Archive for July, 2012
By Stu Hackel
It’s no surprise that the Carolina Hurricanes signed Alexander Semin; GM Jim Rutherford said three weeks ago he’d explore the possibility. And it’s no surprise he got a one-year contract; Rutherford and others acknowledged the player’s on-ice reputation and expressed reluctance to make a longer commitment. But $7 million for that one year? That’s a surprise.
The combination of the short term and high value of the contract is strange. Every GM has signed players to one-year deals, but a one-year deal at this sort of money is very unusual. If a player is worth $7 million, you typically want to lock him up for a while.
Here are some of the other players making $7 million next season, according to CapGeek.com: Jarome Iginla, Danny Briere, Mike Cammalleri, Joe Thornton, Brent Seabrook, Pekka Rinne. Semin could be, but hasn’t been, in that class of NHL performer. When Columbus signed defenseman James Wisniewski for $7 million last summer, a lot of people were aghast. They are probably equally aghast at Alexander Semin receiving that number.
We’ve discussed Semin’s situation before, as recently as two weeks ago. And Semin may have $7 million-type talent. But does he display it often enough to warrant that kind of money?
“Alex Semin is like a lot of hurricanes,” tweeted Hockey News columnist Adam Proteau. “it’s impossible to predict when he’ll show up, & his peak season is usually in early September.”
Clever, eh? Semin’s peak season may or may not be in training camp, when optimism abounds and everyone gawks at his world-class shot and puck skills, touting him as a potential game-breaker. When the puck drops in earnest, however, he turns capricious. One thing has become more certain in recent seasons: Semin tends to fade over the course of the campaign — he’s generally more productive in the first half than the second half — and he’s been pretty ineffective in the playoffs.
By Stu Hackel
The talk around the Flyers on Wednesday was of disappointment that their offer sheet to Shea Weber was matched by the Predators. But disappointment is the summer theme for the Flyers and their GM Paul Holmgren when it comes to chasing the available top talent, be it via free agency or trade. They lost out on Zach Parise and Ryan Suter, even though they reportedly offered the duo more than Minnesota. They lost out on Rick Nash, who now plays for their hated rivals from Manhattan. They couldn’t re-sign defenseman Matt Carle and seem unwilling to trade what Ducks GM Bob Murray is asking for scoring winger Bobby Ryan, a local product. They’re still trying to land right winger Shane Doan (more on that later), but so are 15 other teams, and their former bad boy, Dan Carcillo, is saying bad things about them.
It’s enough to make one wonder if the Flyers have lost their luster as one of the NHL’s marquee franchises.
That’s not likely true. Yes, the Flyers have had some setbacks, but it would be an overreaction to say they’re no longer an attractive destination for some players who have designs on winning a Stanley Cup — even though it’s been 37 years since their last one. You have to keep in mind that Weber wanted to come to Philly before jumping to the conclusion that this is somehow a franchise in decline. As long as owner Ed Snider is willing to throw around his considerable wealth in an effort to win the Cup again, this club will be vital and able to bounce back when things don’t go their way.
Still, because of the amount, the term and the nefarious way in which the offer sheet was structured, there was great belief Weber would be a Flyer within a week. Some prematurely counted their defensemen before he was matched. “If they land Weber,” wrote Sam Carchidi on his Philadelphia Inquirer blog, “they would probably have the league’s best defense, one that might look like this: Weber and Kimmo Timonen, his former Nashville teammate; Braydon Coburn and Nick Grossmann; and Andrej Meszaros and Luke Schenn.” Carchidi was wise enough to include sentiments such as “Then again, can Nashville afford NOT signing Weber after failing to get Suter back in the fold?” in his post, but it didn’t stop the Orange Army from overlooking that minor detail. There was no little hubris in items like this, which further fueled the self-deception that they’d certainly be cheering for the Norris Trophy runner-up next season.
By Stu Hackel
If the Predators’ decision to match the Flyers’ $110 million RFA offer sheet to Shea Weber late Tuesday wasn’t quite a declaration of independence for Nashville’s hockey team, it was something close to that. No longer will the Preds be a slave to pro sports’ small market mentality, forced to surrender top-tier and complimentary players when they can no longer afford them.
That had been the Preds’ way, sadly, for too long. Their difficult financial picture (made even worse at one point when a California con man didn’t have the $23.5 he was investing as an ownership partner) always meant that when important players neared the end of their contracts, they’d end up elsewhere. They were always saying goodbye, it seemed: Kimmo Timonen, Dan Hamhius, Scott Hartnell, Andy Delmore, Cliff Ronning, Vern Fidler, Tom Fitzgerald and probably a few more I can’t recall at the moment. Nashville was a team they loved and they left.
