Tuesday, June 30, 2009
I've finally finished all 30 teams - when I set out, I had no idea I was going to spend this much time on this project, but here we are.
My plan for the next few days is mostly to sit and wait. I'm going to take a break tomorrow, I think, just drink in the entire day. July 2, I will look into the best non-tendered free agents, as there's sure to be some interesting items available. July 3, 4, 5, I will break down the Pronger and Gomez trades, as well as any potential Heatley trade that may occur in the next 2 hours. The rest of July will be devoted to breaking down the top 26 UFA contracts signed, by cost/year - it will likely start with Bouwmeester and go from there. August will be spent looking at the top 25 RFA contracts signed this summer - arbitration awards come down in mid-August, so hopefully there's grist for that mill then. September will look at other deals that may have slipped through the cracks - UFA, RFA, trades whatever.
I'm not sure about the format I'm going to use - perhaps I will work that out tomorrow as well. I hope to incorporate advanced statistics into it, but I'm not quite sure how I will do that as yet.
I hope everyone enjoys reading, and certainly feel free to comment on anything. Have a happy Free Agent Frenzy day.
(Estimates in Green, Red Field indicates UFA)
Defense: Karl Alzner had an impressive pro debut and spent 30 games with the Capitals. If the Capitals can find another home for Brian Pothier, Alzner should slide right into his place.
Goalie: Michal Neuvirth was the Bears' playoff goalie for their run in the playoffs - he took huge strides forward and should be NHL ready in two years.
Money to Spend: 5.9 million
Holes to Fill: 1
Monday, June 29, 2009
Defense: The unfortunate death of Luc Bourdon seriously impacted the Canucks' future on D, as he was their top prospect. There seems to be no one close to making a significant dent on D.
Goalie: Cory Schneider is as NHL-ready as he'll ever be.
Money To Spend: 20.0 million
Marian Hossa (7/52.5) - Hossa won't have a real center here, and he's not a perfect fit. He didn't have a real center in Ottawa either. He'd be expected to score 35-40 goals every season.
Henrik/Daniel Sedin (9/47), (9/47) - Identical 9 year deals for the Sedin Brothers break down like this: 7 7 6 6 6 5 4 4 2. Only Toronto, Montreal, and Vancouver realistically have the room to sign the Sedin Brothers without major moves - they will probably end up back here.
Marian Gaborik (6/39.5) - Gaborik also wouldn't have a real center, but he's a good enough scorer to not need one. The key, of course, is keeping him healthy
Jay Bouwmeester (8/60) - A coming home of sorts for Bouwmeester, Vancouver can truly blow him out of the water with an offer, if they so choose. It does mean losing the Sedins, however.
Scott Niedermayer/Rob Niedermayer (1/6) (1/2) - It's unclear whether the Niedermayer brothers will play in Anaheim this season - Scott should have a decision on whether they will by July 2014. Regardless, Vancouver is closest to home for the Niedermayer brothers, and they may lure him away.
Sunday, June 28, 2009
Money to Spend: $14.5 million
Holes To Fill: 3
Essentially, the Leafs can't be ruled out from getting anyone, so discussing who they may get is a pointless exercise.
Saturday, June 27, 2009
Best Quote Ever From The General Manager of the Lightning, In a Fax Sent To All NHL GMs:
"Please be advised that in order to avoid any confusion over the next couple of weeks, as GM of the Tampa Bay Lightning Organization I am the only person authorized to speak on behalf of the team with regard to player transactions," the email read.
"No other person is authorized to negotiate player transactions. Any questions, feel free to call."
This has a hilarious military strongman sound to it - 'The Rebels have not seized the capital, and we will crush them before the rainy season.'
Projected Lines in 2009-10
This indicates a player who is RFA in 2009
This indicates a player who is UFA in 2010
This indicates a player who is RFA in 2010
Victor Hedman will jump right on to the Lightning defense next season and could be one of their best D men by season's end. Besides very high draft picks, Tampa is traditionally horrible at drafting.
It is rumored that Vincent Lecavalier is on the block, but unless Tampa is absolutely desperate to rid themselves of his contract, he is unlikely to move. Vaclav Prospal and Ryan Malone are more likely to be dealt.
Free Agent Discussion
Tampa is not likely to sign any free agents beyond depth players.
Tampa is a bad team, they have an excellent top two lines but a lot of dross below that. Expect Steven Stamkos to get better, and expect the goaltenders to seek therapy by November. Tampa led the league in 'Trades That Didn't Make Any F'Ing Sense' last season - they traded Dan Boyle and Brad Lukowich for Matt Carle, Ty Wishart, and a 1st and 2010 4th. They traded the 1st for Andrei Meszaros, whom they summarily overpaid. They traded Matt Carle for Steve Eminger and Steve Downie. They traded Eminger for Noah Welch, who is a UFA. So they traded Boyle for Meszaros, Downie, Wishart and around 40 games of Steve Eminger. Brilliant work!
We'll always have 2004.
Friday, June 26, 2009
Oh Wait, Wrong Image...
