Friday, July 30, 2010

NHL Free Agency Sputters Along

This is a free agent frenzy?

In the free agent class of 2007, 27 contracts were negotiated and announced on the first day of free agency on July 1. Names like Chris Drury, Scott Gomez, Danny Briere, Ryan Smyth, Jason Blake and many many others went on the first day to huge contracts not only in terms of years but in overall value.

On the second day another 20 names were crossed off the list and when the first week was over another 57 were signed sealed and delivered, most to monster contracts.

This season although the number of players signed through the first week have actually been higher the dollar amount of the contracts handed out have been a mere fraction of what they were then even factoring in Kovalchuk's monster would be deal.

We all know the salary cap has played a major role in curtailing the amount of money thrown around but the reasons go a little beyond simply the cap itself.

Would Ilya Kovalchuck remained unsigned for as long as he was this year if he were a free agent in 2007?

Keep in mind that there was a salary cap in 2007 also. One that was much lower than it is today at around 59 million now to 40 million then.

So what are the other reasons for the huge step down in money commitment?

Could it be the talent available?

Could it be that General Managers are no longer willing to throw big money at players that are coming from other organiations?

Could it be that the big money teams that typically have the cash to throw around are at or near the salary cap?

Let us examine.

2010 has been no banner year when it comes to free agents. I would not be the first writer to say the class of 2010 is a weak one.

This being sead it is now July 30th and to see some of the players that are still available is simply mind boggling.

Some notable forwards are - Lee Stempniak, Paul Kariya, Teemu Selanne, Maxim Afinogenov, Bill Guerin, Brendan Morrison, Raffi Torres, John Madden, Mike Modano and Glen Metropolit.

Granted this is 2010 and not 2000 so Selanne, Kariya and Modano do not have nearly as much clout as they used to but any one of them could help a team.

Stempniak and Torres are still very young and personally I would love to see the Islanders sign one or both of them.

Morrison has had injuries derail his career at times but is a gifted playmaker.

On goaltenders and defense we have Kim Johnsson, Mike Mottau, Andy Sutton, Marc-Andre Bergeron, Marty Turco, Jose Theodore, Ray Emery and Aaron Ward.

Any one of these players can help a team considerably including former MVP of the league Theodore who had an amazing 30-7-7 record last year with the Capitals.

Turco may be past his prime but he is still a very solid netminder.

Looking at some of the names up there makes me wonder why after over 4 weeks of free agency they still remain unsigned.

Let us examine.

1 - The Salary Cap puts the usual big spenders on the sidelines. This is not a rumoror or a speculation it is a fact.

The Rangers, Toronto, Montreal, Chicago, Boston, Detroit, Philadelphia are the usual big spenders coem free agent time.

They are all for the most part dormant in July and it is because they simply cannot spend any more money due to the cap.

Maybe if the Maple Leafs weren't throwing around 16 million dollars to Jeff FInger they could have made a run at Kovalchuk and bring a face to their franchise.

With the big money teams out of the picture it lets the middle level teams have real shots at signing the big names. Would the New Jersey Devils despite their sparking new arena have a ghost of a chance of landing a guy like Kovalchuk if he could run to the millions of one of the big boys?

Its like taking the Yankees and Red Sox out of the picture in baseball.

2 - This years free agent class is sub par. There are lot of people who would disagree with this. Most of the top defenseman have been snapped up already some going for what some would say Jeff Finger money.

The forwards and goaltenders seem to be the ones lingering here. There are 3 bona fide number one goaltenders out there. One of them is a former MVP and the other has won The Stanley Cup.

There is talent there so I do not believe that talent is the main issue.

3 - Free Agency is not the way to build a franchise. If the leagues current top teams have taught us anything its that signing that flashy 40 goal scorer should be the final piece to the puzzle of building your team and not the starting point.

In the past big market teams have thrown obscene amounts of money at what is perceived to be the "top free agents" of any given year and it took hours, not weeks to complete multi year, multi million dollar mega deals.

Now it takes a proven, young 40 goal scorer 3 weeks to sign a contract after July 1?

That is something that was unheard of as recent at 2 years ago.

Needless to say the landscape has drastically changed.

The top dogs will always get their money. That free agent who is perceived to be the top guy, the corner-stone type player.

Gone are the days of multi year mega contracts to second and third tier players like Scott Gomez, Jason Blake and Chris Drury just to name a few.

In are the days of one year deals to players who would normally be getting this type deal.

Where else would a guy lead his team in goaldsand get only a one year deal? (Matt Moulson)

How about a guy who gets 58 points and 20 goals and only gets a one year deal (Vinny Prospal)?

The landscape has changed people. So many teams have abandoned the free agent fix and now favor building through youth. Especially now that 18 year olds making an impact for $375,000 per season over paying a free agent millions more for the same output.

Free agency will always be prevalant but it seems in order to cash in big time you have to actually BE big time.

It has turned into a way to tweak your team and teams have finally figured out it has never been a successul tool in the NHL to build a winning franchise.

Please post your thoughts below.

Monday, July 12, 2010

NY Islanders: Murray Drops Bomb on Lighthouse

This may be the death knell of the Lighthouse project as envisioned by Charles Wang and Scott Rechler.

