Leon Draisaitl of the Edmonton Oilers finally signed his contract. His $8.5 million a year will make him the highest paid player on the team this year. In his career, he’s put up a solid .717 points per game in his 191 regular season games. Drafted in 2014, he’s a very, very good comparable to the Boston Bruins David Pastrnak who was also taken in the first round, has played 172 regular season games.

Pastrnak, despite coming into his first professional year after a serious shoulder injury, and being suspended two games, has produced .715 points per game, and more goals, and goals per game than Draisaitl. On the surface you could give them identical contracts and call it a day, the Boston Bruins have the cap space, they certainly should aim to keep him, and keep him happy. The problem isn’t this year’s cap space. Next year is where it get’s dicey.

Chara will be out of contract July 1, and if he plays this season as well as he did last, he’ll deserve another, and he’s not the biggest worry as he can likely be resigned at the same rate. Assuming the cap remains the same, the team would have 15 players signed for July 1, 2018, and have just over $12.6 million to fill the minutes of the unsigned players which will include a backup goalie, Chara, Vatrano, Spooner and a few others, the year after that McAvoy, Carlo, JFK, and McQuaid are all due new deals.

If they sign Pastrnak to the $8.5 a year Draisaitl got, or even a little more if they avoid the three years of no movement clause and no trade clause at the backend of the Oiler’s center’s deal, they need to lose one of the big contracts. A lot of people will point immediately at Backes, or Beleskey, and they are short sighted. You need to consider who will want them, and give you any thing at all for them. Realistically, they need to either work a deal with one of the eight teams Tuukka Rask can moved to this year, or 15 next year. David Krejci is unmoveable without serious persuasion.

There are several key questions the Boston Bruins front office has to ask before they take whatever their next step is:

  • What is the value of David Pastrnak to the Boston Bruins now, three years from now, and five years from now?
  • What will the deal we offer to him mean to other players in the system moving forward?
  • What impact will deals like this have on our own salary cap?
  • How will it affect the process when the CBA is up for renewal or replacement after five more seasons?

For me, I think Draisaitl is overpaid on a small sample size. Yes he’s been very good, and downright impressive in his one playoff appearance, but I think the contract is probably about $1.5 million high, as of his current production. When you get to second  (or later) contracts you’re either fearcasting or dreamcasting what the player will be over the course of the contract. For Pasta who had an all star, year one can hope very high, maybe even a fifty goal season in the next four or five. But you can also look at how effectively he was smothered in the week or two after he hit the 30 goal mark, and of course that draft year injury and worry about the low end of the number.

Based on current market trends, he’s likely to sign for somewhere within $250,000-$400,000 of Draisaitl depending on what he end up with for NMC’s or NTCs. If they force him into a lesser contract, I think it would be a very bad precedent for their relationship with him, and any other young talent that breaks out during their entry level deal.

Listen to next week’s Two Man ForeCheck as I’m sure myself and @TheOffWing will get into more on this topic.

The summer is half over. We’re closer to the start of the new season, they we are to the end of the last regular season. In most ways that is fantastic. Unless your team is one of those fiddling around with their talent. Here are the restricted free agents who are pivotal to their team.

Calvin De Haan

With the departure of Travis Hamonic, someone needs to take up the slack. It’s a given that De Haan will pick up more of the vacated ice time than the elderly Seidenberg or the aging Boychuk. What remains to be seen is how soon, if at all the Islanders decide to pay him.

Nate Schmidt

While it is unlikely the former Washington Capital will see 24 minutes a night, if the Knights plan to move him rather than sign him, they may well have already have passed their use by date on movement of the freshly 26 year old alum of the Fargo Force and University of Minnesota.

Bo Hovart

Hovart is likely in for some of the longest years of his life as the Vancouver Canucks go into the post Sedin rebuild. Being unsigned this long makes me wonder if he wishes to be in British Columbia when the team comes out of that long dark tunnel. The more likely explanation is that the team is trying to explain to him that just because he was their biggest points producer last year he shouldn’t expect to be paid like one.

Leon Draisaitl

He and team mate Connor McDavid may be the catalysts for the next lockout and salary rollback. For the 2018-19 season the Edmonton Oilers have twelve players currently under contract with just $22 million to sign the rest of the roster. If Draisaitl signs for the $8-10m some expect the cap crunch begins immediately. Even at $6-7m their will be a roster purge and without the cap jumping fifteen to eighteen million, there is no way the Oilers can be competitive.  This is a very talented player, but is the General Manager able to keep things together?

