Tuesday, 3 March 2009

Trade Deadline Musing - 2008-09 (More)

[UPDATE: Burrows signed for 8 million over 4 years. Fantastic signing for Vancouver and it fits the theme of this post perfectly.]

After watching Dawes and Halak go uncontested (as in: no one made them an RFA offer sheet) last year I finally concluded that most NHL GM's really aren't all that smart. They can't be.

As much as I understand that they operate in an imprecise medium that doesn't excuse the number of misses that they accumulate.

Lucky Lou?

Of course, to refute my stance we have GM's like Lou Lamoriello. This guy is good. The Colin White contract has always been one of my favorites and when one works their way through the Devils contract structure they will find very few misses along the way.

Here is one of the things I truly respect about him: he knows how he wants the team to play. And then he works it from there. Rarely will you find on his teams a player who doesn't belong and if a signing doesn't work out he rectifies the mistake before it gets too ugly.

Think about that for a second. Now think about your favorite team the Oilers.

It is to cry.

That is part of what makes the trade for Havelid so smart. The guy he traded for him was, for all intents and purposes, a 'found' asset. Signed, pretty much unheralded, as a free agent out of Europe.

In return the Devils get a Lidstrom-lite type of player and, as with everything I have ever seen from that type of player, solid positional play has a pretty long shelf life.

Havelid's game is pretty low maintenance, he doesn't require big hits or a big shot or blazing speed to be effective, so I wouldn't be surprised if the Devils sign him to a two year deal in the $1.5 mill/yr neighborhood.

Somehow I don't expect that Lou would have let the disconnect (between coach and personnel) that has taken place on the Oilers under Lowe, happen.


I remember saying, once upon a time on Hockeysfuture, that long-term signings of role players who can play their position well was a good thing if you can get them to lock in cheaply enough.

I was looking at signing players for 5 to 6 years at a time and doing so in the $850k to 1.5 million range.

Someone disagreed (of course) and they threw out, in their rebuttal, the fact that few, most probably none, of the NHL teams out there currently practice that philosophy.

I now refer you back to my first few sentences.

A Grid

Start with a 23 man roster and a $56 million Cap/budget.

14 Forwards / 7 Defensemen / 2 Goalies

3x 1st line (F) at ~ $5.00 mill ea = $15.00 mill
3x 2nd line (F) at ~ $3.25 mill ea = $ 9.75 mill
2x 1st pair (D) at ~ $5.00 mill ea = $10.00 mill
2x 2nd pair (D) at ~ $3.00 mill ea = $ 6.00 mill
Goaltending (pair) = $5.00 mill
Bench players on minimum wage = 3x ~ $500k = $1.5 mill

That adds up to ~ $47.25 mill for 15 players.

Granted, those are the numbers for a well balanced team but I fail to see where I am out of line in the reasoning.

You now have $8.75 mill for 8 players. Average wage would be just over $1.09 mill a player. Dropping the pro-roster to 22 players, which seems a standard tactic nowadays brings that number up to just over $1.15 mill a player.

After all is said and done the average wage of the players that make up the bottom half of the playing roster (not including bench and back-up) shouldn't be any more than $1.00 to $1.25 million.

Back To Point

Now think about my original stance:

"long-term signings of role players who can play their position well was a good thing if you can get them to lock in cheaply enough"

The key words in there aren't: 'role player', nor are they: 'cheaply enough', they are: 'who can play their position well enough'.

i.e. if you have a roleplayers, on your team, who are good at what they do, then EVERY guy you can get to sign for long term at a rate LESS THAN $1.25 million a year is a probable win (if same player is a definite outscorer the you can probably go a little higher).

Risk vs. Impact

More importantly, at that price point a team can afford to make 3 or 4 mistakes of this kind comparative to that of making a mistake on a signing for the top line.

i.e. for every, theoretical, Nylander signing I can make 4 or more role-player signings of this type; the cost savings of a mistake are significant.

Pisani - Exhibit 'A'

In 2005/06 he was looking for a new deal paying in the range of $1.0 to $1.2 million a year (I always hear $1.1 million but I figured I would give a range).

He doesn't have a lot of NHL history but he is driving results on his line, he is 26/27 years old and he has a whack of AHL time in (where he excelled).

NOT jumping on this opportunity was a clear MISS for Lowe and Co. Coming right out of the AHL, and still in a place where just having an NHL paycheque is a huge plus, how hard would he have fought a 5 year offer in the $1.35 mill /yr range?

Granted, Pisani represents a bit of an outlier for the purposes of this arguement, but - even for when this arguement was first made (by myself) - for those who have followed this blog, player contract inflation is something I often talk about.

As it is, well, the 'miss' was even bigger than I thought it would be (even after the play-off run I figured he would only get 5 years at $10 million - oops) and it would be unfair to lay blame to the full extent of the 'oops'.


This brings me to Strudwick. I like Jason Strudwick as a player. He can play both defense and forward (I like him better at forward), he isn't a problem if he sits a game here or there, he is a positive in the dressing room, he can fight (well) when needed and he has the right attitude on the ice.

He isn't a pure bench player nor is he even a 3rd line guy.

No word of a lie though, signing him on a 4 yr deal (long-term for him) in the $650k range would be money well spent imo.

Stortini, Brodziak and Reddox need the same kind of treatment.

So Who Is Right?

It begs the question. Knowing the intrepid souls that you are I am sure that, by now, you have checked and found that the good GM's (Lamoriello, Holland, Holmgren) have precious few long-term contracts of the nature I propose.

Does that make me wrong?

I don't rightly know. One thing that you, dear reader, have to keep in mind is that those GM's (at least those with a fair number of years of service) have a number of constants on their roster. Pandolfo and Maltby have been with their respective teams forever. Each team has guys who sign multi-year deals again and again and again.

So what is it that those teams have?

Stability probably plays a factor. So does a tradition (post-Mickey Mouse) of excellence. They have, historically, been high payroll teams. Good scouting. Only their star players get the really big bucks. They always have a few outstanding role players. There are a lot of things they do right.

Yet I still don't think that I am wrong. On reflection, what I think I am talking about is simply another way of doing what they do - building excellence into my team one contract at a time. Retaining the best players I can, no matter the line they play on.

Funny thing. I find myself back to where I started actually. There aren't a lot of really good hockey GM's out there.

So how wrong can my approach be? Be nice to see it tried.


A quick note on Horcoff. My biggest issue on his $3.6 mill/ yr contract was that it was one year too short imo. Seems I was right.

Also on Horcoff, My biggest issue remains length of deal **, take him to age 38 and lower that Cap hit by a million or so while you are at it.

(7.00 / 6.50 / 6.50 / 6.00 / 4.00 / 3.00 / 1.50 / 1.50) = 4.50

** if you are going to give a guy a retirement contract then the Zetterberg model is the one you follow and if you have the money then use it.

Also, I would trade my first round pick in a package for Hunter without even blinking. But that's just me.


Have a great evening everyone.

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