Sunday, May 30, 2010

Early Rumours of Marleau & Kovalchuk

Oh, I love how rumour season is kicking into gear... I do keep a close eye on HockeyBuzz, because it's a lot of fun to play with the rumours.  Sunday afternoon sees an interesting paradigm shift in the Pacific Division with the suggestion of the Los Angeles Kings going after Patrick Marleau on July 1st, opening up the door for the Sharks to go after Ilya Kovalchuk

Looking at what the Kings already have in place, Marleau looks like he'd be a pretty good fit down the middle for the Kings, but do they really want to drop a ton of cap space on one player on a young team.  The Kings already have a good captain in Dustin Brown, but you would have to think Marleau would get an "A" if he steps on the ice for Los Angeles.  Depth at centre is somewhat questionable, so having a centre like Marleau to play with a guy like Ryan Smyth does seem rather tempting, so I think the rumour does have some merit.

Last week, I did toy with the idea of what Marleau might be worth on the open market and my best guess would suggest that $6.5 million will be the eventual cap hit for him and since the Kings have $43.4 million already taken up for 15 players, they'd be riding $50 million if they added Marleau.  That's getting pretty tight.

Now, the Sharks targeting Ilya Kovalchuk is super interesting, wouldn't you say?  How far would the desired salary cap hit slide to play in San Jose? That would be my first question when thinking about this potential signing. I'm thinking that if Kovalchuk did decide to go to San Jose in July, he would have to think that moving to the West would give him the best chance to win a Cup, so I'm thinking the desired cap hit may drop down to $7 million per season, which would be well suited to the Sharks, who only have a current cap hit of $34.6 million for 10 players, including Joe Thornton, Dany Heatley and Dan Boyle.  That would be a boatload of offense and then depth and goaltending would have to be sorted out with the remaining cap space, which might not be a hard task, because they should be able to attract some top talent to play for less with the four players signed (hypothetically). 

The Sharks are definitely in a position to go shopping with Marleau and Evgeni Nabokov hitting the open market, relieving a lot of cap space, and they will have to win something big soon or else the management may be finding itself in some real hot water.

Friday, May 28, 2010

Would Volchenkov Fit in Washington?

I had to raise an eyebrow at one of the rumours that Eklund posted this morning, seeing that the Washington Capitals have a lot of interest in potential free agent defenseman, Anton Volchenkov.  It should come as no surprise that Volchenkov is really drawing some interest, because he is a valuable defenseman, from a defensive standpoint.  He might not put up a great deal of points or generate a ton of offense by himself, but the guy is exceptionally physical and is able to block a lot of shots.  I would be drawing the interest around Volchenkov to the same amount of interest that Jay McKee got when he flipped into being an unrestricted free agent. 

Offensively, Volchenkov does not tip the scales too far with a career-high of only 19 points, so his fantasy value has not been high, in terms of scoring.  I suppose if you work one of those deeper statistical pools, you may find some good uses for Volchenkov in the blocked shots, shots on goal, plus/minus (on a good year) or penalty minutes, but otherwise, he's strictly your defensive defenseman.  Of course, if he moved to Washington and was able to unleash the cannon of a shot that he has on a power play, he might actually find himself with some more assists, possibly even some more goals, but that's if he was to move there.

Now, the next thing is determining what his actual cap value will be with his potential deal to see if he could possibly fit in a place like Washington or what they might have to do to fit him in.  Volchenkov's last deal, a 3-year, $7.5 million in 2007, was a cap hit of $2.5 million each year and was a pretty solid deal for the Senators, especially for all the hard work they got out of him.  In terms of defensive defensemen getting a brand new deal, McKee's deal in 2006 netted him $4 million a year, which was awfully high for a defenseman that doesn't score much.  Well, I think $4 million is a good jumping off point for Volchenkov, even four years down the road.

