Friday, May 29, 2009

Boston Salary Cap Situation - 2 K's Against Them

Here's a Google Document on the Bruins' salary cap situation for the upcoming two seasons. All estimates about RFA salaries are in green. All players UFA as of July 1, 2009 are not assumed to be on the Bruins. All players UFA on July 1, 2010 are denoted by a red field. It is assumed that the Bonus Cushion will be in place according to Article 50.5.h.iii.A of the Collective Bargaining Agreement, and thus all salaries here are listed without bonuses.

Assuming next season's salary cap to be at 56 million (not a foregone conclusion), the Bruins can afford to re-add Axelsson, as well as augment their defense with depth. However, in 2010-11, the Bruins are racing towards an iceberg with the salary cap set to drop to around 52 million. GM Peter Chiarelli already anticipated said iceberg with the dealing of Petteri Nokalainen - but they will likely need to find a new home for Patrice Bergeron or Marco Sturm. This will not be easy - Bergeron's concussion troubles and complete lack of goal scoring make his contract a large gamble in lean times, and Marco Sturm spent the season on injured reserve. Let us look at the lines of this team and see what might fall out:

2009-10 Projected Bruins' Lines

This indicates a player who is RFA in 2008-09
This indicates a player who is UFA in 2009-10
This indicates a player who is RFA in 2009-10




Why The Bruins Are Awesome: Their third line could very easily be another team's second line. Of course, it is also paid like a team's second line as well, hence the impending salary cap problem. While the team traded Nokalainen to slough off excess depth, it also traded RW Martins Karsums at the trade deadline, a promising high-energy RW. Regardless, Mikko Lehtonen scored 28 goals in his rookie season at Providence and has to be assumed close to NHL ready - he may get that remaining spot on the fourth line, and if anyone is traded, he is likely to make the NHL squad. Tim Thomas is overpaid, but he was the best goaltender in the league last season.

Why The Bruins Might Not Be So Awesome: The Bruins' top nine forwards plus Mark Recchi shot an astounding 13.5% cumulatively - and that is including Patrice Bergeron and P.J. Axelsson's combined 6% shooting. Marc Savard and David Krejci have to be considered responsible for that - but can it be sustained next season? Don't be surprised if the Bruins go from tremendous to merely division champions in 2009-10.

Where The Bruins Need Help: Another top four defenseman would be nice. If they do manage to deal Sturm or Bergeron, they can add any number of defensemen with expiring contracts at the trade deadline. The Bruins also need a backup goalie that can handle 25 or so games - Manny Fernandez, Craig Anderson, Scott Clemmensen, or Antero Niitymaki (or really anyone else) can suffice, for around a million dollars a season.

Final Thoughts: The Bruins are not in a great spot with respect to the salary cap but that is because they are such a formidable, young team. There's trouble coming in 2010-11, but that's true for just about every team, and if it means getting rid of a Blake Wheeler for draft picks or prospects, so be it; the Bruins have many of their best players signed long-term and the rest are several years away from UFA age. As a result, the Bruins should be near the top of the Eastern Conference for several seasons to come.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

The Atlanta Thrashers - If A Franchise Falls in the Forest, Does It Make A Sound?

Season Summary: The Atlanta Thrashers once again stumbled and bungled their way through the 08-09 season, finishing second to last in their division, third to last in their conference, and fourth to last in the league. Only Toronto allowed more than Atlanta's 280 Goals Against - Kari Lehtonen managed to finish the season with a 3.06 GAA and a .911 SV%, which meant he saw far too much rubber. The good news is that Atlanta can score some goals: Bryan Little had a very solid and unheradled sophomore season, posting 31 goals, and waiver find Rich Peverly scored nearly a point a game after coming over from Nashville. The Atlanta fan hopes it's always darkest before the dawn.

Key Unrestricted Free Agents: C Marty Reasoner, C Eric Perrin, D Nathan Oystrick

What Needs Upgrading: Everything. Except maybe goaltender, maybe. General manager, especially.

What's The Cap Situation Like?
Italics denote Estimates - $Sp is Money Spent, $Av is Money Available, PS is Players Signed, PN is Players Needed (for a full NHL roster)

Season $$Sp $$Av PS PN
08-09: 43.5 13.1 - -
09-10: 36.3 8.20 17 6
10-11: 24.1 20.9 10 11

Cap Grade: B-

The Thrashers are clearly not going to spend up to the salary cap, so they've been given here a personal cap of $1 million more than they spent last season. This is likely generous, but there aren't many teams who can afford to take on bad contracts, so the Thrashers have made their bed. The good news is, the Thrashers are going to have a lot of cap space coming up anyway in 2010-11, the bad news is they may not be in Atlanta to spend that money. Players like Zach Bogosian and Bryan Little will remain inexpensive for next season, providing some hope if this franchise can somehow get it together.

Thrashers' Projected Lines in 2010

This denotes a player RFA in 2009
This denotes a player UFA in 2010
This denotes a player RFA in 2010

Kovalchuk-White-Vy. Kozlov
Peverly-Little-C. Armstrong



Who They Might Go After:

C John Madden (2/6)
C Sami Pahlsson (3/7.5)
LW Taylor Pyatt (3/5.5)
LW Travis Moen (2/3)

The Thrashers aren't looking to contend next year, so why bother trying to make a sexy signing? They will just back a dumptruck full of money on whatever veteran feels like spending his remaining days hanging out with T.I. and Outkast. Their offense doesn't look bad, but unless Salmela or Valabik is headed elsewhere, Atlanta's unlikely to make a big signing on defense - perhaps a depth signing like Shane Hnidy or Jason Strudwick. Beyond that, it should be a race to the bottom of the Southeast Division between Atlanta and Tampa Bay again next year, and see you at the 2010 Entry Draft.

