Curse of the 10 Year Deal

By Thomas Waind

I am back from two weeks in the wilderness, “camping” some people may call it. It was a huge week in the NHL and I was trying to keep up with the flurry of activity via my Blackberry. But  finding service as well as keeping my phone perfectly still when I found a bar proved to be a challenge. But the news I received was well worth the wait. The biggest trade of the summer of Nash to Broadway went down. I also followed the saga of the biggest contract of the summer with a watchful eye. When all was said and done I was surprised, delighted and confused to see Weber back in the Nashville and the contract it took to keep him there.

Shea Weber is arguably one of the best defenseman in the NHL. He has been a Norris trophy candidate for the past two years, is an Olympic gold medalist and is the captain of a team who likely would have never made the playoffs let alone advance past the first round if not for him. He boasts one of the hardest slap shots in the game. This year he tied Erik Karlsson for the league lead  in goals for defenseman with 19 goals and led all defensemen with 10 power play goals. He is also a work horse who isn’t afraid to bang bodies or give up his own  body as his 26:09 TOI/g, 177 hits and 140 blocked shots in 2012 would attest to. To top it off he has been named to the NHL first All-Star Team in both of the past two seasons. He has quite the track record for a man of just 26 years old.

A player of his caliber is very rare so when given the opportunity to acquire one, money seems to be no object in the NHL and most sports for that matter. This is a league where the salary cap and cap floor makes the gap between a good and great team very slim as we saw with the eighth seeded LA Kings taking everybody by surprise to capture the Stanley Cup. They may have been considered underdogs by many, but if you look closer they had the 7th largest payroll in the NHL dolling out $63,671,201 to their players.

So when the cap frugle Nashville Predators were having trouble signing RFA Shea Weber to a new deal, the Philadelphia Flyers rolled the dice. They offered the all-star defenseman an offer sheet of $110 million over 14 years and if the Preds had turned it down, the Flyers would have found a replacement for injured top defenseman Chris Pronger.

Unfortunately for Philadelphia, Nashville matched this monstrous offer. But was it really fortunate for Nashville? Sure they lock up an elite defenseman and captain while telling a just-growing fan base “we aren’t throwing in the towel just yet”. The other star defenseman, Ryan Suter left town for Minnesota and high scoring Russians Andrei Kostitsyn and Alexander Radulov took their bad blood elsewhere. So there is now a dire need for young guns like Colin Wilson, Ryan Ellis and Jonathon Blum to step up so the Preds can contend in 2013. But more importantly they must fill the seats of Bridgestone Arena if they want to stay in the Nashville while the city of Quebec lurks in the shadows.

But the sheer length of the 14 year deal has the very real possibility of back firing. Contracts of such length have a history of turning sour. The first team that comes to mind is the New York Islanders who thought that they could gain an edge in the 2001-02 season by locking up star sniper Alexei Yashin to a decade long worth $71.5 million. Yashin would only reach 30 goals once after signing this contract and was bought out by the Islanders in 2007-08 and will have to be paid by the team $2,204,000 until 2014-15 against the cap. (See Yashins full contract details at http://capgeek.com/players/display.php?id=1162 ) Also despite the good intentions to lock up the 2000 first overall pick long term, the 15 year $67,500,000 signing of Dipietro in 2006-2007 may be one of the biggest mistakes in Islanders history because of his many injuries and sub par play when healthy.

These massive contracts have a tendency to eventually alienate players from their team and fans when there is any decrease in performance. We have seen this countless times, such as when the Rangers buried former superstars Wade Redden and Chris Drury in the minors to never be seen again. Many others from Cristobal Huet to Sheldon Souray have gone through these struggles. Roberto Luongo has been thrown under the bus for his recent lack of playoff success coupled with the sudden emergence of Corey Schneider. When you add Luongo’s massive contract to the equation, they suddenly have less teams in the mix for the 4 time all star and a fan base who can’t wait to unload the former captain.

Some recent contracts with the potential to blow up are the Wild duo of Parise and Suter who are second tier players being paid like they are Norris and Hart Trophy winners. Also locking up the recently injury-riddled Sidney Crosby to 12 years has the potential to be brilliant or Yashin-like. Crosby is at a crossroads of his career where from here on out could be a Mario Lemieux, or have the wasted potential of a Lindros or Kariya.

