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Thursday, July 1, 2010

Update #5 - Happy Unrestricted Free Canada Day

Happy Canada Day to everyone north of the border (well north of my border).  It is interesting that Canada Day falls on the same day as the Free Agent Frenzy in the NHL begins.  What a coincidence....or maybe it's not. 

Canada Day is sort of like, in a round about kind of way, like Independence Day in the US.  I'm not Canadian so I won't claim to have first hand experience with this but I was a history major in college and I believe it commemorates the joining of the provinces into a federation...or something like that.  Either way, it is a national holiday and everyone has off work and their is no mail, etc, etc.

More importantly though, it is Free Agent day in the NHL.  There are so many UFA's and RFA's out there on the wire that it would make your head spin.  To give you an idea, head over to The Cap Geek and their pretty thorough list.  Some interesting names you will find on there include the likes of Ilya Kovalchuk, Evgeni Nabokov, Sergei Gonchar, Ray Whitney, Teemu Selanne, and many many more. 

But in typical DFG fashion, I want to focus on the quagmire of cap issues that are affecting the Pens.  In all my years of watching the Penguins, I never remember a year where so many players were on the free agent list.  If you include all the players the Pens have contracts with, Pittsburgh has 15 guys on the bubble.  Of those 15, 8 players saw playing time on the Pens last season and 1 other player saw NHL time (that being Hamhuis).  The rest are all two-way contracted players that spent last season bouncing between Wilkes-Barre Scranton and Wheeling.  So, for argument sake, we will say there are basically 8 pressing issues to deal with.

#1  Sergei Gonchar $5M cap hit- Bottom line here is that he isn't getting any younger.  He did not win any support from the club with his disappearing act in the final few games of this years playoffs and I think the fact that Shero didn't moved on him sooner is a sure sign that they are looking elsewhere for help on the D.  What that means to the team however, is that the leader of the powerplay is now gone, along with a solid 40-50 points of offense.  With very little room under the cap, he is going to be difficult to replace.

UPDATE:  Gonchar signs a three year $5.5M contract with a NTC for Ottawa.  I didn't know they still had a team in Ottawa.  When he can't finish or goes down with an injury, they will see.

#2  Alexei Ponikarovsky $2.1M cap hit- I think I was the only one that liked this trade in the beginning.  What's the saying...hind sight is always 20/20?  We just simply gave up too much to get Poni from Toronto.  He failed to live up to expectations and with the exception of a handful of games, his on ice presence was virtually non-existent.  The organization would be better off letting this one go and trying to tap the market for a sub $2M forward. 

#3 Mark Eaton $2M cap hit - I will admit, I actually like Mark.  Maybe it's because we are about the same age.  Maybe it's because I have followed his career since he got into the NHL.  Maybe I'm just an idiot.  (maybe all three).  Eaton is a stay at home defenseman and only gets noticed when he does something bad.  That's how I was in elementary school.  Maybe that's why I like him.  He doesn't score goals and is hardly seen on offense.  But, that's the thing, he isn't paid for that.  His downfall and possible doom when it comes to staying is the fact that he was non-existent in the playoffs.  Recent memories burn brightest.

UPDATE:  Mark is shipping off to Bos...I mean New York...Islanders that is.  He is taking a $2.5M contract with him.  Mark was the first player to emerge as an offensive capable defenseman in the Bylsma led Pens-era but I'm going to guess his string of injuries shortened his tenure. 

#4  Dan Hamhuis $2M cap hit - This could be a bigger issue than it has been made to this point.  They acquired his rights from Philly in return for some draft pick in 2011.  That doesn't mean they get him, though.  Hamhuis is a solid 20 point D-man that could help pilot a top line corps in the absence of Sarge.  He has been a reliable player for the last 5 years and would most certainly be a welcomed addition to Pens.  However, his agent has already committed to shopping him on the open market.  Pittsburgh doesn't have that much negotiating room, especially if they want both Dan and Gonchar.

UPDATE:  Dan Hamhuis is signed by the Canucks!!  Six years...$4.5M per year.  So we could have had a quality D-man for less than $5M...I guess Dan didn't want to play in Pittsburgh.  That's okay though.  There is now potential room for Billy G.  Wishful thinking I know.

#5  Bill Guerin $2M cap hit - Okay. Okay.  I get it.  He's old.  Well so what?  He is by far the elder statesman when it comes to the team.  The tangibles in this case are fare outweighed by the intangibles like experience and leadership, in my opinion.  I'm biased, I know.  But that doesn't change the fact that Billy G is the undisputed leader of goalie screening.  No one else on the team is going to do the dirty work.  We need him.

#6 Ruslan Fedotenko $1.8M cap hit - Two words...I don't care.  Okay that was three words but, guess what?  I don't care.  I have nothing good to say here.  Ruslan, you are dead to me.  Let him slip.

#7 Jordan Leopold $1.75M cap hit - Leopold was a solid trade deadline pick up for the Pens.  He is a great skater and a good puck handler.  He came in and did exactly what he was supposed to do.  That is until the Expert took him out for good.  He just wasn't himself after that.  If it was between him and Eaton, I would still pick Eaton but I would hate to see Jordan end up as a rent-a-player. 

#8 Jay McKee $800K cap hit - 137 blocked shots for under $1M?  I say, "More, Please!!"  You can't buy that kind of grit and heart in the NHL these days.  Guys don't want to get dirty or risk injury.  McKee is a steal at this price, in my opinion.  If it wasn't for injuries, that shot block number could have easily been over 180.  The reality though, is that he did little else than give up the body.  His chances of staying in black and gold are slim to none and slim just left town.

When noon arrives today, we will see how this circus unfolds.

UPDATE:  Ray Shero goes for the gusto to replace Gonchar and signs Zbynek Michalek.  The contract is a 5 year $20M contract that will count as a $4M cap hit/year.  Michalek is going to be a great addition to the Pens as he is very underrated and has flown under everyone's radar for some time.  He is an excellent passing D-man with the ability to set up and captain the powerplay.  that is going (hopefully) to be well worth the $4M.   The Coyotes are going to be sorry they let him go.

UPDATE:  With another stretch play, the Pens sign defenseman Paul Martin, one of the top three D-men in the UFA market.  He only played 22 games because of a broken arm and missed the Olympics but there is no doubt that he is a offensive minded D-man.  The terms of the deal look to be $5M/year for 5 years.  From where I'm standing...defense looks to be done.

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