The stupid is thick on the ground tonight

Robert Cleave
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?

 

Christian Ehrhoff, 40M, 10 years, Buffalo:

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.

 

Steve Montador, 11M, 4 years, Chicago:

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.

 

            

 

Joni Pitkanen, 13.5M, 3 years, Carolina:

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.

 

Jonathan Ericsson, 9.75M, 3 years, Detroit:

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. 

 

Others:

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.

 

            

 

Tomorrow:

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.

 

Flames:

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.

1a1030a8151ca7a0d81aea58f0fb1dbc
Robert Cleave is a perpetually grumpy Winnipegger.
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#1 FireOnIce
July 01 2011, 12:27AM
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I am honestly shocked that Ehrhoff will be making $10M this upcoming season. Didn't the GMs see what happened with Kovalchuk? He is getting $10M (or damn near) and is expected to put up 40+ goals. Ehrhoff is an offensive d-man who played on a very good team this year - he doesn't deserve that much.

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#2 MC Hockey
July 01 2011, 12:56AM
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Agree some of these contracts are looney-bin worthy. Ehrhoff's contact being the leader but I guess Buffalo owner Pegula wanted to be sure he appears to be the most charming man in the world* by not only getting Regehr but also Ehrhoff signed due to his influence...but apparently not so charming as he overpaid or at least over-termed the guy big time!

*cousin to the Dos Equis most interesting man in the world

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#3 Captain Ron
July 01 2011, 02:05AM
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Suddenly I found myself looking at the Stajan contract and thinking its acceptable, and Olli is a bargain at 3 mill per year, and...and ...and

I need help

Don't they get CBC in Buffalo. Didn't anyone there watch the playoffs. Erhoff??????? The Erhoff contract is truly a holy f#$@ moment especially if you are a small market team's GM hoping to compete one day for the holy grail of trophy's. They would have been better off taking Bouwmeester off of our hands.

At this rate "Babchuk sign's new 4 year 14 million deal" is a possibility. Just hope its not with us.

Its madness. Complete madness.

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#4 FireOnIce
July 01 2011, 02:52AM
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I guess one point I can think of with Ehrhoff's signing is... what happens to MA Gragnani?

The Sabres now have Regehr, Leopold, Ehrhoff, Meyers, Sekera, Weber, and Morrisonn on their back end. 7 d-men and it looks like Gragnani may get squeezed out for yet another season. They offloaded Butler onto us, but if Gragnani turns out to be quite good, he may eventually demand a rather high contract.

Throwing a bajillion dollars at players like Ehrhoff (and whoever else they choose to spend on) is going to eventually force Gragnani out.

All I'm saying is... Feaster got hosed. Regehr, Kotalik, and a crate of Olli's homemade juniper vodka for Gragnani would have sufficed.

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#5 RossCreekNation
July 01 2011, 08:57AM
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Team1260's Bob Stauffer threw a couple of names into the Flames hat this morning -- Cam Barker & Sheldon Souray.

Would anyone be mad if someone drugged Jay Feaster with enough sleeping pills to sit July 1st out? Start fresh July 2nd.

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#6 wattree
July 01 2011, 09:01AM
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I can't believe I'm typing this but Staios for a 1 year at minimum is actually a pretty good looking option by comparison.

I think a little piece of my soul just died...

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#7 Kent Wilson
July 01 2011, 09:04AM
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$5.5M/year for 6 years...for James Wisniewski. Howson's tenure in CBJ started out okay, but he's descended to the bottom wrung pretty rapidly the last few years.

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#8 Arik
July 01 2011, 09:06AM
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@Captain Ron

Uh, nobody in America gets CBC.

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#9 Kent Wilson
July 01 2011, 09:09AM
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@RossCreekNation

Please tell me he was just speculating.

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#10 Arik
July 01 2011, 09:10AM
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@RossCreekNation

At the right price- they wouldn't be a problem for me at all. That's the key phrase though: right price.

EDIT: and by right price I mean less than $1M

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#11 Kent Wilson
July 01 2011, 09:17AM
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@Arik

Flames are swimming in bottom pairing defenders right now. I can't see Souray or Barker making any sense.

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#12 Arik
July 01 2011, 09:22AM
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@Kent Wilson

I'm certainly not saying I'd be thrilled about it, but there are worse signings that could be made. Especially with "high end" defenders who aren't high end at all getting $5M+ a year.

