Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Sanity now

Well, Garth Snow might be taking hits from the tail pipe of the team bus, but at least our man Lowe has his act together. Pronger tradebait Joffrey Lupul signed a 3-year, $7mil-ish deal ahora, meaning our forwards are essentially set. As I understand it, this is pretty much exactly what the Oilers wanted, keeping Lupul out of his arbitration eligibility for an extra year and keeping him out of UFA-dom when this contract expires as well. And, admittedly, $2.3mil a year for a 30-goal scorer is a pretty sweet deal right now, probably even better when he starts potting 40 by the end of it.

Anyway, as big as this news is, there's been some other RFA-related news that has me a little more a-tizzy (besides Dipietro, which Chris! covers below): if you were judging solely by this story
at TSN, you'd be thinking that Bobby Clarke's offer sheet to Ryan Kesler was a far bigger deal than signing anyone whose name doesn't rhyme with Blaine Metzky to essentially a career-long contract. To whit, one anonymous NHL GM had this to say:

"I thought the DiPietro deal was the height of stupidity but this Kesler deal tops it. Does Clarkie actually think Vancouver isn't going to match? Every team will match. You have to. You have to protect your assets no matter what. All this is going to do is drive up the cost to do business. This is going to be ridiculously inflationary, even in the cap system we have. It's crazy.''

I can't comment on whether or not Clarke honestly thought Vancouver was going to match, but even if he did, how is Clarke anything but shrewd with this move? If Vancouver gives up Kesler (which they probably should have considered, at that price), Clarke gets the player he wanted (he evidently was sniffing around Kesler earlier in the year) for two first-round picks and a partially inflated price. Instead, Vancouver, already bumping the cap, matches, and is now paying a 10-goal, potential second-line centre (at best) $2mil--meaning they've got pretty much no choice but to dress a fourth line of league-minimum players, or dump some other high-end talent to free up space, putting another decent-quality player on the market. Either way, barring Kesler playing way over his head for them this year, the Canucks are a worse team this season no matter what (either sans Kesler or some other potential options) and the Flyers are just as good or better, at least for the time being (it could be fairly easily argued that two first-round picks might be a little more than Kesler is worth, though not neccessarily). Maybe Nonis doesn't listen to anything Clarke has to say anymore, but that's only one potential trading partner out of 29 gone, and even then, for the right deal, Nonis would have to be petty and stupid not to listen, just because Clarke was trying to improve his own team in a slightly uuncordial way.

More importantly, though, is the idea that this will somehow drive up prices around the league. Bullshit. Unless GMs starting dropping offer sheets like Allied propaganda on Munich (unlikely for a few reason, which I'll get to), all this will do is punish stupid/ineffectual GMs. The presumed assumption of GM Retard up there is that there is no risk to the team trying to sign away the RFA, which is just ridiculous (I presume this is his assumption because if it isn't, his statment shows such a staggering ignorance of the salary cap/RFA compensation reality there's simply no way he could possibly rise to the rank of GM; alternatively, I guess, it might be Doug Maclean. Or Garth Snow). For starters, there is compensation for RFAs, and significant compensation at that. We can quibble about the value of draft picks, I suppose, but how many players in the NHL would you be willing to trade two first-round picks for? Now, of those, how many of them are worth no more than $1.93 million? I think it's fair to say that the number of players you'd consider sending offer sheets to gets even smaller the more draft picks you have to give up (five being the max).

