Monday, March 02, 2009


Most Valuable Guerin.

Whodathunkit? A 38-year old forward who won a Stanley Cup more than a decade ago but is a minus-30 in his last two seasons, a player who had a disappointing run as a rental two seasons ago, a player whose next point will be his 800th in a 16 year career, is the most followed trading commodity of the past 30 hours.

Plucked from the ice during warm-ups of a game against Buffalo last night, presumably as a prelude to a trade, his fate has been the blogosphere equivalent of the devout packing St. Peter’s Square in Rome, waiting for the white smoke to signal the election of a Pope. So let’s survey the situation. Who is saying what about where Guerin will land?

Chris Botta is the author of “Islanders: Point Blank” and has given every evidence of being as close as close can be to what is happening, although he seems to acknowledge that there is only so much he can know. As he put it, “I’ve also decided that it’s ludicrous for me to not take a stand, put my money down and tell you my hunch. Who am I kidding? This is a friggin’ blog.” Predicted destination: Washington.

Andy Strickland – a St. Louis Blues blogger who happens to have ties to Guerin going back to the days when Guerin skated for the Blues – seems to think (emphatically) that the Capitals are not Guerin’s destination (neither are New Jersey or Boston) and in fact is headed to the Flyers, pending the Flyers shedding some salary.

Lyle Richardson, a.k.a., “Spector,” has been acting more in his role as an aggregator of information. He referenced Botta’s reporting, as well as reports from, the Washington Post, Newsday, and, ultimately concluding that, “it could well be that the potential deal may have fallen through.”

As for that Washington Post reference, Tarik El-Bashir stated point blank that his sources told him that Washington was not (in bold letters) Guerin’s destination.

Bruce Garrioch, with somewhat uncharacteristic understatement, noted that “the Islanders have discussed the possibility of moving RW Bill Guerin. He could end up with the Bruins, Rangers or Devils for a playoff run.” Of course, he has the Caps in the Bouwmeester sweepstakes, too.

Over at Newsday, meanwhile, Greg Logan noted that, “[the source of an early report on the trade] ruled out Boston and the Devils as destinations, and a report out of Washington said the Capitals were not involved. Some speculation centers around Montreal, which has the salary-cap room to accommodate the remaining $1 million on Guerin's contract this season.” Logan also named Carolina, Pittsburgh, Buffalo, the Rangers, Philadelphia, and Florida as potential (if not necessarily likely) landing areas for Guerin.

We could go on, but you get the point. Folks are doing what folks do with a lack of information and a surplus of time – speculating. Some of it is certainly reasonable, and some of it is the product of sources who might be said to be “knowledgeable,” certainly a lot more so than yours truly.

But, being in the prognostication business, we’re struck by the matter of time in this story as the basis for speculation. If this was a simple trade that one finds at this time of year – the player for picks and/or prospects – we’d already be speculating on whether the team Guerin was going to was improved in the deal. But more than 24 hours has passed since Guerin was pulled from the lineup, and there is no indication as to when an announcement is going to be made.

To us, that means there is a second deal that is not yet made. Why a second deal? Because the team to which Guerin is going needs to clear salary cap space. Of the teams identified as possible destinations – Washington, Montreal, New Jersey, Philadelphia, Boston, Pittsburgh, Buffalo, Florida, and Carolina, which ones don’t have to clear space to make a deal? Carolina and Buffalo have more than $5 million in payroll space, according to “Cap Central.” You’d have to think they’re not in the mix, or the deal would already have been announced.

So…Washington, Montreal, New Jersey, Philadelphia, Boston, Pittsburgh, and Florida. Still a big population. Florida has the larger problem of what to do with Jay Bouwmeester – whether to trade him for futures or keep him for a playoff run, then lose him to free agency with no return this summer. There is also the matter of whether the Panthers are enough of a contender for Guerin to waive his no-trade clause. And, there is the matter of geography – Guerin is reported not to want to go far from Long Island, so as to remain close to his family. Strike Florida.

If you were to draw a circle on a map around Nassau Coliseum at 300 miles or so (arbitrary, we know), we could rule out Montreal, Pittsburgh, and Buffalo. We’re left with Washington, New Jersey, Philadelphia, and Boston. All of them are contenders, all are in close proximity to Long Island, all are tight against the cap, all – by necessity or desire – are said to be looking at other players. Most notable among other players linked to these teams is Anaheim defenseman Chris Pronger, mentioned in connection with Boston and Washington. Pronger would fetch a big return from either. From Boston, the price has been mentioned as including Phil Kessel. The problem for the Bruins is whether to upset chemistry by moving their leading goal scorer for another defenseman. Guerin is not likely to be as pricey or even, perhaps, as problematic with respect to potential effects on chemistry (at least as it applies when important players are lost). Washington’s problem is more complex, in that the Capitals would have to execute another deal (assuming the Islanders are not in the market merely to trade salary). At the same time, the problem is simpler, since the other deal would have to include Michael Nylander. If the Caps can execute that deal, then bringing in a Pronger or a Guerin is probably doable.