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#13 Kent Wilson
July 01 2011, 09:24AM
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Here's a good summary of why Barker is probably a bad signing at any price:

http://www.hockeywilderness.com/2011/6/29/2249544/why-you-should-not-want-your-team-to-sign-cam-barker

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#14 Casey
July 01 2011, 09:27AM
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Barker is utterly and completely useless. I hope that the Canucks or Oilers sign him.

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#16 Arik
July 01 2011, 09:30AM
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@Kent Wilson

Oh trust me- Barker's been discussed ad nauseum on the SBN listserv. The way I see it though, he's still young enough to turn it around and if the Flames want to compete this year then there are risks that need to be taken.

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#17 Greg
July 01 2011, 09:31AM
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I completely agree with your assessment/indictment of the owners in this contractual mess. There's no way the owners can threaten another shutdown due to "those greedy players" and win the hearts and minds of the fans to their side this time around.

That said, I would still whole-heartedly agree with them if they just said "we need to add rules to protect us from ourselves". I think every owner and gm knows these contracts are stupid and shouldn't be given out (I think the players know that too), but in a competitive context like this, you do whatever the rules allow you to do to gain any edge you can get. It's kinda like the head shots issue for players - they all know and say the right things but when the game is on, they do whatever the rules allow because the competition is so intense.

I like the current CBA system in concept, but I'd really like to see contract length limits of 5 or 6 years to prevent much of this insanity. As a flames fan, I'd also welcome friendlier buy-out terms :)

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#18 Kent Wilson
July 01 2011, 09:32AM
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On the other hand, one or two guys are going to be left out in the cold after the madness ends. That's where you get your bargains.

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#19 Michael
July 01 2011, 09:42AM
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After Gio and Bouwmeester the Flames d corp is looking mighty thin. Sarich as #3 followed by 3-4 bottom pair type guys. Really not going to scare anyone...

The UFA crop looks pretty thin, so unless the Flames can move a forward for some back end help, I might sit still July 1st. Sit on my hands for a few weeks then start looking through the unsigned guys for a reasonably priced solution.

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#20 RossCreekNation
July 01 2011, 09:45AM
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Everyone ready for Jay Feaster to announce Ian White signing?

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#21 Michael
July 01 2011, 09:46AM
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PS... With so many bottom end d men, the Flames can't protect them all from playing against the other teams top forwards. We might be setting ourselves (and Kipper) up for some nasty back end lapses...

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#22 Arik
July 01 2011, 09:48AM
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@RossCreekNation

I'm expecting him to announce a confectioner signing.

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#23 Kent Wilson
July 01 2011, 09:49AM
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@Michael

Yup. Especially on the PK.

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#24 PDumes
July 01 2011, 09:52AM
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Sean Bergenheim anybody? Great playoffs, probably wants a raise but not a substantial one.

And sadly you can probably cross Tyler Kennedy off your wishlists. Now that the Pens are out of the Jagr deal, Dreger says him and Pens are close.

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#25 Kent Wilson
July 01 2011, 09:55AM
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Higgins re-signs for 2 years, 1.9M per. In this environment, that's an amazing deal.

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#26 Kent Wilson
July 01 2011, 09:55AM
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@PDumes

I wouldn't mind Bergenheim, assuming Hagman is going away.

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#27 Kent Wilson
July 01 2011, 10:03AM
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Penguins got Kennedy for just $2M per year! Hard to believe.

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#28 Dr. Nick
July 01 2011, 10:21AM
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I think today would be a good day to try and trade some players. GMs know how bare the free agent market is and I think the only way to get any value is through trade or wait until August and hope for bargains and some luck.

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#29 Chris
July 01 2011, 02:02PM
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Don't forget Erhoff's trade value under this contract. He has a $4 million cap hit for *ten years*. He gets $18 million of that in the first *two years*. What does that mean? After year three or four, some low-budget team that's scrambling to meet the salary floor, will be willing to trade extra draft picks for a guy who costs them $2m/yr but counts $4m against the salary floor.

They might even agree to farm him out to a European league to play his final three years, so long as they can save $2m/year against the salary floor. (Providing the next CBA doesn't change that, given it's just a way to get around the salary cap for rich teams.)

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#30 Ryan
July 01 2011, 06:23PM
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@Casey

You are Nostradamus! Barker to the Oil...haha

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