So, right from the get go, let's assume that only about 1/3 of the potential RFAs any given year would even be worth whatever compensation you'd have to give up--essentially, then, these are no-risk offer sheet players. Except that, the only way these players are no-risk is if GMs continue to religously match offer sheets with no critical thought whatsoever. If we can be entirely sure that teams will match every offer, we might as well start offering league maxes to every third-year player who hasn't signed yet, because all we'll ever do is hurt the teams who inevitably hold on to him. As soon as teams are willing to part with talent (by, say, looking at the cost of a second-line centre and deciding that someone like Kesler probably isn't worth $2mil salary cap room and two first-round picks), though, those dropping offer sheets have to careful. Assuming you're already overpaying the guy a bit to try and make the other team scared, the player you get not only has to start living up that salary (fairly quickly, too), he has to be better than two first-round picks in the long run (not always hard, but it also means you're probably not signing players who are going to be bolting in two years). Offer sheets might drive up prices in the short term, but that market will correct itself right chicken when some dumbass (Maclean?) gives, say, Jussi Jokinen $3.5mil a year to score 15 goals on the third line, and doesn't get to call anyone's name in the first round for three straight years on top of it.

It's probably also fair to assume that this will only happen to team's in Vancouver's position (that is, near the cap), because teams with ample cap room aren't likely to mind overpaying a guy a little to keep their ship steady, and while there is some benefit in making other teams overpay people, anyone who embarks on that path is still running the risks outlined above (again, unless GMs knee-jerk on every single RFA offer sheet that comes along, in which case they're morons).

Tendering RFAs is just plain shrewd maneouvering, and the only way it could possibly hurt the game is if GMs completely refuse to adapt to a reality in which it is an option, if not necessarily commonplace. Although, given that at least one of them is willing to give out a 15-year contract, perhaps my faith in their intelligence is somewhat misplaced.

Oh, and a final note: didn't the Isles try this last year, but it didn't work because of insurance cost issues? What changed? Is Wang paying the insurance as well?


Anonymous said...

Good analysis, Dave. About time someone broke from the ranks of GM collusion and took advantage of the offer sheet.

Also, it's Kesler, not Kesla. FIX IT NOW.


joninabox said...

Actually Clark would have only given up a 2nd round pick for Kesler. Not bad for a 1st round draft pick that's only 22 years old. I would love to seem him have gotten Kesler, Vancouver would have been so screwed. The last thing they need to do is give up the best defensive centre who is bound to continue improving.

Jordi said...

They only signed Lupul because he won the first Hot Off round.

hockeygirl said...

Jordi's right. Some things you don't need to analyze.

Anonymous said...

The concern many GM's are having with this with regards to the inflationary effects this will have on players has little to do with more and more offer sheets being dropped. It has everything to do with market value for players and most importantly the arbitration process.

Next season, after Kesler's $1.9M contract is up, in order to retain his rights, the Canucks now must qualify him at $1.9M. The concern, and likely reality is, that this now becomes market value for a 10-goal player. And don't think for one second that each and every player with comparable stats to Kesler will not use Kesler as their market value comp in the negotiation and arbitration processes.

Further, the Flyers tactic would've made substantially more sense if the Canucks were unable to fit Kesler's $1.9 million under the salary cap, but this is not the case - Kesler's figure of $1.9 million will take Vancouver to $43 million for 22 players, or $1 million under the cap and one player under the 23-man roster limit. It's also the number of players the Canucks carried on their roster last season. The fact of the matter is, there is no way Philly is getting Kesler at $1.9M.

Black Dog Hates Skunks said...

our unknown poster above has hit the nail on the head in terms of the concern teams have with this - arbitration - just as Havlat's goofy contract was used as a comp, so will this.

The thing is we are going to see more and more walkaways in the years upcoming - there is only so much money now. While Kesler's contract may inflate salaries slightly the likelihood is that teams will be walking away from arbitration awards in the future. There is only so much money to go around. Player agents are crowing now but if ten teams walk away from Kesler comps next offseason how many of those guys are going to find teams willing to pay them @ 2M per.

Very very few.

case said...

vancouver is screwed. carter is a blue jacket. the olson twins powers will be neutralized without their stepbrother anson.

Anonymous said...

Apparently the NHL commissioner personally stepped in and persuaded Wang and Milbury to see reason...well temporarily.

The insurance is still an issue, they are only covered for the first 5 years, after which time if Ricky is still healthy and playing they can apply to renew the insurance policy for another 5 years...being on the hook for 10 years at 4.5 million per much be MUCH easier to stomach...