Silver Nuggets: The Money Myth, Part 2

If we had a real defenseman, we'd never allow any goals ever. - Jana Chytilova/Freestyle Photo

Mo money, mo problems.

Yesterday, I had the temerity to suggest that not only was the Ottawa Senators' current salary expenditure not hurting the team, but that spending more wouldn't solve their problems--there's no direct correlation between spending money and success. Spending money is a tool, not a panacea, and spending wisely is the name of the game.

Which brings us to today. Where does the group that is wailing and gnashing their teeth want the team to spend money? On defense, of course. To a man, the Senators' defense has been brutal this year. Erik Karlsson gets a pass because he's such an offensive wizard, but as we saw again last night, Karlsson is far from infallible defensively--his failure to block a pass directly led to the Minnesota Wild's first goal, and he was simply outmuscled by Dany Heatley for the third Wild goal.

Except we're going to pretend those gaffes didn't happen, because Jared Cowen has been declared this year's whipping boy. Cowen has struggled to start the season, so much so that criticism of his play has snowballed way beyond anything remotely resembling fair. And this is not to say that Cowen has played well--he's undeniably been the worst defenseman this season--but that the fanbase has become so focused on looking for things that Cowen is doing wrong (He can't do anything right at this point of the season. Even when he scored a huge goal against Boston, most comments were along the lines of "I'm still nervous every time he touches the puck.") that they're not even bothering to look at the play of the other defensemen, nor the forwards' play in their own zone.

The problem is Cowen. Anyone but Cowen. Get Cowen out and get a top-4 defenseman in and the entire universe will align itself in harmony and rainbows.

Let's assume, for a minute, that the team had the money to add a top-4 defenseman. Here's a list of this summer's UFAs, what their cap hits were, and where (if anywhere) they signed.