Sam Bennett

Bennett had a visible sophomore slump last year, which is not unexpected. He partially redeemed himself with two goals in the four playoff games the Calgary Flames played last year. It’s reasonably save to predict him as a 50-60 point guy, but don’t be surprised by a bridge contract that pays a little closer to what he’s produced so far.

David Pastrnak

One of the more dynamic wingers in the NHL last year his rise from good to league leader can’t be understated. In the early part of the season when none of the Boston Bruins centers were performing at an even average level he was near the top of the leaderboard. Not signing Pastrnak to similar deal to Marchand’s or a little less would be the worst, and possibly final mistake of Don Sweeney’s tenure as Boston General Manager.

Mikael Granlund

On a team whose best known players are all 32 or older, they need to retain not just the youngest, but the middle years players like Mikael Granlund who made and earned his $3m last year in what counts as a career year for the 25 year old native of Finland. No one is under the illusion Granlund is The Guy in Minnesota, but he’s a guy they can’t replace from the current free agent market.

One thing you can’t help but notice if you pay attention to the support structure (fans) for any entertainment is that there are cliques within each and every fandom. Fans will split off any given group into factions, and the diffusing of energy can lead to groups struggling, or even going to extent. In science fiction and fantasy the filers and gamers herd together and neither herd spends much time with the media folks, the cos play and the literature folks don’t have much to day to each other, and all of them are convinced the SMOF’s are insane. With in each of those top level groups you have smaller but still significant groups.

Among sports fans, you have team fans, and fans of the sport, and then casual fans as the top level groups. Below them are fans of players, eras, coaches and styles of play. On Facebook when those factions break down, there are new groups created. The San Jose Sharks group is over 7000 members strong and growing. The largest Boston Bruins group is about 10,000 members with several smaller groups, the Montreal Canadiens language split means their are two groups with five figure memberships and then several groups with a few hundred members.

The largest National Hockey League related group on Facebook that can be found? That one is dedicated to the appreciation of Gary Bettman. In fact there are two other similar groups with large membership. The Fire Gary Bettman Movement!!!…  group boasts about 25,000 members. The similarly named The Fire Gary Bettman Movement page has eclipsed the 8,000 member mark. And the succinctly named Fire Gary Bettman page has over 6,000 likes.

By comparison, Roger Goodell who heads the NFL as their commissioner’s anti-fans have mustered less names to their cause ,about 7000 less likes for the largest page. The two largest groups don’t even contain 5000 members. If only this were as simple as 25000 vs 18000. The NFL dwarfs the NHL in viewer-ship. If we go with there being one NHL fan for every four NFL fan in north America, that just further underlines how much more of the NHL fanbase Gary Bettman has ticked off. Mix in the fact that there are more NFL cities than NHL cities, and you’re talking a level of personal animosity towards the NHL commissioner that is staggering. The percentages aren’t worth calculating. In both absolute terms and Bettman is enormously more reviled by the people it is his job to cultivate than his National Football League counterpart.

While a sports league is structured differently than a major corporation like Blackberry, there are similarities. When public sentiment turned against the founders of Blackberry, its directors and stockholders acted to protect their investments and with the hope of reversing their fortunes. Despite years of this sentiment expressing itself even at the happiest of occasions, the NHL owners extended his contract despite the lockout, which memory says is the third work stoppage of his tenure.

The question then becomes; Is Gary Bettman legitimately the cause of all the perceived ills, or is he simply the stalking goat of the owners?

The Winnipeg Jets are in a tough position when it comes to their restricted free agents. On one hand they just were not a playoff team in the Eastern Conference even with everyone of them in uniform. On the other hand some of them were pretty productive last season, one even having a career year. On the third hand with the Red Wings and Columbus Blue Jackets promoted to the Eastern Conference the west is likely to be a lot easier sailing than they had it last season. And on the gripping hand, with the cap coming down and uncertainty about how well the market will support the team in this its third season in town with the team finishing out side the playoffs each of the previous two years spending a lot might not be wise. Of the 21 players to elect salary arbitration this summer, a quarter of them were Jets, and two have now reached a deal prior to their hearing.

