Saturday, 26 January 2008

Conventional Wisdom Cracked Wise - Part 02

It is no secret that I get tired with most of those who post on the fanboards now-a-days. Considering the incredible amount of NHL data and analysis now available there is no excuse, excepting that of age I guess, for some of the junk that gets written out there.

What REALLY bugs me however is when said junk gets transmogrified into some kind of commonly accepted principle.

As in... there is no reason to wait for the off-season for valuable RFA's and UFA's to become available because the teams which own their rights will sign them in a timely fashion.

Proper analysis of this issue comes in two parts a) a look at the term 'valuable' and b) will players come available.

In this post I will focus on b) will players come available?

To which I give you:

Philadelphia Cream Cheesed

Please note - I am not picking on the Flyers as I think Paul Holmgren has done an outstanding job rebuilding that team. However, they illustrate my point rather nicely and such gifts I cannot refuse.

Roster Detail

Immediate Notes

Gauthier isn't included because he is already in the minors and will probably stay there until his contract is up. Also, Rathje's LTIR status is irrelevant because he starts and ends his year on that list.

The chart shows that the Flyers have, in 2008/09, ~ 45.04 mill of next years Cap space allocated to 8 forwards, 3 defensemen and 2 goalie's. This leaves some 4 or 5 forwards and 4 or 5 defensemen left to be signed.

Let's deal with 2 of those spots right away - the 12th forward spot and the 8th defenseman spot will automatically be slotted in at 550k /year. New total is ~ 46.14 mill for 15 players.

If next year's Cap rises the 4 million some are predicting then the new Cap is 54.30. The difference is ~ 8.16 mill.

The RFA's

Umberger, Carter, Cote, Kukkonen and Jones.

Of these, the two guys who have counting numbers above expectations are Umberger (++) and Jones (+++). Carter (+) isn't dominating as people would like but is still showing respectably while Cote (+) is doing pretty well considering the opposition he plays. Kukkonen isn't doing anything special either way.

Of the 25+ age group, Cote and Kukkonen will probably come cheap. Without the benefit of big year's they can't demand much and while both can play the 'almost 27' card only Kukkonen has the 'Europe is HOME' card. So let's be fair here. Maybe 600k for Cote and 1.25 mill for Kukkonen?

Now the two outperformers. Umberger and Jones. If both players keep performing well they won't come cheap. Umberger, on a deal that takes him into his UFA years will net an easy 2.5 mill while Jones is no less than a 1.8 mill signing under the same auspices.

I am being very nice to Holmgren with both of those deals.

That leaves Carter. Hard to say what will happen there. Hard not to note that he is still on pace to score 20+ goals and 40+ points. In today's NHL that means a two year deal of 2.0+ million. Let's be nice to Holmgren (again!) and assume that no one makes a RFA run at Carter and he signs at 2.0.

RFA signings should cost the Flyers a cool 8.15 mill. (to answer the obvious question - no, I didn't plan that)


Smith and Vandermeer

No money left to sign them. If there was I would expect that Smith would get the going rate of 3+ mill for 'veteran stay-at-home defensemen and respected by all Captain types' while Vandermeer will be hoping GM's notice he is consistent at playing well against weaker opposition (say 1.5 mill?).

Cap Flex and Maneuvers

Holmgren does have some moves he can make. I will rate them by degree of difficulty.

EASY: Moving Sami Kapanen (poor performance) and Antero Nittymaki (expensive back-up). At the very least they are easy salaries to swallow (via the minors). If replacements come in at 550k each the savings total 1.4 mill in Cap space and certainly add breathing room.

MEDIUM: Moving Hatcher is a possibility. Holmgren could then seek an equivalent (maybe keep Smith) or make the deliberate switch to Coburn, Kukkonen, Jones and eventually Picard/Parent. Option 1 doesn't free up Cap space while Option 2 could really pay off if Coburn takes another leap forward in development. Moving Kukkonen is also an option but the Cap Flex gained is marginal at best.

HARD: Trading other roster players. Philadelphia has very few 'poor' bets on the roster. Most of their players are underpaid given performance (Coburn, Upshall), earning their keep (Biron, Knuble, Lupul), too new and shiny to trade (Timonen) or close to unmovable regardless (Gagne, Hartnell).

Summary of the Cheese

Philadelphia is, due to one great trade deadline/off-season, looking at a successful future. Most of their salary issues are minor in nature (Kapanen/Nittymaki), will resolve themselves over time (Knuble/Hatcher) or have the promise of established performance (Gagne/Timonen). Hartnell's underlying play is fine so if he can improve his counting numers he will earn his contract.

That means the issue is, quite simply, the Cap itself. None of the raises that I have proposed for any of the roster players I named is overcosted - to get any better Holmgren would have to replicate the success of Coburn's contract... good luck with that.

So, even given that his roster is well constructed, he (Holmgren) STILL looks to be losing one of Hatcher/Smith and then Vandermeer off his roster at the end of the season.

For the record - I believe that the progression of Coburn, et al will result in the Flyers having a better team next year and that Holmgren has set that team up for continuing sucess over the next 5 years (if not more).

Summary of the Point

There are more teams like the Flyers out there. There may not be a lot of big hitters available this coming off-season but RFA's and UFA's will come available this off-season and steady, veteran players like Smith and Vandermeer will be in that group.

Think further for a second. Everything I just wrote about the Flyers goes out the window if they pull Stanley Cup Cinderella run. If Carter or Umberger pulls a 2005/06 Fernando then all bets are off and Holmgren's off-season gets a lot more interesting real quick.

So remember, sometimes conventional wisdom has it wrong.


Have a great evening everyone.


PunjabiOil said...

Nice post.

I looked at Philly's numbers and Briere is -13, on a team that is playing great 5 on 5. Surprising, but not really.

YKOil said...

Philly is still lacking in a real shut-down pairing to play behind Briere and the rest of the young pup Forwards there. Briere does give that team a legit 2nd line of offense though and that can't be underestimated.

Coburn is turning into the steal of the decade. What a swindle.

voxel said...

Whomever Philly decides to let walk won't be worth much (i.e not impact players). There will be many #3/#4 D-men and bottom 6 forwards for cheap this summer, but few that will change the Oilers fortunes.