Wednesday, July 07, 2010

Free Agent Washout

Is anyone but TSN surprised that July 1st yielded nothing of even mild interest this year from the NHL.

As the Toronto Sycophant Network stewed over its ban from showing any feed from the most noteworthy sporting event of the year, they decided instead to build the threshold of 2010 NHL free agency as an event to be held in high regard. Long before the time the hockeyheads began talking about LeBron James, it had become apparent that the event was to be complete washout.

And why not?

After all, there are two things that make free agency exciting -- involvement of teams of consequence and the availability of players of consequence. In the age of 15 years contracts, it seems that both concerned parties had made other plans.

Last season, you will remember it differently. The Habs through a combination of deliberate conviction and criminal spring inaction ended up at the end of June requiring half a team. As aresult, the week produced some of the most noteworthy trades and signings in recent memory, and all at once. Only the most begrudging could have called it boring.

But why so different this year then? Has the NHL really changed that dramatically?

My feeling is that this has been building now for some time. That the salary cap is catching up with the big spenders.

A look at the current salary cap numbers seems to confirm the same. These 9 teams (including the one we sometimes adore) went over the cap last year and face a reduction in this year's ceiling:

1. Chicago Blackhawks, $4,157,753
2. Boston Bruins, $1,759,795
3. Toronto Maple Leafs, $1,400,000
4. Edmonton Oilers, $354,500
5. San Jose Sharks, $327,500
6. Vancouver Canucks, $90,000
7. Pittsburgh Penguins, $83,979
8. Montreal Canadiens, $68,751
9. Detroit Red Wings, $50,000

Those same teams are up against it again, and also happen to be the teams people might be interested in when it comes to signings.

Only 11 teams in the market have more than $3 million available per opening on their roster. But with the exception of the Oilers tell me if you care what Columbus, Florida, Phoenix , Dallas, Anaheim, Nashville, St. Louis, Colorado, Atlanta and the Islanders will do to plug the remaining roster spots. Tell me if you think any one of them will break from character and spend to anywhere near the cap anyway.

So the spenders have spent. Just as dooming to free agency has been the scarcity of stock.

Just this morning I was reading an article about the best remaining free agents and it listed Carlo Colaiacovo. it gives you an idea. Really, Kovalchuk is the only toy worth spending for, and the teams with space know it. They're neither desperate nor stupid enough to jump the Kovalchuk deal to ink Paul Kariya or Maxim Afinogenov when the moves can wait until September.

As it relates to the evolution salary and the way it flows around the league, the washout of this free agent season is tat least interesting forman academic point of view. It has been a wshout nonetheless. Maybe someone should tell Pierre McGuire, he's still waiting for someone to listen to his shouting.

Pierre Gauthier? Could be worse...

I am not at all impressed with our new GM's dealings to date. If his trades and signings have been feeble, ex-communicating Halak and his agent (and then admitting to as much publicly) was unforgiveable.

But fret not. It could be worse. Did anyone perchance notice on that list above that the Toronto Maple Leafs got a salary cap penalty for overspending last season?

To which the inevitable quesion must be: Really? How?

The worst team in a Leafs decade cost more than every team who made the playoffs? And was only surpassed for playoff bonuses?

Well don't look now, but the Leafs are also the team with the highest cap hit of all NHL outfits at present, thanks to their stunning acquisition of Colby Armstrong whose penchant to hit less than Nik Antropov will surely make Tyler Bozak the scorer Burke's alleged other suitors were apparently gagging over.

They make this mark by paying unproven players like Bozak, Grabovski and Schenn millions more than they should command.

So, next time you're cursing Gauthier for losing another trade, signing a huge lump to sit in front of the net, or jettisoning useful players when he could do otherwise, spare a thought for Leafs fans who should they manage to cobble together a top line this year will face losing their first rounder again and face another cap penalty to cut the legs beneath them for next season's free agency.

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