Of the remaining three, we have Blake Wheeler who has been second and then first on the team in scoring over the last two seasons. Bryan Little an average center, Zach Bogosian a solid defenseman. All three were first round picks. Bogosian and Little are home grown products for the transplanted Atlanta Thrashers. Blake Wheeler declined to sign with the Phoenix Coyotes and upon completing his college career at the University of Minnesota was signed as a free agent and sent to the then Thrashers with Mark Stuart as part of the deal that sent Rich Peverley and Boris Valabik to Boston. Last year after a brief stop in Europe during the lockout Wheeler turned in his best career numbers with a .854 ppg. His career number is notably at .623 which includes his time with the much more defensive minded Bruins where he received less ice time. In the two years he and the team have been in Winnipeg his ppg is .820, over the same period of time Matt Duchene was a .676 per game, barely higher than Wheeler’s career number and far lower than the comparative time. Duchene’s new deal was five years at six million.

For Bogosian, the numbers that matter are pretty plain to see. He’s averaged over 23 minutes a night for the last three seasons. On any team in the league that’s a top two or three defenseman slot. Over the last three seasons he’s been able to finish in the offensive zone at least as often as he finished there. Essentially he both gets the puck out of his zone, and keeps it move forward. Better still, there’s been a solid progression. In the 2010-11 season he started and finished in the offensive zone the same percentage of the time, during the 2011-12 campaign he was a best among all regulars with the second highest increase in offensive zone finishes over starts.  The 2012-13 adventure saw him double the previous years gains, and again finish behind only Ron Hainsey.

A quick look at his On Ice Save Percentage might lead you to believe he’s a defensive liability, but keep in mind he plays as much as three minutes of shorthanded ice time a night, and the teams goaltending isn’t spectacular. Some of the players who play a similar amount of time shorthanded are Bryan Allen formerly of the Carolina Hurricanes and now of the Anahiem Ducks, Brian Campbell of the Florida Panthers, Johnny Boychuk of the Boston Bruins, the Nashville Predators captain Shea Weber, and Vancouver Canuck Kevin Bieksa. When look at last season’s points totals, Bogosion kept company with Matt Niskanen Lubomir Vishnovski, and Dan Girardi while playing less games than any of them.

Over the past three seasons, Bryan Little has finished above fifty percent in faceoffs just once. That pleasant occurrence was this past season. Among NHL Centers he finished tied for the bottom of the top 30 with Vincent Lecavalier, and Mike Richards. Not elite company offensively, but not the bottom of the barrel by any stretch of the imagination. In terms of Time On Ice Little did play a huge number of minutes, finishing 10th among NHL centers playing well more than better known names like Sedin, Toews, Thornton, and Krejci. His powerplay time puts him in the top half of the NHL’s centers, but the teams powerplay finished an embarrassing 30th. For the “fancy stats” he does finish in the offensive zone more than he starts there by a very solid margin of almost 9%, he takes very few penalties and draws them better than most of his Winnipeg Jets forward teammates.

 Salary wise nailing down where any of these guys lands is difficult. Little plays top end minutes and can get the puck to where it is supposed to be, Bogosian’s stats are murky to interpret, and Wheeler has clearly found his game in Winnipeg. At 25 years old heading into the season Little has accumulated six seasons and 404 regular season games of experience. He’s about he same age David Krejci was when his current deal was signed, Duchene at 22 signed a deal that will kick in when he’s 23 for $6m per, Tyler Bozak who is two years older and a bit less productive inked for $4.2 a year under the current CBA. A fair range for Little is $4.5-5.6 average annual value depending on length of deal, signing bonuses, and things like no trade or no movement clauses.

Blake Wheeler is harder to nail down. Yes last year was a career year and he did indeed finish ninth overall in scoring for right wings on a team that was 16th in scoring for the year. A lot of the guys he finished ahead of are or should be household names, Jordan Eberle, Jarome Iginla, Jaromir Jagr, Wayne Simmonds, and Bobby Ryan. Two seasons ago he finished 15th among right wings, meaning he might have the staying power to finish in the top 15-20 right wings in scoring for the next several years. Comparable contracts of players in that range are Jason Pominville, Bobby Ryan, Nathan Horton and Jakub Voracek. Again we’re looking at a range of $4.5-5.6 AAV.

