Memorial Archives

The Eleven Million Dollar Problem.
posted Jun 29, 2006 at 02:24AM

Just to recap. In my GM exercise I have used up 28.92 million to date to sign the majority of the team. 11.08 million of cap space remains. With this we need to find two defencemen to replace Chara and Redden. We need another forward, and we need to fill our number one priority, which is a goalie.

Obviously Jovanovski is no longer a realistic option.

For that kind of money we couldn't afford to keep Hossa, and I would rather have Hossa than Jovanovski. As well Buffalo who beat us, and Carolina who beat everybody, showed that you don't necessarily have to have high profile, high salary defense stars to be successful. What you do need is a competent, well coached defence corps that can do their jobs under high pressure.

Speaking of Carolina they recently signed Frantisek Kaberle (See Press Release). Kaberle scored 44 regular season points (which is one more than Chara) and had a very solid playoff campaign. They signed him for four years, at 2.2 million dollars a year.

And that is the direction that I would go. Get good all round defencemen who have proven playoff performance capabilities. Cost? Well $2.2 at the low end and say $2.6 million at the upper end. Say $4.4-$5.2 million for a pair. I have no names to offer that this point. I have to start looking.

I had mentioned Anson Carter for 3.5 million dollars. Looking things over I believe that figure is way too generous. Yes he had a career year with 33 goals and 22 assists, but that only gives him a handful of points more than Smolinski, who cost us 1.5 million, or say a Corey Stillman who got 70 points while costing only 1.75 million. (Now this latter is very rare and one can't "count" on getting that kind of deal). But for $3.5 million you should expect to be getting a sure-fire 70 point man.

Now stats don't tell the whole story, especially when it comes to playoff hockey and I do like Anson Carter. I think he not only has good skills but can play, if not excel, in physically intense playoff environments. Playing right wing on a line with Fisher and Schaefer would give a trio that would be hard to play against.

What is a good deal? Well if we got him for 2.2 million, which is what I would pay Schaeffer that would be great. Because he is a UFA it may take more. 2.5 million should do it. I would start cringing at anything higher than that.

So, we have now used up from $6.6 million to $7.7 million of our budget. That leaves from $3.38 to 4.48 million dollars, and as GM I would make all of that available to get us a goaltender as necessary.

If the playoffs have shown anything, is that everything is for naught if your goalie sucks. Absolutely nothing else matters.

Consider Chris Pronger. Oiler fans would dispute my earlier arguments, and state that he was worth every penny of his 6.25 million dollar salary. Indeed, I was bitter and twisted watching him play, the way I expected Chara to play. Truly a bravura performance. But you know it all would have been meaningless if Roloson was not standing on his head in nets. Take Cam Ward out of Game 3 in Montreal and Carolina's Cup run becomes still born, Brind'Amour and Stillman and Kaberle notwithstanding.

Emery? Yes it would be convenient if Emery "developed" into a full fledged stopper, but to me that is still in the arena of "wishful thinking". It is certainly not anything you can count on.

Consider the Buffalo series. Four shots against in over time. Three of them go in. Two of them are just brutal goals, and he should have had the third.

An odd man rush for Buffalo was money in the bank. Even Markonnen, yes Markonnen, Edmonton's back-up goalie, performed better than Emery did. Tighten up our defensive play? Sure. Maybe. But you know it was not like Buffalo was out shooting us, or indeed even dominating play.

Hasek? You know I don't think Hasek was trying to screw the team. I think he was genuinely hurt, and if he thought he could play, he would. But in the end Hasek remains a very short-term, high risk solution. Remember Melnyk talked about "dynasty" which implies a winning team for years down a road. Talking about winning multiple Cups is complete pablum for sure at this point, but the $750,000 you pay out to Hasek, is $750, 000 that is not available for either a longer term solution for goalie, or for strengthening other areas of the team.

Of course the recent playoffs also showed that just throwing money at big name goalies is not necessarily the answer either. Theodore, Brodeur, Kiprusoff, Nabokov, Gerber, Giguere, Turcot - are all examples of high priced, highly regarded goalies who in the end were not good enough, or indeed played very poorly.

So picking and getting the right man can't be justified just by the fact one is blowing the budget.

Look at the stars of the playoffs. Roloson and Cam Ward had regular season records which plain sucked. I mean Cam Ward was ranked behind Lalime on the ESPN goalie stats page! But come playoffs , they became impenetrable as brick walls. How does one scout for this?

The most recent "rumour" reported on cable sports has Ottawa trying to get Vesa Toskala in return for Havlat.

The more I look at Toskala, the more I like this trade. Ranked number nine in the league. Solid rookie season. Except for some brain-farts against Edmonton he other wise played outstandingly in the play-offs. What I really liked was that he showed the capability to make spectacular, show-stopping saves on a consistent basis: and that is something Emery did not, even when he was on winning streaks. I really liked the way he stole the job off Nabokov, a goalie making four times his salary. It shows an ability to "rise to the occasion".

Better yet, he comes, according to the NHLPA site, with a price tag of only 1.3 million dollars

So I definitely would go for this trade. The real icing on the cake here is, that we would have 2.08 million to 3.18 million dollars left to beef up the team in other areas. With that money you can go and get another top six forward. Particularly we can get a proven number 2 centre which has been a consistent albatross thwarting our Cup aspirations.

As well we could maybe throw a few dollars more at Kelly, Vermette and Neil, just to take the sour taste out of their mouths.

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