This ain't a division, it's an arms race*

Ryan Lambert
July 01 2009 11:57AM

Things have gotten more than a little crazy here in the Northwest division in the last 24 hours (and I started writing this at FA-Day plus 18 minutes).

*Disclaimer: I really hate Fallout Boy

The problem with any arms race (the US vs. Russia in the Cold War, various West African nations post-1980s military coup d'état, Itchy vs. Scratchy, etc.) is that it escalates far too quickly. You go from keeping up with the Joneses to having a ponderous arsenal that's far bigger and more dangerous, to both your enemies and you, than you'll ever need. The USSR and the US, at the height of their nuclear might in the 1970s, could decimate the surface of Kyle Wellwood's gut the Earth several thousand times over.

And the last few days in the Northwest division has been little different, with teams stockpiling free agents and re-upping or trading for superstars with little regard for what that actually means for the Mutually Assured Destruction of each others' season win total.

So far the biggest splash, of course, was made by Calgary, which signed Jay Bouwmeester to a shockingly reasonable five-year, $33 million deal that will create a top-4 defense of him, Robyn Regehr, Dion Phaneuf and Cory Sarich. Which is to say that the Giordano-Pardy pairing will get a combined six seconds of ice time a night and no one will notice or care.

What someone might want to do though, is remind Darryl Sutter that the salary cap will likely be falling next season, and as such, investing over $30 million in just five of your highest-paid players might not be the best or safest strategy for winning, say, anything. We all saw what a mismanaged cap (albeit one that was not entirely his fault) can do to a team's ability to satisfactorily roll four lines and as good as Bouwmeester is, I think it might be important to not have nine forwards to your opponents' 12 at any point.

But the Bouwmeester signing seemed to touch off a shockwave that forced Vancouver to collapse to the contract demands of the Sedin boys, whose cap hit — a combined $12.2 million for each the next five years — is not-insignificantly more than the offer the twins had tabled a few weeks ago. You can argue that those contracts were  to be for a rumored 12 years, rather than five, and that's fair enough. But on the other hand, maybe that extra $2.something million goes toward keeping a guy like Mattias Ohlund (or even Roberto Luongo) around for another year or three.

And the Edmonton Oilers, playing rogue third-world state to the Canucks' and Flames' nuclear superpowers, were not without their own reactionary overcommitment, or at least an attempt at one. The near-acquisition of Dany Heatley showed just how itchy the trigger fingers are up there thanks to the jealousy over the (relative) success of their provincial rivals. In theory, trading a decent and developing trigger man like Andrew Cogliano and a very promising defensive prospect like Ladislav Smid sounds like a hell of a plan if Heatley is the return. But in actual practice, the Heatley trade would have been a bit of a bit of a debacle. Heatley's a lot of things — a proven scorer, a failed Formula 1 racer, etc. — but in actual fact, he's a bit past it, and he's also far too expensive for what he brings to a team at this point, which, of course, includes being a petulant crybaby. Plus, the fact that he hates playing in Ottawa, but not badly enough that he'd lower himself to playing in Edmonton (and who could blame him?), is  a sign that Steve Tambellini should really just kick the tires elsewhere.

It's really all just a giant pissing match for huge contracts that may or may not work out, and it comes off looking more a game of Global Thermonuclear War, where the winning move is not to play.

Late addition: And there goes Nikolai Khabibulin to Edmonton for four years at $3.75 million per. Which is ludicrous. They had no business trying to get into this shoving match, but you pretty much knew they were going to jump in at some point. But seriously, the rest of the Northwest Division would like to extend a hearty thanks to Tambellini for taking the plunge on a 56-year-old goalie. That's awesome.

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Yer ol' buddy Lambert is handsome and great and everyone loves him. Also you can visit his regular blog at The Two-Line Pass or follow him on Twitter. Lucky you!
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#1 Brent G.
July 01 2009, 08:59PM
Trash it!
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props

I was thinking its unfortunate Heatley and MacT wont be united. I imagine they can have a world of topics to talk about. Mactavish apparently can be considered a failed F1 car racer too. Similar outcome only MacT got his corn hole plugged by a man named Bubba.

Needless to say Heatley joining the OIlers for that package may make them worse off.

I imagine Penner would play with Spezza. He will also be awarded the most unwaranted 30 goal scorer in the nhl that year like he was with Getzlaf. That will make them look stupid.

Smid really is the closest thing they have to a Defensive D-man. They got rid of Green and next Smid? Its not about points with this guy but defensive accumen. Hes young too and likely will get better. If they lose them then its up to Visnovsky to shut down the other teams best (hes the least worst at defense). Just saying defense wins.

Cogliano is their future and im pretty sure hell be better than Gagner.

Heatley isnt bringing them playoffs and they will become the Toronto Maple LEafs in no time.

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