I think the greatest aspect of the Volchenkov free agency situation is that he will be a popular guy come July 1st and there just may be a bit of a bidding war for his services. If the auction was to start around $3.5 million per season, I could easily imagine him being overpaid at around $5.5 million per season by a contending team this Summer.  That's a lot of scratch for very little offense, but blocked shots and hits are becoming big business in a very offensive NHL.

Let's call it, the worst-case scenario for the winning club at $5.5 million per year for likely between four or five years in his first unrestricted free agency deal.  The Washington Capitals currently have plenty of cap space taken up with their current list of players, 13 players at $43.6 million, so a massive cap hit like the worst-case Volchenkov would really limit the rest of their depth and possibly give more reason to keep some of their developing blueliners in the minors for another year, which is one of those lumps they would have to take.  Of course, there may just be a market for a guy like Tom Poti, who has one year at $3.5 million against the cap left on his deal, to a team that needs a bit more offense from the blueline.  Out of general speculation, that might just work like a charm.

I would definitely say that Volchenkov signing in Washington is a plausible rumour, especially since a guy like Poti is marketable and the Capitals don't need much more offense from anyone, rather a lot more defense.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Thinking Out Loud: Nabokov and Marleau

Since I have a bit of time today, I thought I would look at some of the impending free agents and sort of think out loud here.  With the San Jose Sharks potentially having two of the top three unrestricted free agents this Summer come out of their system, it might be worth a go to look at their valuation and what could possibly happen.

I think one of the worst things about having both Evgeni Nabokov and Patrick Marleau come up at the same time in July is that they both had pretty good regular seasons, ranking well in their respective measurable statistic categories and also, Marleau did have a pretty damn good playoffs as well.

If it were me, I would first be looking at what their market values should be for both players and then make a better decision from there.  I think once you have determined what their cap values are, you can then weigh the pros and cons compared to those values.  Hell, once you determine the values, you might even be able to keep both, if that was Doug Wilson's prerogative.

Let's start in goal with Nabokov... a 44-game winner in the regular season and was good enough to lift the Sharks into the number one spot in the Western Conference and that did literally give them the best chance at making it through the conference rounds of the playoffs, on the merits of their competition through rounds one and two.  In a lot of cases, most teams would want that goaltending just to get to the big dance and then from there, it's a whole new ball game.  Nabokov is going to be 35 years old at the start of the 2011 regular season, which probably only gives him 3 to 4 years maximum on a new deal and he'll likely want a sizable paycheque when it's all said and done.  The average cap hit for the six goalies with 38 or more wins is $4.1 million, but I would say he'd be looking for a cap hit of about $5 million, likely front-loaded, just in case.

For Marleau, you can't argue with his consistency as a whole, he might ride a wave of some ups and downs, but for the most part, he's done well to remain in the conversation as some of the game's best players.  Marleau set a new career-high in goals in 2010 with 44, after setting his previous high the year before with 38.  You can't take goal scoring away from him, that's for sure.  The market value for a 40-goal scorer these days is actually quite high and having back-to-back seasons in the neighbourhood of 40 goals is a very marketable feat.  Marleau's last contract extension had a cap hit of $6.3 million and frankly, there is little reason for it to go down and more reason for it to go up a touch. Marleau will start the season at age 31, so the decision will likely come down to whether or not the Sharks want him for the remainder of his career, which could lessen his cap hit thanks to front-loading his potential deal, or let him take $6.5 million (or slightly more) in a market looking for a veteran forward with leadership qualities.

So, let's head to the ballpark with these figures.  Right now, I have the San Jose Sharks sitting with a roster of 10 players signed on for $34.6 million, with the bulk of those players signed on as defensemen.  If we added two deals that were short-term and full expected cap hit, we'd be adding $11.5 million and only two players to the scheme.  That would give us 12 players at $45.7 million, which is approximately where the Boston Bruins sit right now, leaving about $10 million for 11 players, if the Sharks were to carry a full 23-man roster.  That would be considered less than flexible for the remainder of the Summer.

