September 18 News and Notes

 

WASHINGTON - MARCH 28: Alexander Semin #28 of the Washington Capitals is knocked to the ice by Matt Stajan #18 of the Calgary Flames on March 28, 2010 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Greg Fiume/Getty Images)

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.

FLAMES

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.

ELSEWHERE

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.

AND FURTHER

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.

  • MC Hockey

    Hi all, When the author mentions the following, I think he may be causing confusion to readers. i refere to sentence “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”. I think there is still misunderstanding of LTIR and how it work against the cap or perhaps I am misunderstanding what the bloggers are implying here and in other articles. If Langkow is out for at least 24 days and 10 games (the rule for LTIR), then we can replace his salary with another player but it does not mean we can stay 2.349995 over the cap according to the CBA. We cannot do that according to what I read on the nhlscap.com (I know that site has low currency on players but is correct on collective bargaining provisions). Anyways I only mention it because there seems to be some idea that we can keep all our questionable players if Langkow is out…by that I mean guys like Kotalik (due to play), Sarich due to salary), Staois (salary). Just saying!

    • I don’t want to be too presumptuous, but I think Robert assumes that Staios will be placed in the minors prior to the season starting. That has been a pretty popular belief around these parts.

  • re: LTIR

    Langkow can begin the year on LTIR just as Warrener did a few seasons ago. The Flames would be able to temporarily go over the cap while he’s out.

    That said, scraping the top of the cap from day 1 and having to use an LITR exception is a bad way to do business.

    • Robert Cleave

      Agreed about running close to the line, since a few injuries that aren’t covered by an LTIR situation late in the year could leave you playing short, just we saw in 80/09, when Warrener was on LTIR as a accounting measure. And to mc’s point, I’d post all of 50.10 d, but here’s the main bit pertaining to the Flames and Langkow:

      “The replacement Player Salary and Bonuses for any Player(s) that
      replace(s) an unfit-to-play Player may be added to the Club’s
      Averaged Club Salary until such time as the Club’s Averaged Club
      Salary reaches the Upper Limit. A Club may then exceed the
      Upper Limit
      due to the addition of replacement Player Salary and
      Bonuses of Players who have replaced an unfit-to-play Player,
      provided, however, that when the unfit-to-play Player is once again
      fit to play (including any period such Player is on a Bona Fide
      Long-Term Injury/Illness Exception Conditioning Loan to another
      league), the Club shall be required to once again reduce its
      Averaged Club Salary to a level at or below the Upper Limit prior
      to the Player being able to rejoin the Club.”

      Italics mine. In short form, you can be over the limit, but if Langkow is activated at some point, that’s when players will have to be moved for the Flames to be in compliance.

  • PrairieStew

    Robert:

    Well written on the Stajan bit. My sense of it immediately was that everyone over 80 points would be a $5m player. As you say it only teks 5 minutes to do the research, even if you do not know right away. It makes you wonder if people who write these “newswire” articles actually follow the game or are just writing on orders from the editorial dept. “Hey junior – give me an article on how badly the ex Leafs are going to do in Calgary – use all the cliches, sprinkle in some numbers to sound plausible.”

    So if I get this salary cap thing – Langkow is on the 23 man roster on LITR and his salary counts. The 24th guy can be paid up to Langkows salary and it won’t count. Replacing him with Stone doesn’t help. Replacing him with Kotalik ( do you have to send him down first ?) brings the team about $150k under the cap if Stone or Sutter are player number 23.

  • PrairieStew

    Isn’t mchockey’s point that the Flames roster, with Langkow on it and not counting the replacement player, cannot exceed the cap. Yes, once you add in Langkow and the Replacement Player, you are allowed to exceed the cap. But if the roster is not originally cap compliant, it is offside. In the Warrener year, we were cap compliant, and it was only the addition of the replacement defenceman’s salary (Vandermeer at the time?) that put us over the cap.

    If all of Staios, Sarich and Kotalik are on a roster that includes Langkow on LTIR, we are over the cap. The fact that we can add Backlund and that makes us even more over the cap is irrelevant.

    I sense there is more jiggery-pokery to come.

  • I know you guys touched on it, but that article on Stajan was complete trash. And this is coming from me, Stajan’s biggest fan.

    Why is the media trying to get the fans worked up over Matt Stajan? There are plenty of players on this team, the Captain being numero uno, who underperformed their contracts and this isn’t mentioned at all. Yet we are supposed to get worked up about the hypothetical possibility that a guy signed for peanuts (3.5 for a centre?) won’t score at a PPG pace?

    When did the media in this city go insane?