Charles Wang, owner of the New York Islanders and real estate magnate has yet to respond to the latest attack on his project.

Kate Murray, Town of Hempstead Supervisor and top opponent to the project has unveiled her new zoning of the 77 acre site that will result in The Lighthouse project either being scaled back to something not even resembling the plans we have seen.

The square footage of buildings being built would be severely cut down.

The building heights would be limited to 9 stories, down from Wang's proposed 35 stories.

The amount of housing units that can be built from over 2,300 proposed by Wang to just over 500.

This is what took Kate Murray and her Town cronies 5 years to come up with.

Charles Wang and Scott Rechler have spent more time and money on this project and sat around waiting for one bureaucrat and her silly Town Board to tell them yes or no.

Nassau County approved the plan. New York State is behind the plan. Long Islanders by a wide margin are behind the plan.

The Town of Hempstead? They know better than all of us.

What they did is next to criminal. They said maybe. They said everything to keep Mr. Wang and his 3 billion dollars from walking away from the table.

So where does this leave the project?

In its current form and location it is dead and buried.

So what is next for the project? What is next for the New York Islanders franchise?

That is any ones guess but I can take a stab at it.

Charles Wang will not bow to the wishes of the Town of Hempstead. He did not make himself a billionaire by mistake and will not just lay down and take whatever the Town gives him.

There are other options. The best and most attractive one right now would be to get behind Nassau County Executive Ed Mangano's plan to bring in the Shinnecock Nation to build a mixed use project that could resemble most of Wang's current plan with one notable addition, a casino.

The Shinnecock Nation have land out east on Long Island that they can offer in trade for the rights to build on the 77 acres around Nassau Coliseum.

All Charles Wang would have to do is get in bed with them and Mangano add a casino to his plans and he would be back in business.

Why would this make a difference when it comes to the Town of Hempstead?

Because with the Shinnecock Nation Mangano, New York State, Charles Wang all would NOT need Town of Hempstead approval to build whatever they want on the site.

The key is the Shinnecock Nation. Being a recognized American Indian tribe if they were granted the land to build on by New York State they would be outside the Town of Hempstead's jurisdiction.

Presto. The Lighthouse project is back albeit altered to include a Casino and lets not forget a nice brand new renovated home for the New York Islanders.

One thing people around Long Island are in agreement of is that Long Island needs a reason for people to stay here.

For some reason the Town of Hempstead and Charles Wang have not met in the middle. Wang presented his project and said this is it. Kate Murray has presented her zoning plan and said this is it.

Something has to give in this long strange saga of The Lighthouse project.

What do you think is next? Leave your comments below.

Friday, July 2, 2010

NHL Free Agency Begins: Defenseman are a Premium

The NHL free agency period has begun and defensemen are getting scooped up on day one and being paid handsomely.

One of the biggest winners so far is Paul Martin formerly of the New Jersey Devils scoring a 5 year 25 million dollar contract from the Penguins. The Devils quickly turned around and replaced Martin with Anton Volchenkov by coughing up $25.5 million over 6 years and 4 years and 13.5 million for Henrik Tallinder.

Sergei Gonchar did not let the door hit him on his way out of Pittsburgh by taking a 3 year 16.5 million dollar deal from Ottawa.

Toni Lydman managed to get someone to give him 3 years and 9 million continuing the free agent parade out of Buffalo that has been going on since Briere and Drury left.

In a bit of a head scratcher Pittsburgh also picked up former Phoenix Coyotes defenseman Zbynek Michalek and gave him $20 million over 5 years. Michalek is not going to wow you with his skills but he can eat minutes and dependable NHL defenseman are at a premium.

Also in the head scratcher category, Dan Hamhuis scored a $27 million dollar 6 year contract from Vancouver. $4.5 million per year for this guy? Really?

Other defenseman who are off the market are Derek Morris (4 years, 11 million) resigning with Phoenix, Sean O'Donnel (1 year, 1 million) with Philadelphia and Kurtis Foster (2 years, 3.6 million) with Tampa Bay.

While I am surprised the Devils did not push harder for the young, talented Paul Martin to resign it is obvious that defensemen scored some long, rich contracts on day 1.

Most of the more attractive free agent forwards are still out there including Mr. Kovalchuk who is sure to net well over 100 million dollars and the only question is - Who is going to give it to him?

On the Islanders front Martin Biron making the odd move of signing with the Rangers to back up Henrik Lundqvist. Lundqvist is going to play 70 games and unless the Rangers are going to reduce his work load Biron is going to spend a lot of the next two years on the bench.

I just figured that Marty after the frustrating season on the Island would want to play more games than he did a year ago and unless Lundqvist gets injured that is simply not going to happen.

Jeff Tambellini took a 1 year $500K deal from the Canucks so the bane of Ted Nolan is gone and if you ask me good riddance. It was way past the time for Jeff to produce on the Island and his spot can be taken by one of the Islanders prospects on the rise. I wish him well.

Jeremy Reich left the Island and signed with the Bruins. Yawn.

If I may be so bold to offer Garth Snow some advice, go sign Lee Stempniak.

Who do you think will land Kovalchuk? Who should the Islanders pursue if anyone? Who overpaid their free agent defensemen?

Leave your comments below.