I would have to imagine that both players, if they hit the open market in July, would get some nice looking offers from other teams.  There are plenty of teams out there that could use a fresh face as their franchise goaltender or use a veteran forward to help grow their future superstar youth, with cap space to spare.

This is a real major crossroads for GM Doug Wilson and the future of the San Jose Sharks and with the lack of great talent in their system, I would have to bet that he would take the safe road and try to get both players under contract for the long-term and work like hell to expand his youth system through better trades for picks.  Of course, if he can get both cap hits down with longer-term deals, he might be able to afford some better depth and a better shot at making the Cup Finals soon.

But this is just me thinking out loud.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

The Move to Winnipeg Seems Real

I have been mildly vocal on Twitter about all this relocation talk of the Coyotes, especially last season, when I was reasoning with the NHL as to why they would keep the Coyotes in Phoenix and it really did make sense to me. Show the people of Phoenix and Glendale some quality hockey, some winning hockey and more people will come out and watch the game. Thankfully, there was a good playoff run (of only one series, but still) in 2010 and the seats were filled. "If you win some, then they will come."

I was not prepared, as an NHL fan, to let Phoenix go without hoping for a good fight.  I really like hockey and I would really love it if more people watched the game and admired how good it is, much like I do.  Building the hockey community is one of the best things we can do as individual ambassadors of the game.  Hell, one day I'd like to go down to Phoenix, more likely in the Winter, and I wouldn't mind taking in a hockey game down there, just so I can have some of the seasonal luxuries without the blah weather.

What I'm not going to do, however, is argue a point which has little to no arguments, because it's just beating one's head into a brick wall, there just isn't any point.

That brings us to today.  There was a report published by the CBC, posted on Twitter by Puck Daddy's @Wyshnyski, which says that the NHL has a contingency plan in their scheduling for the possibility that the Phoenix Coyotes have to relocate to... Winnipeg!

I only get excited for this because there are league officials talking seriously about the possibility of the relocation, not as a comment or a rumour, but as a generalized fact.  At the very least, that is very exciting news, because if they are officially thinking about it, then we now have an official reason to keep our fingers crossed (for those who really want a team in Winnipeg or Canada, for that matter). 

Of course, there are plenty of circumstances that have to be measured out and weighed accordingly in order for the team's fate to be officially decided, but I think there are some interesting things being said that may have the scale tipped towards Winnipeg more than Phoenix/Glendale.

The biggest hurdle, which looks to be a well placed mountain in the path, is that the NHL and their potential owners are looking to the City of Glendale, where the Arena is located, to cover the losses incurred by the Coyotes and the NHL in order to seal a lease agreement.  You would think that would just be a business deal that just involves money, but there are a lot of concerns of where that money is coming from and how it looks playing out.  In the CBC article, there is a big quote box that reads: "Under Arizona's constitution, cities are not allowed to give subsidies to private sports owners, or any private businesses for that matter."  Constitutional matters are not historically easy to overcome, which leads me to believe that this is a purposeful matter that the NHL needs the City of Glendale to say no to and then the league can officially wash their hands of the matter, claiming that they've done all they can in order to keep the franchise alive in Arizona and have no choice but to move it.

The league obviously doesn't want to fork out any more money for losses, neither do their owners and board members, so if there is a potential suitor to the franchise that would take on that lump sum and the put the team in a place where there is plenty of support, then the league really has no choice and there is no argument pending.  This is why I can back it, because it must be done.

I didn't back the Balsille bids for the sake of moving a team to Canada for the sake of moving the team, I think that just looked exceptionally greedy of Canada as a whole.  "It's our game and we're taking our puck and going home."  Now, at least there is proper reason assessed and all the avenues have been exhausted to keep hockey with fans that are likely just discovering the game for the first time.  I really hate to take this wonderful sport away from them, but it's not my choice, all I can do is say if I like the move or not and in this case... I do.