The Flyers have already made a deal, of sorts, waiving Glen Metropolit and Ossi Vaananen so as to accommodate the return of Daniel Briere under the salary cap. The Flyers are as close as close can be under the ceiling and would seem to be in the same position as the Caps – needing to make a separate deal. And, they are mentioned as a landing point for Pronger. But is that worth Joffrey Lupul and Matt Carle, as has been floated? Even if it is, then what would the Flyers have to do to bring in Guerin?

Which brings us to New Jersey. The thought that comes to mind in pondering the Devils’ role in this is “never underestimate Lou Lamoriello.” The only problem with this, though, is the matter of time. The Devils would appear to be in a better position than Washington, Philadelphia, or even Boston in obtaining Guerin straight up in the usual sort of deadline transaction. If that’s true, then a delay shouldn’t have come into play, since Guerin has already accepted the deal.

The matter of time and salary cap concerns, plus a desire for proximity to his family, argue for the team to which Guerin is going is one of Washington, Philadelphia, or Boston. All of them have to clear space to fit the remaining portion of Guerin’s contract under the cap.

Philly has already made accommodations to fit their own player – Briere – under the ceiling. It isn’t clear that they’ll go for another round of moves unless they can do it for a bigger prize – Pronger. And even that seems a stretch.

Boston has chemistry problems that argue against a deal for Pronger, but one for Guerin would take a smaller bite out of Boston’s hide, with what one would think would be lower possibilities for negative effects on chemistry.

For Washington, the matter is simple – move Nylander to create space. But it is complex as well – Nylander has his own no-movement clause.

We were impressed by the relatively strong manner in which Washington was eliminated as the team in question by a source close to Guerin (Strickland) and one with sources close to the Caps (El-Bashir). But Boston and Philadelphia seem to have more complex paths to get Guerin (or Pronger for that matter). The mix of assets they would have to move are more variable than what the Caps would have to do. We are the sort who puts stock in “Occam’s Razor” – among competing solutions to a problem, the simplest among them is generally the correct one.

Unfortunately, for those looking for an end to this story, the simplest solution is also the most specific. Teams like Philadelphia or Boston might have cap troubles that are impediments to a deal, but they can tweak the mix of assets they can use to solve that problem. In that respect, it doesn’t look like any more work than what a team might have to do under normal circumstances to complete a trade at this time of year. However, Washington would appear to have but one road to bringing Guerin on board, and that is to move Nylander. We’re not suggesting Nylander is being obstinate or unreasonable – a contract is something both parties must agree to and obligates both parties to honor its terms. But unless Nylander is moved, we don’t see how Guerin can become a Cap. And that seems to explain the delay better than any other alternative with respect to destination. The simplicity of it argues for the Caps being that team, and the same rigid simplicity argues that there might not be any deal, after all.


Eli said...

Is Guerin necessarily an improvement over Nylander?

The Peerless said...

I think he brings a different set of problems. I don't think he's ever really been built for a speed game, and that's what the Caps play these days.

Assuming Guerin takes over on the right side of one of the top two lines, at least to start, the matter becomes which right wing sits. Kozlov has been intermittently hurt, but if he's healthy, he gets a spot. Does Fleischmann sit? His scoring is off lately, but his effort has generally been there.

I gather Ted was on the radio this morning stating that Guerin wasn't coming here (I did not hear the shot). That would make the whole argument moot.

But I think the Caps will be dealing before Wednesday afternoon is past.

Anonymous said...

I think more than anything he helps defensively, especially on the PK, I could see the lines like Ovechkin-Backstrom-Kozlov, Semin-Fedorov-Guerin (this line tends to play slower), Fleischmann-Laich-Fehr, Bradley-Steckel-Gordon up front.

Unknown said...

I would trade nylander for a bag of pucks. Hell, I would trade him for the right to buy a bag of pucks at a 20% discount.

Or I would trade him and a 5th round pick for a 7th round pick.

Or I would trade him for an Ice Girl. Or a male Ice girl for that matter.

He has negative value and will only get worse over the course of the 2 remaining years of his contract.

Marky Narc said...

Too bad he's got a No Movement Clause in his contract, eh?

I think Nyls is more likely to be bought out than moved by this point. Anything's possible, though.