Relevant Links:

Atlanta's Salary Cap Numbers
Atlanta's Team Scoring

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

The Anaheim Ducks - Now With Less 'Mighty'

Anaheim Ducks -

Season In Review: The Ducks overhauled their roster throughout the season, shipping off 10 players and receiving 5 back. It appeared at the trade deadline that the Ducks were throwing in the towel, dealing key cogs to their Cup run in 2007 like Travis Moen and Sami Pahlsson. However, they exploded for a 11-3-1 tear to slip into the postseason. They then deposed the President's Trophy winning Sharks in 6 games and took the Stanley Cup Champions to a 7th game. In all, it has to be considered a very successful season for the Ducks, where GM Bob Murray both shored up the present team and the future one without sacrificing much of value.

Key Unrestricted Free Agents: D Scott Niedermayer, D Francois Beauchemin, D Bret Hedican, C Todd Marchant, RW Rob Niedermayer

What Needs Upgrading: The Ducks have 2 of their top 4 defensemen set to become unrestricted free agents - it is unlikely they can re-sign both. Their second line was solid down the stretch, but faltered in the playoffs - more scoring depth is a necessity.

What's The Cap Situation Like? The Ducks owe 37.4 million to 13 players, which leaves about 17-19 million to sign the other 10. In 2010-11, they will owe 22 million to 6 players.

Grade of Salary Cap: Solid B. If it weren't for the Gigeure contract, a $6 million per annum albatross, they would be a definite A. They have the money they need to re-sign most of their best players, and with these depth players they've acquired in trade, they should have enough money to add a significant piece either this season or next.

Who's On the Horizon: LW Eric Tangradi had to be sacrificed in the Kunitz-Whitney swap; there is probably no one who will make a significant impact on the Ducks. Jake Gardiner and Mark Mitera are decent D prospects who are likely more than a season away.

Lines For Next Season:

This denotes a player RFA in 2009
This denotes a player UFA in 2010
This denotes a player RFA in 2010


ex: Parros


ex: Mikkelson


Who Might They Go After:

F Nikolai Antropov (3/13)
C/LW Jason Williams (2/4)
C Blair Betts (2/2)
D Mattias Ohlund (4/19)
D Mike Komarisek (5/25)
D Johnny Oduya (4/14)

If.... The Ducks re-sign Scott Niedermayer and Special Nieds: They still have plenty of theoretical money to go after a forward in the 3 to 4 million dollar per season range. With Teemu Selanne likely to retire next season, the biggest need for the Ducks is a 2nd line forward, as they do not really have any in the organization. Players like Gaborik and Hossa are almost certainly out of their price range, but second-tier guys like Nikolai Antropov should be intriguing.

If... The Ducks do not re-sign Scott Niedermayer: They can afford any of the top defenders on the market besides Jay Bouwmeester - Mattias Ohlund or Mike Komarisek. They likely get one and a second-tier defender like a Nick Boynton or Derek Morris.

Final Conclusion: The Ducks have a solid outlook for next season and into the future. While they lack true top-end prospect talent, their core is young enough that this is not particularly important. The only bad contract on their books is the horrid J.S. Gigeure deal that is more inflated than his padding - in another offseason, they'd be able to foist this off to some team run by fools, but with the salary cap treading water or beginning to plummet, it's less likely. GM Bob Murray has shown he can get very creative when making deals - it should be a very interesting off-season for the Anaheim Ducks, and if things don't entirely fall apart, the Ducks should get into the playoffs as a 4 through 8 seed and be a very difficult first round opponent for whomever draws them.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Blog Manifesto aka Hello, World!

Hey, everyone. This blog will be dedicated to looking at free agent signings, trades, and other roster moves throughout the National Hockey League, with an eye towards how they look 'on paper' (hence the name). I decided to start this up because while I love discussing the NHL, I don't really have a proper forum to post my thoughts on the rest of the league without coming across as the self-important blowhard I truly am. I am interested in sabermetric analysis, especially the work that's been done so far in baseball, and hope to transfer the same spirit to hockey. I feel that of the four major sports, the mathematical analysis done on the NHL, both in front offices and on the Internet, is well behind the other three. This leaves room for me to actually sound smart or educated. However, I am certainly no statistician, so this blog will crib some numbers from and as well as whatever else I can get my hands on.

Projects I Will Work On in the Coming Months:

June will be devoted to looking at the 30 NHL teams, their salary cap situation, and their outlook for the coming season. I hope to get in all 30 - I may fall short of that goal. If that happens, sorry non-playoff teams, but I will begin skipping you. I might just end up skipping the Phoenix Coyotes because if they hadn't gone broke NHL fans would've forgotten they existed.

July through the beginning of the season will be devoted to 100 UFA and RFA signings that will occur over the summer. I plan to post an in-depth look at one signing a day from July 1 until the beginning of the season (and not that fake beginning with teams playing in Europe).

During the season, I hope to just be posting about random things around the NHL that catch my fancy. Part of my goal with this blog is also to become a better writer - I'll be trying to get these ideas out there and explain my view without being too pedantic or too snarky. Trying to keep a balance of numbers, jargon, and Big Lebowski references will be difficult.

I'm not very technical, so the rest of May will be devoted to trying to figure out how to properly format things. Hope everyone enjoys reading.