Hockey is just that much closer with the opening of camp today, and it appears from a distance that the Alberta weather is providing a proper atmosphere for the proceedings. At any rate, in this week’s review of what was, the Flame youngsters finish their work in the Okanagan, the big kids report for work absent one significant figure, and the RFAs of note get contracts finalized.
The Flame prospects concluded their endeavors in Penticton on Thursday with a 5-4 defeat at the hands of Eddie Lack. I think that I’m in general agreement with Jim Playfair’s belief about the potential for this group of players, and as I mentioned after Thursday’s game, the core of the Heat was at this tournament, and other than the goalies, looked pretty representative. I suspect that Brodie, Nemisz, Wahl and Negrin will be worth watching this season, and it’s been a while since the club had anymore than one player at the AHL level that had a chance to progress to the bigs.
The main camp opened this morning, with Nik Hagman out due to the flu, but it’s Daymond Langkow’s non-linear recovery from his neck injury that is of the greatest concern. I’m of the opinion that if he can be back by the end of October or thereabouts, the club should be able to get by. If he starts on LTIR, that might keep Ales Kotalik and Mikael Backlund in town for a bit longer than would have been otherwise the case, but I’d rather have 22 in harness if I were interested in the team actually winning games, which I suspect I am. FN will have continuing coverage from camp, with regular reports from Pat Steinberg.
Up in Stinktown, the Oilers have a trio of highly touted prospects to ogle, but it’s a couple of elder statesmen that are in the limelight this week. Sheldon Souray was asked to make himself scarce, as Steve Tambellini decided that the Fort Saskatchewan native would be a bad influence on his younger charges. Barnes is correct in noting that his trade value isn’t really hurt by any of this nonsense, since he really had none. That contract and his injury history would have rendered him unmovable even had he remained silent last spring.
Nikolai Khabibulin also arrived in the Alberta capital after a season to forget. He’s making the expected noises about remorse, and claims his back is sufficiently healed to resume his career. Again, for the record, he hasn’t managed more than 60 appearances in any season since the lockout, and he’s 37 with significant injury history. I suspect that If he heads for a mid-season visit to Sheriff Joe’s place the Oilers might not miss him that much.
The RFAs of note that were still unsigned as of last week all reached agreements with their teams. Dallas concluded matters with their two remaining truants, inking James Neal and Matt Niskanen to two year deals. Neither deal is out of line, and if Neal can continue his progress, the Stars might regret not tying him to a longer contract. The Stars have a nice group of forwards to build on if new ownership is willing to put a bit of cash in the club.
The Rangers went longer-term with Marc Staal, re-upping their best defenceman for 5 years at just under 4M per. He can already manage against the other team’s best at age 23, and those types of players don’t just fall out of trees. If his offence takes any step forward, the deal will look like a bit of a bargain, and if not, it isn’t an overpay for a top two Dman. Slats gets a +1 on this deal, which isn’t something that I offer his direction all that often cough Derek Boogaard cough. Oh, and I did slightly chuckle at Larry Brooks’ line about "until the next post-lockout rollback". Slightly.
Bobby Ryan was the other high end RFA to sign on, and his deal will also extend for five seasons at 5.1M a pop. That’s actually close to the top of the market for him, but the deals that he, Getzlaf, Perry and Hiller have signed do insure a good young core will be in place for at least three more years, and one of those deals seem too far off-line. They shouldn’t hamstring the Ducks at any rate. Joffrey Lupul’s deal, on the other hand…
There was also a UFA signing of note, but not necessarily because of the player’s ability. Eric Belanger agreed to a one year deal with the Coyotes after a handshake deal in Washington went asunder. Presuming that everything we’ve heard from Belanger and his agent can bear scrutiny, there’s no real way that the Caps don’t come across as the bad guys in this scenario. Whether it hurts the Capitals’ future dealings with players is another matter, and I’m not convinced it will. There are only so many dollars to go around in the system, and the Caps are a team willing to spend to the max. I don’t think agents will be overly righteous if it means eliminating a big spending club from consideration.
The Coyotes had a bit of off-ice news as their interminable quest for an actual owner with more than fat jokes at their disposal continues. Matthew Hulsizer is alleged to be the latest contestant, and reports from the desert do infer that he might have more cash on hand than previous suitors. I’ll believe this is done when the lease is signed, though. There have been plenty of breathless reports suggesting that a resolution was impending, and the team is no more stable today than it was when the league assumed control.
Speaking of interminable, another salvo was lobbed in the blogger-MSM phony war by Bruce Dowbiggin this week, where he advocated a $10,000 bond from blogs in return for press credentials. You know, just to make sure everyone is serious and professional. As more than a few folks on Twitter noted in the light of the Pat Burns non-death fiasco, I hope he would demand the same of CTV Ottawa. I doubt it, though.
I suppose what grinds my gears about this matter, beyond the silly basement-dweller BS that a number of traditional media members like to resort to when they get caught out, is that we end up losing the plot when the terms of reference are drawn so poorly. The proper standard we should all be striving for is ensuring that there’s a sound factual basis for whatever argument or opinion that we offer, and the platform that it gets offered on shouldn’t be relevant. Personally, I try, with varying degrees of success, not to turn this feature into one where I spend too much time fisking poorly rendered MSM stories out of spite. Then again, when I come across a bit of silliness like this piece that I found on both of the Calgary newspaper websites yesterday, it’s hard not to respond. Here’s the nut graph:
Sure, Stajan is a decent player with good hockey sense but he’s never scored more than 57 points in an NHL season. Making $3.5 million a year, he will be expected to produce at a point-per-game pace to fulfill the lofty contract, anything less and he could fall out of favor rather quickly, making his huge contract an albatross. Expecting Stajan, who will turn 27 next year, to all of a sudden put up consecutive 80-point seasons is asking too much. At his age, he is what he is.
I make no secret of the fact that I don’t just look at points when I judge a player, and Matt Stajan’s success or failure as a second line-ish center in Calgary over the next four years will hinge on more than whatever number of goals and assists he manufactures. If he gets outplayed by top-six comp, he’ll be judged by me as a player that didn’t measure up, whether he scores 65 points a year or 45 points a year.
Even by the incredibly shallow criteria that the paragraph I quoted above uses, though, the entire premise is a mile off base. There were 30 players in the NHL that managed 70 points last year. For this season, exactly one, Zach Parise, will have a smaller cap hit than Stajan. In fact, of those 30 players, only four will have hits below 5M, and there are extenuating circumstances for every one of them. Parise’s deal is covering only RFA years, and I suspect any sentient person would agree that his next contract might pay him a lot more than 3.5M. Steve Stamkos is on his rookie deal. What will his next deal pay? Loui Eriksson will make just over 4M a year, but his new six year pact covers both RFA and UFA years, and RFA years are normally worth less on the market. Daniel Alfredsson will have a hit of just under 5M on a 35+ deal that pays him 1M in the final season. That’s it. Everyone else who tallied 70 points or more makes north of 5M. On what planet, then, would the reasonable expectation of a player getting paid Stajan’s salary be 80 points? I can only add that if I can come up with this information after a couple of minutes on CapGeek, it shouldn’t be asking too much of a person that’s getting a salary to make the same effort.
That’s the end of this week’s sermon, and the round-up as well. Actual hockey matters will begin to be the primary focus around these parts from here on, and as mentioned earlier, Pat Steinberg is updating regularly from camp. Enjoy the remainder of your weekend.