You can not possibly blame players for accepting these deals. If somebody says your worth $100 million who are you to turn it down? Instead owners and GM’s have been driving up the market with these ridiculous deals that don’t seem to benefit anything but the player’s bank accounts. CBA talks are heating up and the 10 year deal is a hot topic and it will be interesting to see who will win the clash of the greedy corporations testing the greed of the players. If things don’t start to progress further we may not even see a 2013 season. But on a brighter note congrats to Weber on a much deserved pay day!

2012 Hall of Fame Class

By Thomas Waind

2012 Hall of Fame Inductees: Pavel Bure, Mats Sundin, Joe Sakic and Adam Oates

Wow this is a very deep draft class! Everyone of the four players elected to the Hall of Fame  had fantastic careers that perfectly define what the Hockey Hall of Fame is all about. All four had a positive impact on the game with their excellence, leadership, influence and consistency.

Joe Sakic is a personal favourite of mine. The product of Burnaby BC is a proven winner, captaining the Avalanche to 2 Stanley Cups. He has also proven himself on the world stage taking a gold medal home from the 2002 Salt Lake City Olympics. It is said that he may have one of the most lethal wrist shots in NHL history and his 625 career goals would attest to that. “Burnaby Joe” is easily one of the best captains in NHL history and I am extremely happy for him.

Mats Sundin definately deserves this. He is the last Leafs captain to captain a team to the playoffs in 2004 and he was the first European to be taken first overall in a draft ever when the Nordiques took him in the 1989 draft. People have questioned his induction because of his failure to capture a Stanley Cup but if you look at his resume you will see he has led Sweden to three World Championships and an Olympic gold medal in the 2006 Turin Olympics. Sundin is a class act, true captain and a winner and being a Leafs fan I am ecstatic to see another Leaf in the Hall.

Although the critcs have doubted Sundin, I am more skeptical of the inductions of Oates and Bure. Don’t get me wrong both belong in the Hall. Oates is one of the best passing forwards of the 90’s racking up 1079 assists over a 22 season career where he wore the uniform of seven different teams. He was just named the new head coach for Washington Tuesday also. Great day for Oates.

Bure was one of the first of a wave of Russian snipers to break into the NHL and really put Vancouver on the map with his unreal scoring touch. Injuries shortened his career to 702 games but he stil managed 437 goals with five 50+ goals two of them he topped 60. A longer career would put him in the discussion of best scorers ever with The Rocket, The Jet and Super Mario.

In a ballot that included Brendan Shanahan and the late Pat Burns I  was surpried to see that both Oates and Bure made it. Shanahan is a proven winner with three Stanley Cup rings and an Olympic gold medal in the storied 2002 Salt Lake City Olympics. Didn’t quite put up the same numbers as Oates and wasn’t the pure scorer Bure was, but has a better playoff and international track record than both combined.

When Pat Burns lost bis battle with cancer in earl 2010, the NHL lost one of the best coaches of all time. An all-time record of 501-353 with a Stanley Cup in 2003 Burns is one of the most winning coaches in NHL history. He coached for Montreal, Toronto, Boston and New Jersey until he retired in 2005. I thought Burns was a lock this year and if his family has to wait one more year for Burns to get the recognition he so rightfully deserves, then there is a serious flaw in the induction process. He is only 16th on all-time regular season wins but is 6th in all-time playoff wins. He would have likely still be coaching today if his life wasn’t cut short at the age of 58. Hopefully we’ll see his picture hanging in the Hall next year.

2012 Draft Recap

By Thomas Waind

Top five in this year’s draft went:

1. Nail Yakupov Edmonton Oilers

2. Ryan Murray Columbus Blue Jackets

3. Alex Galchenyuk Montreal Canadiens

4. Griffin Reinhart N.Y. Islanders

5. Morgan Rielly Toronto Maple Leafs

Here are some of the most notable stories from this year’s draft.

