Wednesday, May 24, 2006

The Richards Effect

I like Brad Richards. A lot. He's a terrific hockey player.

And now his new contract has effectively killed his team's chances at winning the Cup for the next few years unless Jay Feaster can work a miracle.

Richards, Lecavalier and St.Louis take up almost 20M in cap room for the Bolts now and even if the cap bumps up to 46M, likely more like 43M apparently, they are top heavy in salary now. If Feaster plays it like Kevin Lowe did this year and leaves himself some room under the cap at the beginning of the season then he has @ 18-20 M left to spend. If he gets right against the cap then he has another 3 M to spend and better pray then everybody stays healthy and plays up to snuff.

Maybe he looks at the Oil and sees that after Pronger, Peca and Smyth (13.5 total) Lowe spent @ 23 M and look where they are.

Me, I look at the fact that Tampa is paying Richards what the Oil paid Smyth, Horcoff, Hemsky, Torres, Stoll and Pisani this year.

Who got the better value?

Look, I love Richards but has Feaster not looked around the league and seen who will be available next year. The year after?

Some guys are going to cash in big because of this contract. Let other teams give guys huge long term contracts. Hopefully Lowe will pick up the pieces.

Lowe played it the way it has to be played this year.

Leave yourself room under the cap, plenty of it, so you can augment your lineup cheaply as the year progresses. The Bolts could have used a goalie, defensive depth and secondary scoring but they had no money to go out and get the reinforcements Lowe did.

Leave yourself flexibility with contracts from year to year. Do you think Bob Clarke is happy to have Hatcher and Rathje signed for the longterm after seeing them get burned time and time again by les Sabres? Do you think that if the Leafs give Bryan McCabe 5M to go along with Kaberle's 4.5M that in 5 years they will be happy with those investments? Is McCabe worth 1M less a year then Chris Pronger? Is he worth more then Smith, Staios, Greene and Bergeron combined? Especially considering Smith and Staios' contracts expire soon?

Guys are still going to get their big contracts. The Oil are going to lose guys from this terrific team this summer. But you know what? If Lowe knows what he's doing then he will get the right guys under contract and if their agents ask for the moon he will drive them to the airport and say good luck and move on. And he will find guys to replace them.

Because Tampa and a lot of other teams won't have the room to sign a lot of useful players.


Vic Ferrari said...

Interesting take, Black Dog.

I don't think it is fair to criticize Feaster for the value of the deal. Maybe a shade high, but I think it's pretty reasonable given the fact that Richards is one year away from UFA. Granted the Martin St. Louis deal looked pretty dubious at the time, and still does imo.

I guess it boils down to "a few star players" vs "a dozen good players" ... or something along those lines, no? Like you, I tend to lean toward the latter as well. Hockey is funny though, one guy can make such a huge difference to your team (Forsberg, Demitra, Palffy, Naslund) ... which seems great when they are healthy and playing well, but as soon as they go down or start playing hurt and struggle ... you're hooped. And it happened with all of those guys (except for Ziggy, who was having a poor PP year but was putting up obscenely good even strength numbers before giving up on that Pens team and going back to Europe). Still, didn't really work out for anybody, did it?

And as for Lowe having money left in the bank for deadline day ... do you think that was on purpose? I kind of got the feeling that he would rather have spent that on Demitra or Forsberg or similar at the start of the year, but none of the guys he wanted to buy were ineterested in playing here. I dunno, just a guess. It's worked out well though.

Vic Ferrari said...

To add:

I'm starting to think that the only really good deals are going to be the high quality guys in the tail end of their careers. Guys like Shanahan and Yzerman. They aren't the players that they once were, and they can't give you as many minutes as they used to, but they are still damn effective hockey players when they are on the ice. And they aren't going to be playing for anyone else but the Wings until they retire. Same goes for Chelios and Schneider on that squad. And probably Lidstrom in the contract he signs in a few years.

For the Oilers, will Smyth sign at a discount to stay here? I'd guess probably not much of one right now, the Oilers are clearly very profitable even without the playoffs, and they aren't spending to the cap, so it's a bit unfair to expect him to do that. But when Smyth is 34ish, and looking at signing what will probably be his last contract, and if he is still an Oiler ... then I think he just might sign up at a discount to give the GM room to add talent. Same goes for Smith, maybe Pronger if his time here is successful in this contract, I dunno.

Just a thought.

Black Dog Hates Skunks said...

Vic - I'd rather pay a bunch of guys the dough definitely. As I said I like Richards a lot but that money could get them so much more bang for their buck. To me you pay that cash to a D man or a keeper - someone who is playing over half the game or all of it.

With Lowe, is he good or lucky or both? Probably both, leaning to good. I think he might have liked to get a big name in FA but he could have gone the trade route like he did with Pronger in that case as well. Obviously he only knows for sure but a few other guys, Sutter for example, talked about before the season started that that was his plan - leave room so if you need help you can get it. A lot of teams were bumping up against that cap - Tampa and the Leafs being two examples and they had no wiggle room.

Finally in terms of contracts I think we're going to see what a lot of people have suggested - the top guys are going to get paid but then guys are going to get squeezed. More and more teams are going to be like Tampa with a few high end guys getting a pile of cash - the vets you mention are going to get less but so are a lot of your mid range guys - a lot of good players are not going to get a lot of money because its not going to be there. That's the cap. Also there's going to be so many guys available that players may sign with the devil they know for a little less. You don't want to be one of those guys standing when the music stops.

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