Player Team Age 2012-13 Cap Hit Notes
Lubomir Visnovsky NYI 36 $5,600,000.00 Re-signed with the Islanders. 2 years, $9.5 million
Sergei Gonchar DAL 38 $5,500,000.00 Re-signed with the Stars. 2 years, $10 million.
Ron Hainsey WIN 31 $4,500,000.00 Signed with the Hurricanes, 1 year, $2 million
Mark Streit PHI 35 $4,100,000.00 Signed with the Flyers. 4 years, $21 million
Robyn Regehr LA 32 $4,020,000.00 Re-signed with the Kings. 2 years, $6 million
Ryan Whitney EDM 30 $4,000,000.00
Marek Zidlicky NJD 36 $4,000,000.00 Re-signed with the Devils. 1 year, $4 million
Roman Hamrlik NYR 38 $3,500,000.00 Retired
Rob Scuderi LAK 34 $3,400,000.00 Signed with the Penguins. 4 years, $13.5 million
Jordan Leopold STL 32 $3,000,000.00 Re-signed with the Blues. 2 years, $4.5 million
Toni Lydman ANA 35 $3,000,000.00 Retired
Ian White DET 28 $2,875,000.00
Tom Poti WAS 35 $2,875,000.00
Anton Babchuk CGY 28 $2,500,000.00 Signed in KHL
Douglas Murray PIT 33 $2,500,000.00 Signed with the Canadiens, 1 year, $1.5M
Adrian Aucoin CLB 39 $2,250,000.00 Retired
Ladislav Smid EDM 27 $2,250,000.00 Re-signed with the Oilers. 4 years, $14 million.
Andrew Ference BOS 33 $2,250,000.00 Signed with the Oilers. 4 years, $13 million
Michal Rozsival CHI 34 $2,000,000.00 Re-signed with the Blackhawks. 2 years, $4.4 million.
Joe Corvo CAR 35 $2,000,000.00 Signed with the Senators. 1 year, $900,000.
Adam Pardy BUF 28 $2,000,000.00 Signed with the Jets, 1 year, $600 thousand.
Ryan O’Byrne TOR 28 $1,800,000.00
Andy Sutton EDM 38 $1,750,000.00
Matt Walker PHI 32 $1,700,000.00
Francis Bouillon MTL 37 $1,500,000.00 Re-signed with the Canadiens. 1 year, $1.5 million
Mark Fistric EDM 26 $1,475,000.00
Grant Clitsome WIN 27 $1,250,000.00 Re-signed with the Blue Jackets. 3 years , $6.2 million
Andrew Alberts VAN 31 $1,225,000.00
Mike Lundin OTT 28 $1,150,000.00
Scott Hannan SJS 34 $1,000,000.00 Re-signed with the Sharks. 1 year, $1 million
Wade Redden BOS 35 $1,000,000.00
Marc-Andre Bergeron CAR 32 $1,000,000.00
Kurtis Foster PHI 31 $950,000.00
Brett Clark MIN 36 $900,000.00
Mike Mottau TOR 34 $850,000.00 Signed with the Panthers. 1 year, $700,000
Ty Wishart NYI 24 $843,413.00
Chris Summers PHX 25 $803,250.00
Nathan McIver NYI 28 $750,000.00
Steve Eminger NYR 29 $750,000.00
Radek Martinek NYI 36 $750,000.00
Kent Huskins DET 33 $750,000.00
Jon Landry NYI 29 $750,000.00
Andreas Lilja PHI 37 $737,500.00
Alexander Sulzer BUF 28 $725,000.00 Re-signed with the Sabres. 1 year, $725,000.
Mark Eaton PIT 35 $725,000.00
Derek Meech WIN 28 $700,000.00
Bobby Sanguinetti CAR 25 $700,000.00
Cam Barker VAN 26 $700,000.00
Jeff Woywitka STL 29 $700,000.00
Nolan Yonkman FLA 31 $700,000.00
Matt Bartkowski BOS 24 $660,000.00 Re-signed with the Bruins. 1 year, $650,000
Maxime Fortunus DAL 29 $650,000.00
Jack Hillen WAS 27 $650,000.00 Re-signed with the Capitals. 2 years, $1.4 million
Matt Smaby ANA 28 $650,000.00
Matt Gilroy NYR 28 $650,000.00 Signed with the Panthers. 1 year, $700,000.
Matt Irwin SJS 25 $650,000.00 Re-signed with the Sharks. 2 years, $2 million
Aaron Johnson BOS 29 $650,000.00 Signed with the Rangers. 1 year, $600,000
Andre Benoit OTT 29 $650,000.00 Signed with the Avalanche. 1 year, $900,000
Davis Drewiske MTL 28 $616,667.00 Re-signed with the Canadiens. 2 years, $1.275 million
Drew Bagnall MIN 29 $612,500.00
Jason DeSantis MTL 27 $600,000.00
Mike Kostka TOR 27 $600,000.00
Tyson Strachan FLA 28 $600,000.00
Jordan Hendry ANA 29 $600,000.00
Sean Collins NYR 29 $600,000.00
Tyler Sloan DAL 31 $600,000.00
Garnet Exelby BOS 31 $600,000.00
Patrick Mullen VAN 26 $600,000.00
Simon Gysbers TOR 25 $600,000.00
Logan Pyett NYR 24 $600,000.00
Dylan Reese PIT 28 $600,000.00
Jim Vandermeer VAN 33 $600,000.00
Matt Pelech SJS 25 $577,500.00
Alex Biega BUF 24 $577,500.00
Brett Carson CGY 27 $575,000.00
Scott Ford NAS 33 $575,000.00
Frederic St-Denis MTL 27 $575,000.00
Sean Sullivan COL 28 $575,000.00
Evan Oberg TBL 25 $560,000.00
Nick Holden CLB 25 $550,000.00 Signed with the Avalanche. 2 years, $1.2 million
Thomas Pock COL 31 $550,000.00
Mike Moore NAS 28 $550,000.00
Garrett Stafford WAS 33 $550,000.00
Brett Bellemore CAR 24 $525,000.00
Jay Leach NJD 33 $525,000.00
Mike Vernace NYR 26 $525,000.00
Joe Piskula NAS 28 $525,000.00
Danny Groulx SJS 31 $525,000.00
Ben Lovejoy ANA 29 $525,000.00 Re-signed with the Ducks . 3 years, $3.3 million.
Nate Guenin ANA 30 $525,000.00 Signed with the Avalanche. 1 year, $600,000
Matt Corrente NJD 24 $525,000.00
Peter Harrold NJD 29 $525,000.00 Re-signed with the Devils. 2 years, $1.6 million.
Patrick McNeill WAS 25 $525,000.00
Carl Sneep DAL 25 $525,000.00
Jordie Benn DAL 25 $525,000.00 Re-signed with the Stars. 3 years, $2.1 million.