Surprise, surprise Yakupov went first
There was no doubt in anybodies mind that Yakupov was going first. He put up numbers in the OHL that are comparable to former Sting member and 2008 first overall pick, Steven Stamkos. The only question going into the draft was if the Oilers would move the pick so they could get Ryan Murray in the top 5 or package it in a deal to acquire the coveted top 4 defenseman. But now that Yakupov joins Oil City the Oilers could potentially boast a top line of first overall pick with Hall (2010) and Yakupov on the wings and Nugent-Hopkins (2011) up the middle. Edmonton better start winning soon though because once their young core’s entry level deals run out, a Black Hawkesque decimation is imminent.

Leafs take Rielly no. 5
I am a huge Leafs fan so when the number five pick came around I was on the edge of my seat with anticipation. My first reaction when they took Morgan Rielly was disappointment because I thought Filip Forsberg would look good in the old blue and white. But the more I hear about the kid the more I like him. I’ve watched some of his highlights on youtube and first thing I notice is how fast he skates. He is an incredible skater and puck handler and probably the best available for skill blue liners in the draft. I think he may even have the highest ceiling of any defenseman in the draft, even Murray. Murray is by far the better defenseman now, but Rielly has the raw skill and strength that translates to an elite puck rushing defenseman like a Paul Coffey or Erik Karlsson. Skill set wise he reminds me a lot of current Leafs prospect Jake Gardiner. Leaf biases aside I do think that Rielly has the potential to be at least a top four defenseman if not greater.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=biCYAX2AVxE

Staal Bros. unite in Carolina 
Just before the eighth pick of the draft the story of the night unfoldedIt was announced by some Bettman that the Carolina Hurricanes had traded the eighth pick, Brandon Sutter and Brian Doumolin. In return the Hurricanes got 2006 second overall pick Jordan Staal. This would give Carolina two of the four Staal brothers. I think this was a great trade for all parties involved. Pittsburgh got a great return of young talent and it frees up significant cap space for them to go after all star winger Zach Parise. Staal gets a chance to finally get out of Crosby and Malkin’s shadow and get top 6 minutes as he rightly deserves. He also gets the unique chance to play with his brother. The Hurricanes got a great two way center that is starting to hit the prime of his career who is a great penalty killer, will spend time on the power play and can put the puck in the net. There was no clear cut favourite in this trade as it was beneficial to both teams.

Other draft day trades
To Toronto Conditional 7th round pick To Winnipeg Jonas Gustavsson
To Tampa Bay Benoit Pouliot To Boston Michael Oullet and a 5th round pick
To Columbus Sergei Bobrovsky To Philidalphia 2nd round pick and two 4th round picks
To N.Y.I Lubomir Visnovsky To Anaheim 2nd round pick
To Washington Mike Ribeiro To Dallas Cody Eakin and a 2nd round pick
To Phoenix Zbynek Michalek  To Pittsburgh Harrison Ruopp, Marc Cheverie and a 3rd Round Pick
To Philadelphia  Luke Schenn To Toronto James van Riemsdyk

Biggest slide: Filip Forsberg

This guy was ranked as high as second overall and a sure fire top 5 pick. He has otherworldly skill and plays in Sweden’s top league, so it was a surprise to say the least that he dropped right into the laps of the Washington Capitals. Washington seems like a good fit with their deep pool of young talented European forwards that features fellow countryman Nik Backstrom. He could be the steal of the draft.

Biggest head scratcher: Mark Jankowski
Probably with the thinnest farm system in the NHL, Calgary was holding on to the 14th pick and looked to finally add a high level prospect to the system. Instead they traded down to the 22nd pick for a second round pick. But what I found was the head scratcher was that they chose Mark Jankowski, the youngest player in the draft who’s only opponents thus far have been high school students. It was a risky pick to say the least. I am all for Calgary getting the extra pick to stock the shelves but from a team that boasts draft busts such as Tim Erixson (23rd 2009 still a good prospect but waived by team), Greg Nemisz (24th 2008) to name a few, they should really focus on quality over quantity or better yet both.

For a complete list of 2012 draft picks visit http://www.nhl.com/ice/news.htm?id=635936