So which is it the trading deadline or the start of free agency that is the hockey fans’ Christmas? I suppose it depends on which time of year it is and how lazy of a writer that you are dealing with. I have read many a blog that uses the term for both times of the year. If tomorrow, July 1st, is indeed NHL fans Christmas, well then Christmas this year is a rife with coal.
Sabres fans are giddy. And I guess they have a reason to be. They finally have an owner who wants to spend to the cap. Terry Pegula claims he will do whatever he needs to do to win the Cup.
Welcome to the world of almost a dozen other teams: get in line. That is the reality.
There are other teams that have had the same attitude for years and yet have not won the Cup. I submit: The New York Rangers, Philadelphia, Vancouver, San Jose, Washington, and Calgary as teams that spend the max money every year and don’t have anything but big time receipts to show for it in the past decade plus.
The add in Detroit, Pittsburgh, Boston, Tampa Bay, and Chicago as teams that will spend to the cap and have won, with the exception of Detroit, just once in that same time period. The field is crowded and you best not overspend on a player if you want to be in the latter group rather than the former. And yet many of the teams in the former group will overspend and stay in the spend to the cap and get nothing back club.
It is a weak sauce group of UFAs this year. What a shame for Buffalo fans, they finally get an owner who will open up his coffers, the free agency well is dry. Pegula and company would be better off making small moves now, saving the cash for salary dumps at the trade deadline or a trade. Somehow I doubt they will, as they have to differentiate themselves from the B. Thomas era. It will be a mistake of colossal proportions.
Here are my thoughts on the top 10 2011 Unrestricted Free Agents (according to The Sporting News):
1. Brad Richards: A nice player but the Rangers are in the mix at an overinflated price of 7 mil per. The last time the Rangers over bid that much on UFA centers: 2007. I submit Chris Drury and Scott Gomez as examples 1A and 1B as to why you should skip overpaying for Richards. He is a great player, but not elite.
2. Teemu Selanne: I would overpay if I were Winnipeg. It would be a great PR move to bring him back home. But everyone says it is the Ducks or retirement. I would love to see Teemu go out now as he had a strong year.
3. Christian Ehrhoff: I think he is a great number 2 or 3 backliner. So you cannot pay him the 6 million that he is rumored to be asking for. This would be a horrible signing for the Sabres(or any other team) as they need to resign Tyler Myers next year to a similar amount of cash and they need to add elite talent to the pivot. Overpaying for Ehrhoff will prevent them from doing both. He is not a 6 million dollar a year d-man, he is 4 million per at best.
4. Tomas Fleischmann: I really like him as a player, but the blood clot issues from last year would keep me from a bidding war. Slot him at 3 million for 1 year and he can skate his way to a bigger contract next year.
5. Tomas Vokoun: I question how he would perform in a hockey crazy market where goaltenders are looked at under a microscope. He could be a steal if he goes to the right situation. Just beware he could melt in a big time hockey market.
6. James Wisniewski: I have always appreciated the edge that he plays with. But in this thin market I suspect that he will get significantly overpaid. He is a borderline 2, more a 3/4 and as such you cannot afford to overpay him. Some team will and then will spend the middle years of the contract trying to ditch his deal.
7. Tomas Kaberle: His true colors came through in the Finals. He is a 3/4/PP guy at this point in his career and should be paid as such. If you are counting on him as a 1/2 and pay him as such you will have buyer’s remorse.
8. Simon Gagne: Skilled players with injury issues frighten me. Pass.
9. Ville Leino: I love this guy’s game. And while I am down on overpaying for players, ones like Ville are worth the gamble, IMO. He has a nice upside and has shown that he can perform on the biggest of stages. Many elite players wilt under the pressure, this guy did not.
10. Sean Bergenheim: Like Joel Ward he had a breakout playoff run in 2011. I am just not sure that I believe the hype. I am not sure what makes him different than Leino, but there is something about his run that I just don’t trust. I would not overpay him.
Teams have gotten smarter since the Sabres July 1st debacle in 2007. Most are locking up their core players well before July 1st. As such I suspect that the Trade Deadline will reassert itself as the true NHL fans’ Christmas. There will always be teams looking to ditch payroll to help salvage at least the bottom line during a lost season.
Looking forward to 2012 UFAs, there are only two that are even borderline elite (Coburn and Suter), and I doubt they make it to July 1. Or should I call it the NHL fans’ Festivus?