      • I wouldn’t be surprised. The papers here in Hogtown are too busy writing glowing articles about how Captain Dion will not only singlehandledly muscle the Leafs into the playoffs this year, but also find a cure for cancer and broker peace in the mideast. Maybe you haven’t been informed yet, but he’s highly truculent.

      • Rob in Toronto

        I wouldn’t be surprised. The papers here in Hogtown are too busy writing glowing articles about how Captain Dion will not only singlehandledly muscle the Leafs into the playoffs this year, but also find a cure for cancer and broker peace in the mideast. Maybe you haven’t been informed yet, but he has a high truculence factor, which obviously correlates to team success.

  • Just another quick note on the LTIR stuff and cap space.

    I suppose the designated replacement player doesn’t have to be Backlund. For example, if the Flames designate their 23 man roster as excluding Iginla, with Backlund in and then Langkow on LTIR, that roster comes up to ~$56 million in cap hit. They can name Iginla the Replacement Player, allowing them to exceed the cap by the ~$4.5 million or so that Iginla’s salary would put them over the cap.

    The downside of this is that the “cap-room multiplier” effect that lets teams add big salaries at the end of the season would be totally negated because the Flames are at the cap until something else changes. I suspect it was this lack of accounting for the problems with the cap space that led to the much lambasted short-roster at the end of 2008-2009.

    Like I said, jiggery-pokery.

  • PrairieStew

    That’s where I say you can probably send Kotalik down ( he’s already cleared waivers once) and then call him back up to replace Langkow. With either Stone or Sutter on the 23 man – then we are under.

    The problem is if in being recalled; Kotalik is claimed by someone – then $1.5 would count against the cap and you are $800 K over with only 22 guys.

  • MC Hockey

    Hi all, Thanks to folks for jumping in here. As I understand it, as of first day of season, you MUST be under the cap including Langkow and everyone (never over). The replacement person may have to come from outside the roster, like out of minors or new signing, so sending Kotalik down and then calling back up may work. Otherwise, sending down Kotalik or Staios and leaving them there works too. It’s a mess, anyone know a player agent to ask? MC

    • Robert Cleave

      The Flames wouldn’t have to assign anyone if they knew that Langkow wasn’t going to be ready. Again, from the CBA, here’s the relevant example:

      Illustration #4: The Upper Limit in a League Year is $40.0 million. A
      Player who has an SPC with an Averaged Amount of $2.0 million
      becomes unfit to play on the last day of Training Camp, and on the
      same day, his Club exercises the Bona-Fide Long-Term Injury/Illness
      Exception on such Player. On Opening Day, the Club has an
      Averaged Club Salary of $41.5 million (excluding Earnable
      Performance Bonuses up to the full amount of the Performance Bonus
      Cushion). The Club is deemed to have already fully replaced the
      unfit-to-play Player with any Player or Players on the Opening Day
      Roster. If these replacements are maintained through the conclusion
      of the season, the Club’s Averaged Club Salary is $41.5 million, as the
      Club is permitted to exceed the Upper Limit by $1.5 million because
      of the Bona-Fide Long-Term Injury/Illness Exception.

      As long as Langkow is declared as LTIR to the league when they submit their final roster, they can “replace” him with players already on hand. This is exactly how they proceeded with the Warrener situation in October of 2008.

  • Robert Cleave

    I think Robert is right, in that there is no reason to have to meddle with waivers etc. However, I note the contradiction between the example and 50.10(d). The example would lead one to believe that the amount a team is allowed to exceed the cap by is determined by the Averaged Amount of the injured player. Hence, the club in the example is $1.5 million over the cap, but the hurt player’s Averaged Amount is $2 million, so they are ok.

    But the wording of 50.10(d) states “A Club may then exceed the Upper Limit due to the addition of replacement Player Salary and bonuses of Players who have replaced an unfit-to-play Player” I read that as the Club is allowed to exceed the cap, at most, by the salary of the replacement player.

    Capgeek has the Flames at ~$2.1 million over the cap. Backlund’s salary is only ~$1.75 million cap hit. The Flames are not cap compliant if he is the “replacement player”.

    • Robert Cleave

      No, they can exceed the cap by up to the amount of the injured player. If you look at illustration #1 on page 228 of the CBA, that type of scenario gets covered as well. You’re even allowed to use multiple players as long as they don’t collectively make more than the injured player, and as long as the team keeps within compliance of the 23 player roster limit that exists until the March deadline. The illustrations, and the CBA as a whole, may appear to have been written as if the goal was to confuse as opposed to enlighten, but I’m pretty comfortable with my interpretation of this, and as I mentioned previously, the Flames provided a concrete example when they used this exact method of getting under the number two years ago in the Warrener case.