As a graduate student, I am afforded a somewhat flexible schedule. And by flexible, I mean "no one cares how I spend my time as long as things keep getting done eventually". Seriously, it’s simultaneously amazing and soul-crushing. Try explaining to your friends how you won’t be able to come out until 9:30 that night because you didn’t go into work until 2 PM. I’m in a weird place right now, that’s all I’m going to say…
In this spirit of perpetual procrastination, I perused the Cap Geek 2013 UFA page trying to figure out who Ottawa should pursue in free agency this year. Now that Corey Perry’s off the market, the highest paid skaters who are about to become UFAs are Jarome Iginla, Alexander Semin, and Patrik Elias who are coming off cap hits of $7M, $7M, and $6M respectively. While all three are fine players, Iginla and Elias are on the downside of their career and no longer worth the money they’re making now. I have no objection to signing them to a 4-year retirement contract with a low cap hit ($3M, for instance), but it seems unlikely that that’s the best offer their going to get.
With Alex Semin, you know what exactly what you’re going to get, which is to say you have no idea what you’re going to get. I have no doubt that he could do terrible, terrible things on Spezza’s wing, but I don’t want to pay for what he might do. I think someone is going to pay him a lot of money at the end of this season, and since it’s not entirely clear whether he’s going to be worth that money, I’d rather Ottawa not be the team to give it to him.
If you can’t tell by now, the name of the game is value. Sure, you’re not going to land high-end talent in free agency unless you overpay for it, but I think Ottawa is doing a fine job of developing its own high-end talent internally and it’s going to be good for us to have some financial flexibility when it finally becomes time to pay Zibanejad, Silfverberg, and Lehner their money.
This brings me to Speedy’s Rules for UFA Signings:
- Don't overpay for guys already past their prime.
- Don't overpay for potential.
- Don't talk about fight club.
You’ll notice that I’m willing to overpay players, but only well established players who are not yet past their prime. For instance, I would have no problem offering Evgeni Malkin $15M/year next year if we get the chance. For now, Ottawa is in the highly enviable position of having lots of cap space available next year. The list players who I’m willing to overpay, however, is a short list.
So with those rules in play, let’s sort the pending UFAs from youngest to oldest and see if there are any hidden bargains in here.
That name seems familiar for some reason…
What’s he do? He was once a highly touted prospect who fell out of favour in Montreal. These days, he can chip in on the first and second line at a roughly 0.5 PPG pace, but only when he’s not injured.
How old is he? 25 years old.
What’s he making this year? $2M
Can we use him? Sure. I think this year has proven that you can never have enough depth, and despite getting off to a slow start, I think Gui has shown himself to be very serviceable this year. He’s playing 15 minutes a game, he’s got good size and pretty good hands, but also been injured for 2/3rds of the season so far. When you take into account how many games he’s lost over the course of his career, it’s almost appears as if he has a natural predisposition towards injury…
Does Corsi say anything interesting? His Corsi Rel this year is -6.4, but that’s still better than Gonchar and Turris, so I’d say it’s not terribly convincing one way or another.
What should we offer him? 2 Years, $2.75M/year. At the end of the contract he’ll be 27, and it will be the perfect time for him to negotiate a big contract, if he so deserves. $2.75M/year is a bargain if he stays healthy for most of those 2 years, and an overpayment if he’s injured too much, so it’s probably about right.
So is he a must-have or what? Not really. The team has survived without him this year, so I’m putting him in the category of "nice to have for the right price", and if he walks and signs elsewhere, I’m not going to lose much sleep over it.
Are we really going to discuss this? No we’re not. Peter, we’ll always have the 2010 Playoffs, but I think your time in Ottawa is done. So many prospects have passed you by, and this year you can’t say you haven’t been given a chance. I wish you the best, but I don’t want to pay you any more money.
What about his Corsi Numbers? Nope. We’re done here.
What’s he do? He plays right wing on the second line for Boston. He’s been pretty much a mortal lock for ~50-60 points a year since 2006. He plays for Boston which means he’s got "grit" and "intensity" and all those other things you want a player to have in addition to actual skill. When you think "2nd line forward", Nathan Horton is what you’re thinking of.
How old is he? 27 years old.
What’s he making this year? $5.5M, but his cap hit is $4M.
Can we use him? Every team in the NHL could use this guy, and that’s the problem. I think he’d be especially useful to Ottawa however as an Alfie replacement. As a second line right winger good for 60 points a year, he could step right into that role from a scoring perspective and the team would not miss a beat. Would anyone be seriously upset to field two lines consisting of Michalek/Watch this space-Spezza-Silfverberg and Latendresse-Turris-Horton two years from now? That’s what I thought.
Does Corsi say anything interesting? He’s +10.0 Corsi Relative and 6th on the Bruins this year. He’s a possession stud.
What should we offer him? 7 years, $5.25M/year. Boston only has $6M in cap space next year, and they’ve got some roster holes they’re going to have to fill, and I just don’t see any way Horton’s going to fit on the team given the price he’s likely going to fetch. You could probably talk me up to $5.5M/year, but any higher is starting to feel like overpayment to me.
So is he a must-have or what? Well, we have to get used to a world without Alfie somehow, and I seriously think this is a guy who would soften the blow. His reliability cannot be overstated, and I think his skillset is a perfect match for Paul Maclean’s system. The problem is, I can’t be the only one thinking this. We have to be prepared for the possibility that someone’s going to Godfather offer Horton, so it would be handy if there were a plan B available.
Boom. Nailed it.
What’s he do? Plays left wing on the 3rd line in Chicago where he forechecks and backchecks like a champ, and chips in consistently offensively as well. He was good for 43 points last year, and he’s got 17 points this year in 29 games.
How old is he? 27 years old.
What’s he making this year? $875,000.
Wait, for serious? Dead serious.
Shit, dude’s in line for a raise. I agree.
Can we use him? I would say yes. I think he’s a better version of Colin Greening. If we don’t bring back Latendresse, I think he’d fit in beautifully on the 2nd line left wing.
What should we offer him? 5 years, $3.75M/year. Similar to Boston, Chicago’s kinda light on cap space next year, and I don’t think they’ll be able to pay Stalberg what he’s worth. Giving David Desharnais money to a 2nd/3rd line floater who’s good for 40 points a year and plays a good possession game seems like a good deal to me. Again, I could be talked up a bit higher.
So is he a must-have or what? I can’t say that our left wing depth chart looks terrible convincing at this point in time. At the moment, it’s topped by two perpetually injured guys followed by Colin Greening and some AHL dudes. Stalberg would look pretty good on that depth chart, and like Horton, his skill set would mesh seamlessly with the Paulrus’ system. Perhaps most importantly, he’s Swedish.
One final note: Neither Horton nor Stalberg are being used on the PK this year. I’m not sure if that’s due to coach’s preference in deployment, or indicative of a deficiency in their skill set. Perhaps someone wants to shed light on this, because after all, this is supposed to be a half-assed preview. Still though…Trustache.
And now I turn it over to you, dear reader. Just how far off-base do you think I am? Please discuss in the comments. May I remind you that this is a half-assed preview, so be gentle (but firm). We may not be able to score the big name this summer, but I think there are good deals for good players to be made.
There could be a Part 2 coming, depending on how much I feel like talking about names like Stephen Weiss, Valteri Filppula, and David Clarkson, all of whom are still under 30 years old. Also, defencemen are still a thing, I’m told, so there’s that as well.