But no more. It started last fall when the new ownership group, headed by Tom Cigarran, and GM David Poile locked up goalie Pekka Rinne for seven years at $7 million a season. They pledged they would do everything they could to keep their top defensive tandem — Weber and Ryan Suter — together regardless of the cost. They said they’d spend to the cap limit, if they needed, to make the Preds a Cup contender. This was a different message, a brand new tune, coming out of Nashville and the fans loved it.
They have to love it even more today. These guys were true to their word. They did everything in their power to hold on to Suter, but couldn’t compete with the lure of family, friends and familiar surroundings in Minnesota. For once, it wasn’t about the money.
By Stu Hackel
There are two ways to evaluate any trade, as Blue Jackets GM Scott Howson reminded everyone on his conference call Monday following the deal that sent Columbus captain Rick Nash to the Rangers. “Any trade gets evaluated initially,” he said, “but the real evaluation comes after a year or two or three, after you see what everybody’s done in their current places.”
Well, the immediate evaluation on the deal overwhelmingly criticized Howson for not getting more in return, a chorus that included my friend and SI.com colleague Adrian Dater and, strangely, the man whose own failures as the first Blue Jackets GM played a large role in their perpetual futility, Doug MacLean (via Twitter), who is now a hockey analyst in Canada.
Of course it may turn out in a few years that the chorus was right and Howson’s deal of Nash, large minor league defenseman Steve Delisle and a conditional third-round selection for Brandon Dubinsky, Artem Anisimov, Tim Erixon and a first-round selection in 2013 turns out poorly for Columbus. But we can’t know that yet. And many of the instant analysts have overlooked some other things when assessing this deal.
By Stu Hackel
Time to check in with two NHLers — once considered loyal beyond question to their teams — who may or may not be changing addresses in the near future. We’ll know about Shea Weber, and whether the Predators match the Flyers RFA offer sheet, no later than Wednesday at 11:59 p.m. As for Shane Doan, and whether he decides to forsake the Coyotes and sign elsewhere as a UFA, the timeline is far less certain.
The latest on Weber, who Philadelphia signed to a stupendous offer last week, is a report that the Flyers and Predators are working on some sort of trade that would end up with Weber moving to Philly but the Predators getting players instead of the four first-round draft choices in return.
Weber leaving Nashville is still a dizzying situation to contemplate and something he might not have considered had Ryan Suter not signed with Minnesota, although relations between Weber and the team could have been strained last year when they went through arbitration. Now, the Predators’ loyalty will be tested: If the Preds decide to remain true to their pledge not to lose top players to another team for financial reasons, then you can forget all this trade talk.
If, on the other hand, Nashville believes matching the offer sheet would cripple their franchise going forward, Predators GM David Poile would probably prefer to acquire NHL-ready talent now rather than draft picks later (as much as four years later) who may never pan out and certainly not for years down the road.
By Stu Hackel
Much of the discussion surrounding the Flyers’ offer sheet to Predators RFA Shea Weber centers on whether Nashville will match it — and many believe they must and will — but Philadelphia’s stab at snaring the All-Star defenseman also tells us a great deal about the negotiations between the NHL’s owners and players for a new Collective Bargaining Agreement.
Yes, the talks are between labor and management, but the Weber situation reveals that the basic issue confronting the two sides is actually the owners vs. themselves. It’s their collective inability to figure out how to solve their business problems that have been created by their own record revenues. The solution in their opening proposal seeks to shift the burden of fixing them onto the players. and as long as this remains their course, the problems of inequity among the 30 franchises probably can’t be solved.
By Stu Hackel
There have been a few huge bombshells dropped during this offseason and two of the biggest have fallen on Nashville. The Flyers signing restricted free agent defenseman Shea Weber late Wednesday to a mammoth 14-year offer sheet worth a reported $110 million comes two weeks after Ryan Suter, Weber’s partner in the NHL’s best defensive tandem, signed a 13-year, $98 million deal with Minnesota as an unrestricted free agent. Thanks to the Flyers’ offer sheet, a Predators team aiming to join the ranks of the NHL’s best is now at a crossroads.
By Stu Hackel
The NHL and NHLPA continue their negotiations today (Wed. July 18) after the team owners’ initial proposal was submitted late last Friday. That document, which set out to roll back all manner of player compensation and contractual agreements, caused a wide-ranging reaction in the media, as we discussed on Monday. Most of it was critical of the owners’ stance.
Similarly critical were the comments made by a number of players’ agents. Of course, they will become highly vulnerable should the players’ income decline or if the owners lock out the players in September. “Visceral” is the term rightly used by David Shoalts in The Globe and Mail to characterize the response to ownership’s opening offer.
But the players’ reaction is the only one that matters, and the first hint was revealed during the weekend by Canucks goalie Corey Schneider, who is on the NHLPA negotiating committee. While he was quoted in part over Sportsnet in Canada, seen in the video above, the full interview was by Elliot Papp of The Vancouver Sun and, in contrast to some of the other reactions, Schneider was measured and calm.