Bogosion is probably the guy who will have the most brutal arbitration session if it comes to that. Hammering out the stats you can make a case in a certain light that he’s an elite defenseman, you can equally make the case he’s a liability, the truth per usual, likes somewhere between those two. Defensemen who bring a similar toolkit to the rink include Johhny Boychuk, Kevin Bieksa, and Brent Seabrook. When you weigh in all the stats and the eyeball test you come to a range of anything from $4.4m as a low ball figure to a $5.8 as a long term deal if you expect him to keep progressing.

This is a semi-regular feature that will run until I get bored. This feature will highlight a player on track for a much better season than recent history indicates. 

When the Collective Bargaining Agreement was still a matter of speculation, one of the things that nearly everyone thought was a give was the much ballyhooed “penalty free buyout”, because as we all know the best way to teach responsibility is by having a handy stack of get out of jail free cards free for the taking. Three names topped the list of probable buyouts. Rick “10 Games and Bust” DiPietro, Scott “I Score Yearly” Gomez and Wade “The  Seven Million Dollar AHL Defensemen” Redden. To the bemusement of many, DiPietro is the only one who was not bought out.

After being bought out the speculation in most quarters was that the 35 year old blue liner would head to Europe, retire or possibly get a job in someones farm system. Unless last years 109 point totaling, St Louis Blues count as someones farm team, Wade Redden has done a bit better than just finding another seat on the bus.

With 10 percent of the season gone he’s got as many goals as Pavel Datsyuk or Daniel Sedin. He’s done this on a bit less ice time than either of them, and in a league he hasn’t played in for nearly three years. He’s picked up two goals, and two blocked shots in addition to a pair of goals in the three games of his NHL return.

Having left the NHL for the Connecticut Whale just with just seven games to go to make him a 1000 game man, the 2005-6 NHL +/- Award Winner must have doubted he’d ever make it. All things being equal, February 5th in front of his new home town crowd in St Louis will mark his 1000th game. If Lloydminster Saskatchewan has a happier native sun this week I’m not sure who he is.

The NHL Owners are set to end the greatest financial era of the NHL as a whole has seen in the modern era. They are doing that despite knowing the consequences. They earned money hand over fist despite an world wide economic recession. There are no grounds, other than greed, on which to base this lockout. Money is important, teams need it not just for day to day maintenance, or for covering the costs of new or upgraded practice facilities, and to compensate the owners for their work and investment, but to take care of the future.

Closing the door to players, denying millions of fans across the globe their addiction, that’s not taking care of the future. The owners claim, the NHL doesn’t need and shouldn’t have contracts longer than five years. Yet 9 of the last 150 contracts on CapGeek.com are for six years or longer. Among those signing long deals are Tyler Seguin in Boston, Jordan Eberle and Taylor Hall in Edmonton, Shea Weber in Nashville, John Carlson in Washington, Wayne Simmonds and Scott Hartnell in Phily, and one or two others. Of them all, Simmonds is the least well known, and even he’s gotten some traction. How in the world do these deals, combined with the ownership statements convince anyone the NHL Owners are negotiating in good faith?

Just a few short years ago the owners were in a different position, teams like the Penguins were failing. Chicago hadn’t been good in years, the Kings were laughable, the Bruins were just bad, no big involved. League revenue was low because the teams in big markets were at the low ebb. Today that’s not true. The Penguins continue to draw at home and away. Boston, Chicago, and Los Angeles have all won Stanley Cups in recent years and the fan bases are well engaged.

That won’t last through a lockout. No one in the world believes that if the NHL loses a season we’re going to get anything close to the quality product we’ve seen in the last season and two post seasons. The Coyotes and Kings leading up to the Stanley Cup final was tense, physical, emotional hockey, The Pittsburgh Penguins and Philadelphia Flyers having a series long shooting gallery was thrilling to watch. The reason it won’t be as good is players will get out of sync with their teammates. Some players will opt to stay in the KHL or SEL, still more will retire.

Are their some bad deals handed out to NHL players? Absolutely. But the people authorizing those deals have no one to blame but themselves. Some of the NHL’s worst contracts amount to just short of stealing by the players. On the other hand, the simple truth is that those contracts amount to taking some extra pennies from the tray at the store, in comparison locking out for a season is lighting your own wallet on fire.

