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.

1 comment:

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