Paul Mara might get a look now, perhaps. There does need to be some sort of veteran presence to help develop Alzner and Carlson. Poti, Schultz, and Green are not said presence. Not by a long shot.

Dougeb said...

We don't know what GMGM offered, but it was likely a decent one-year deal. I envision that Mitchell was using the Caps as a leverage tool against West Coast teams that he likely preferred anyway. I'm not convinced that Mitchell wanted to move to the East Coast. We also don't know what Brendan Morrison did (or didn't) tell Mitchell about the Caps.

No, $3.5M a year for 2 years is way too large a deal given his health history.

I'm disappointed; Some of the other options from Calgary or Toronto seem overpriced and I'm not sure the ROI, plus the cap hit in the outyears, would make it worth it.

Let's see what's available at the deadline and make another run with some rental options.

Todd said...

Anyone for Andy Sutton? Asking him to be 6/7 is a bit different from asking him to be top 4. And you figure he's got to be cheap-ish.

And I'm still holding out hope that Boston falls out of the race and Chara becomes available. Yeah, he might cost a pretty penny, but I think the Caps have the (young, cheap) assets to make it work.

Ben said...

"The Caps will get what amounts to a 50-game audition with this squad, if they don't make other moves."

We had the best possible 50-game audition that the Caps have ever enjoyed last season, which ended up making us Cup-favorites entering the post season. What good did it do for us? What did we get for all our hard work and efforts? GMGM tinkering with the Team at the worst possible moment and a Round 1 loss.

Last year was allegedly "the year to go for that ring." Again, what happened? Failure. Look at our history - who has worked out best as UFA's being grafted into our system? Is it our March 3rd guys, or our July 1st guys? Knuble and Theodore says that happens in July (say what you will about Theo, he put up some beast numbers in the regular season).

Feds notwithstanding, no one we've ever picked up in the last half-decade at the trade deadline has lasted long-term, if even past the end of that season (see Cooke, Huet, Walker, Corvo, etc.).

NOW is our time to run after the Cup so as to allow our players to gel together. NOT in March when they're going down the stretch. That's just enough time to screw everything up (see 2C debacle last playoffs).