June 30 2011 11:51PM
With tomorrow's start for free agency looming, it seems like a good time to have a quick look at some of the contracts that we've seen inked over the last couple of days, as well as what's left and what, if anything, the Flames should be looking for at 10 am MT.
First, I'd like to take this opportunity to ask one simple question of the NHL's GMs and owners:
What in the screaming blue F&%# is wrong with you people?!?!?
There's one point that I'd really like to emphasize before I move on to the particulars of some of the questionable new contracts that have been signed thus far and are about to be signed tomorrow. If/when the NHL locks the players out after next season, the last thing I want to hear from anyone, fan or media, is that the terrible, greedy players and their terrible, greedy agents are to blame. The owners, and solely the owners, are driving events at this time.
No matter what BS was thrown around at the time, the current system was the result of a complete and utter victory for the owners via the collective bargaining process. This is the system they wanted badly enough to shutter the league for a year. This is the system that was going to create "cost certainty". This is the system that was going to fix all the ills of the pre-lockout league. Well, self-inflicted wounds get no sympathy from me, so I can only hope some of these wingnuts choke on what they begged for. I mean, this has to be working in exactly the way someone planned, right?
Rant over. Let's get down to cases, shall we?
I see three potential outcomes as a result of this contract. The least likely one, in my view, is that Ehrhoff plays all 10 years. He has almost no downside risk to bolt after 7 seasons, with 37 of his 40M pocketed.
The second, most likely scenario is that he plays those 7 years and heads home. I suspect that there was at least a thought of that possibility from both sides when the deal was agreed earlier today.
The final, cynical outcome is based on the composition of his deal. Ehrhoff will receive 15M of his total contract by July 1, 2012. The current CBA expires in September of 2012. Should the owners lock the players out and win another rollback or other major changes to the CBA, the chance does exist the chance that Ehrhoff takes his 15M for one year's work and stays in Europe. I don't think this is the most likely outcome, but I'd submit it's a better bet than him finishing out the last three years on the deal.
As for the deal as a hockey contract, Ehrhoff is a rich man's Anton Babchuk, in my view. The cap hit itself might end up appearing OK, but unless he's sheltered, he'll struggle at EV. Buffalo does have the advantage of having Regehr and Myers to take on the toughs, so Ehrhoff might well continue to see the easier comp that got him his flashy deal, and if he can contribute on the PP, maybe, maybe, he could cover the bet. Generally, though, I'm in concurrence with Gabe Desjardins.
The former Flame has carved out a nice post-lockout career for himself, culminating in today's contract with one of hockey's best clubs. Jonathan Willis had a nice post last fall about his progress to becoming a useful player, and although the ticket might seem high to Calgary fans remembering his play with the Flames, he's come a ways since 2005.
As an aside, Stan Bowman, for the cost of Brian Campbell and a 7th rounder, has obtained a forward that might be just beginning to get the picture (Olesz), an acceptable NHL defenceman (Montador) and 1.2M in cap space. If the Hawks can find one more decent forward tomorrow, they'll be right back to being the deep menace that they were before last summer's purge. Damn you, Dale Tallon.
At the end of the Pistols' last gig in San Francisco, John Lydon yelled out, "ever get the feeling you've been cheated?" I wonder if Joni Pitkanen has just a little bit of that feeling tonight. He almost certainly left a few dollars on the table when he agreed to terms with the 'Canes, although there is the mitigating factor that he'll get another bite at the UFA cherry when he's only age 30.
He was, in my view, the best all-around defender potentially available this week, a player that could play major minutes in all situations. He does have his moments where he loses the plot, but give or take Bieksa or a healthy Andrei Markov, he was the pick of the litter. I do suppose if Carolina continues to tread water, his deal will be eminently tradeable, so at least he'll be able to move on if need be.
I think the best way to kick this off is to quote someone I had the pleasure of meeting last weekend in St. Paul. As our man Ross Creek noted today, if Jay Feaster had signed Ericsson for nearly 10 million clams, there would have been a lynching on the schedule for tomorrow. Ken Holland, Infallible Super Genius™.
Ericsson's a mediocrity, full stop. The only reason he gives the appearance of being an acceptable top four option is the company he keeps, and no amount of apple polishing will change that. Of course, after James Wisniewski is secured for 5M+ over a zillion years at some juncture tomorrow, that deal could well look like the model of fiscal restraint. Nah, it'll still look like hot garbage.
I think Steve Yzerman made a shrewd move in inking Roloson for one year with a number of 35+ bonuses. Presuming they can keep Ced Desjardins in the fold for depth. they should be OK. Roloson still seems to have it. I'm not so sure signing Eric Brewer for 4 years was quite so shrewd, but I suppose it shows even the smart guys have holes. Yzerman's summer will be judged on his ability to retain Steven Stamkos, so Roloson and Brewer have the feeling of peripheral signings, cost aside.
Up in Shelbyville, Ladislav Smid's contract may well have transited from iffy to normal in one day, which does make me wonder what guys like Chris Butler or Zach Bogosian might be worth. Laich and Bieksa seem to have signed deals that might be a smidge long, but those guys are proper NHLers, and they should be paid as such.
I suspect Carolina might have overpaid for Jussi Jokinen by at least a small amount, but no contract will touch Tomas Kopecky's for sheer lunacy. He's not exactly a kid, either, so that deal has every chance of seeing him bought out or in Europe by the end of 2015. It's a ridiculous deal that's likely going to appear shakier than the Ehrhoff ticket over the next 4 years, because at least that guy might be able to manage top four minutes some nights. Kopecky shouldn't be in any NHL team's top six, which is where his new deal almost demands that he operates. Dale Tallon has slipped a cog on this deal, to say the least.
Brad Richards is the big fish, I guess, but there's one thing that might make me slightly wary if it were my dough being shoveled his way. In 07/08 and 08/09, Dave Tippett utilized him in the normal manner for top centers, placing him against top six comp as a rule. Richards produced at a rate of about .85 PPG those two years. That's not all that bad, and lord knows the Flames would kill for that sort of productivity from one of their centers this season, but it's not quite elite.
Marc Crawford's arrival in Texas marked a change in how Richards was used. He routinely faced bottom-sixers the last two seasons, and magically, his PPG jumped to around 1.10. Funny, that. If I were about to launch 50 or 60 or 70 million his way, I'd at least hope I had a tough-minutes center on my team's roster to back him, or I might find myself a bit dismayed by what he actually provides.
Other gents of note that might be on offer in the morning include Tomas Vokoun, Ian White and the aforementioned James Wisniewski. Vokoun should be getting more publicity than he is, but maybe it's not such a shock that no one is talking about him, given that Philadelphia and the circus around that org. are currently out of the goalie business. He'd be a good add for a number of clubs, and just as a friendly note to Adam Proteau; approvingly quoting Jay Feaster on this matter doesn't really reinforce your argument.
Kent and Pat have covered the UFA waterfront, so I'll simply add a few thoughts. First, I'm not nearly as sanguine as Pat appears to be regarding the Flames' defence, so if they could add someone along the lines of a Jan Hejda, I'd be good with that. Up front, someone of the Kennedy-Bergfors-Upshall ilk would be OK as well.
That said, if nothing happens, given the silly state of the current market, the potential to make a really stupid mistake for a middling player is out there, so doing nothing much may not be incredibly awful for the organization. That noted, until they decide to really burn this mother down, a couple of short term additions could well be on offer, I'm just hoping that the fact that Staios! Is! Available! doesn't cause Jay Feaster to avail himself of that option.
FN will be on the case tomorrow with a live chat at midday to cover all the activity. We'll see you then.