Dear Owners,

 

You will lose the most. Short term, long term, medium term, it can’t work any other way.  It really is that simple, the playersmight lose a year of pay if they don’t make arrangements to play in another league, for you it isn’t that simple.

Short term:  Owners will lose ticket and advertising sales. You can’t sell tickets to events that aren’t happening, you can’t replace events that should still happen. Worse, the rot of disdain has already set in.

Medium term: Very few of the owners can afford to keep their concession staffs employed and paid for their normal hours without the sales of beer, soda, food, jerseys, tshirts and the rest. This means loss of talent. Loss of talent off the ice means you will have slower, less expert, and less composed staff. Poor staff means less sales when everything finally does open. Not just because things will be slower, but because things will be misplaced, lost, not ordered, and staff synergy will be non existent. Even more than pro-sports, retail and food service staff synergy is critical to performance. There is also the impact on businesses that do business with the NHL and in the arena districts across the continent.

Long term: For prospects who are kept in the CHL, USHL or European leagues a year longer instead of playing in the AHL or NHL this season, there is a loss in development. This isn’t just a loss in development for those prospects who are ready for the jump now it is a loss for the ones behind them. The players in their draft year who should be flying to their limits will be playing behind guys who should be in the big show. The guys who should be breaking into the development league and should be earning eight to twelve minutes a night, might get stuck at a lower level, only play four to six minutes, or not at all. This means less developed players over the next three to five drafts, whichwill translate to lower quality draft picks.Essentially with a lockout, each round’s value slides, half round to a full round in worth. Poorer players means poor ratings, attendance, and concessions.

Note, none of this is about this years on ice product, relationships with players that will drive salaries up even fast than the last lockout due to increased animosity. The current and near future on ice product will recover, mostly.

Stop the Insanity,

 This season, a new era begins. No Lidstrom. It has been a whole generation since this was last true. Even the limited player who was on the ice last year is better than anyone likely to replace him.

Good News

  • Datsyuk is still one of the best players in the NHL.
  • Jimmy Howard has come a long, long way and may earn the right to be called elite this season.
  • Jordin Tootoo will provide some physicality, and likely more skill than some expect.

Bad News

  • The defense is going to be ugly after losing not one but two twenty minute a night guys.
  • Last years penalty kill was not great, with the loss of four minutes among the defensemen, that won’t get better.
  • You can’t avoid asking how healthy key forwards on this team will be

Forecast

High: Bubble, if everything goes right, everyone is healthy, and everyone plays to or above their average, the team will sneak into the seven or eight spot at best, and likely end up at the nine or ten spot.

Low:  If things get ugly on he injury front, or the defense is even worse than I expect, the team will bounce down as low as the 12 spot.

X-Factor

This seasons x-factor in Detroit is the CBA. The possibility of a trade, or a the cap changing and causing mass movement of players is about all the fans in Michigan can pin their hopes on for improving this team this season.

10: Watching Gary Bettman attempt to look reasonable is their favorite past time.

9: 29 owners are still laughing over Dennis Wideman’s contract.

8: Gordie Howe has yet to threaten to beat the damn wipppersnapper owners on behalf of the players.

7: One third are busy throwing up after seeing Justin Beiber in Boston Bruins gear, the rest are still asking who Justin Beiber is.

6: The longer they take to handle the CBA the less questions anyone will have to answer about the 2014 Olympics in Sochi.

5: They just can’t wait to see what Proteau, Garroach, and Cox will write next, some of it might not be fit for a bird cage.

4: Without having taken their meds some of them don’t realize it isn’t 2004 any more.

3:  Charles Wang is waiting for the bean counters to decide if it makes more financial sense to have a quarter full arena all season or save money by not buying a years supply of rat poison.

2: The delay is all part of a marketing scheme to keep attention focused on the NHL all off season as a ploy to boost early attendance and ratings in struggling markets.

1: The owners are still looking for a way to have the All Star weekend and playoffs without having the regular season so they don’t have to pay the players at all.

0: Jeremy Jacobs and Mike Illitch have yet to twirl their pinkie rings, glare at the other owners and tell them to sigh or ‘say hello to my little friend”.