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.

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