Players in red did not reach the open market. As one can easily see, even if the Senators had the money to spend on a top-four player, there wasn't anyone worth spending the money on! The criticism of Cowen has led to a "grass is always greener" mentality, where we believe that literally anyone would be better. A quick look at the stats of the UFAs on this list should give anyone with any shred of objectiveness left to them reason to re-think that claim.

Could the Senators have traded for a top-4 defenseman? Probably not. They expended most of their assets in acquiring forward Bobby Ryan. Just about every team in the league is looking for top-4 defensemen. They don't come cheaply. It's possible now that the Senators might be able to move Cowen for some other underperforming youngster--the proverbial "change of scenery" trade--but the question is whether the team would be burned by moving a young asset so soon in his career. As we've seen with Kyle Turris and Tyler Seguin, throwing in the towel too soon on a prospect can wind up haunting a team.

Let's say, though, for argument's sake, that the team was able to find this ideal player (We'll call him Player A--the A is for "Awesome"). We can make a few assumptions:

1) Player A is not on a one-year deal. Max contract length is 8 years, minimum is one. We'll split the difference and call it four.

2) Player A will want to be paid like a top-four defenseman. Players like Brooks Orpik of the Pittsburgh Penguins and Zybnek Michalek (AKA the healthy one) of the Phoenix Coyotes give us a good idea of what a high-end top-4 defenseman makes. We'll call it $4M.

3) The league's salary cap will continue to rise. We'll use the most commonly projected numbers, even though I believe they're too conservative. The expected cap for next year is ~$70M, which would mean revenue of ~$3.725B. Assuming 5% year-over-year growth, that means in 2015-16, the salary cap will be approximately $76M.

4) Player salaries will continue to inflate as the cap increases.

In 2015-16, assuming the only free agent the Senators sign this offseason is RFA Robin Lehner, they will have to re-sign the following players at 2015-16 salaries:

Even the ability to limit RFA salaries doesn't help that much. If the average value of these 13 players' contracts is $4M, that makes the total investment in salary $52M. With $21M already invested in payroll for that year, and assuming Lehner's contract is similar to Jonathan Bernier's ($2.9M), that puts the Senators about $100,000 under the salary cap. There's no room for injury callups. Keep in mind this approach means letting 19 players, including guys like Cory Conacher and Chris Phillips, walk in the next two years. The team can't afford to sign Player A, even at 2013 value, and to keep everyone else.

And that's the inevitability of the salary cap at work: You can't keep everyone. Adding Player A means a major roster overhaul just two years down the road. Is stabilizing the defensive corps for this year worth jettisoning a good chunk of the young talent the team has worked so hard to accrue?

This is the heart of the Money Myth: We want to believe that spending more money would solve our problems. But the truth is that no team can merely buy a savior.

They never could.

Sens Links

  • Raise your hand if you were pissed about losing while getting everything right for a change. [Senators Extra]
  • Bonk's Mullet has your tweets of the week. [RBM]
  • Clarke MacArthur had a sick pass to set up Kyle Turris' goal last night. But what are the sickest Sens goals of all time? [Black Aces]
  • Leadership is not an issue for this team. I wonder if it's being brought up because of Saturday's opponent? [SE]
  • The Senators have been unlucky for much of the season and it's frustrating. [SE]

NHL Links

  • Speaking of leadership, Jarmo Kekallainen thinks the Columbus Blue Jackets are having theirs questioned. [Columbus Dispatch]
  • Bad news for the Chicago Blackhawks, as last year's playoff stud Bryan Bickell has suffered a "serious" knee injury. [Twitter]
  • Oh no, there was an own-goal last night. Just as every own-goal is when it doesn't happen to your team, it's hilarious. [PHT]
  • David Perron is tearing it up for the Edmonton Oilers. That makes me angry, because I wanted to trade Milan Michalek for him before this season started. [Edmonton Journal]
  • Sean Monahan: Still good. [Calgary Sun]
  • So, there's this team out there that traded away depth to land a top-line winger. But their problem is on defense, and now they can't find help because they gave up so many assets to land the winger. Sound familiar? [Newsday]
  • Hey, did you know that Winnipeg is not good? It's probably because they're throwing players like Mark Scheifele into the fire instead of developing them. But what can they do? They came into Winnipeg with almost no talent, thanks to the assclowns in Atlanta Spirit Group. [Winnipeg Sun]

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