The Blues Are Really, Really Well Set Up for 2010-11: 10 forwards and 5 defensemen already 'under contract' and only at 32 million leaves the Blues an absolute ton of room.
Defensemen: Alex Pietrangelo got a look with the Blues last season - he is now 19 years old, and St. Louis thinks he is a future star. They're probably not wrong.
Goalie: Ben Bishop and Marek Schwarz both played for the Blues last season, but both had sub-.900 save percentages at the AHL level.
Money To Spend: 10.2 million dollars
Holes to Fill: 2
It's also worth noting that the Blues are one of the very few teams who could sign an RFA to an offer sheet this off-season - it may make sense for them to do it.
The Blues are also in need of a backup goalie - may one land safely in St. Louis
Thursday, June 25, 2009
People like to point to Joe Thornton as the culprit for the Sharks' playoff failures, and he does have to take some blame, certainly; his career shooting percentage in the regular season is 14.9, but in the playoffs it dips to 8.0. Worse still, as a member of the Sharks, it's 6.5 in 41 playoffs games, whereas it's 14.4% over that time in the regular season. Playoff shooting percentage tend to be lower - defenses are better, as well as goaltenders, plus there tend to be less penalties, so let's assume that Joe's expected shooting percentage is 11.5%. The odds of this occurring purely randomly, of Joe shooting 6.5% over that time assuming a normal distribution of shots, is 4.5%, and the odds of him shooting 6.5% or worse is only 8%. Something more is likely going on here. However, Joe Thornton's expected goals over this time frame are around 11, so the Sharks have missed out on 5 goals over the 4 playoff years that Joe Thornton has been around.
Let's look at another player - one Evgeni Nabokov, who was mentioned above. League average save percentage is .906 in the regular season. However, it tends to rise in the post-season for the same reason shooting percentage falls - fewer penalties, tighter defense. Let's assume that expected save percentages are .915. How does Evgeni Nabokov stack up over that time frame?
First of all, it's worth noting that Evgeni Nabokov didn't even play in 2005-06 because he was so terrible during the regular season that the Sharks started Vesa Toskala instead. However, Nabokov has a .908 save percentage over that time. It's worth noting here that the Sharks probably increase save percentage somewhat - to what extent won't be investigated here, but it wouldn't be surprising if the Sharks' expected save percentage for their goalies was .002 to .005 higher. Regardless, .908 over the course of that time versus the .915 that's expected. Evgeni Nabokov faced 815 playoff shots, and stopped 740 of them. Had he stopped the league average, that would be 745.7 saves - a difference of 5.7 goals.
Conclusion: Evgeni Nabokov has been just as responsible for the Sharks' playoff failures as Joe Thornton. He deserves just as much blame. If both players had played up to reasonable standards, the Sharks might have advanced farther in the playoffs.
How's It Looking? Not great. No Rob Blake and the team's only got 6 million left to spend, and that's in the best case scenario. The good news is that the Sharks have a lot of bodies lying around who are cheap and can play on the bottom lines, so at least they don't have to waste money there.
3rd Line Center
Wednesday, June 24, 2009
Buoyed by the lockout's institution of a salary cap and the addition of young phenom Sidney Crosby, the Penguins actually began spending money. They embarked on a strategy which they have continued until now - go out and find your washed-up wingers, your former goal scorers yearning to breathe free, and stick them with Sidney Crosby. So they signed Zigmund Palffy, John Leclair, and Mark Recchi, all former All-Stars, and waited and hoped. It didn't take - Palffy retired midway through the season and Recchi got traded at the deadline after the team was woefully unsuccessful. In 2006-07, the Penguins did not really use this strategy - they re-signed Recchi, but John Leclair retired in the middle of the season. The team brought in Gary Roberts at the trading deadline as they cruised to their first playoff berth since 2001. In 2007-08, they brought in Stanley Cup champion RW Petr Sykora, fresh off a disappointing year with Edmonton, and of course acquired Marian Hossa at the trading deadline, sending away their young wingers who'd perhaps become overvalued due to the presence of Crosby and Malkin. This year, however, was their 'finest' year yet - they nabbed Ruslan Fedotenko and Miroslav Satan in free agency, then latched on to Chris Kunitz and Bill Guerin at the trading deadline.
What all these players have in common is that they were almost all coming off down years, or incredibly old, or both. The Penguins didn't care that Ruslan Fedotenko only had 28 goals in his last two seasons combined, or that he was a healthy scratch twice for the Lightning in their last playoff year. They knew he had some skill and gave him a one-year contract to see if he could recapture the magic that led to his 26 goal season in 2005-06. While he didn't replicate this in the regular season, in the post season Fedotenko was tied for 4th on the team in goals and points, scoring 7 goals and adding 7 assists in the 24 Pittsburgh Stanley Cup games. Miro Satan and Petr Sykora were decidedly less successful in the post-season, but Sykora in particular contributed during the season - for a Pittsburgh team that was on the outside looking in at the playoff picture for much of the season, that must have been a boost.
The lesson here is simple: acquire wingers cheaply, let them play with Crosby and Malkin, they'll play well, and if they demand too much money, let them go and find new players whom no one wants who can still be useful in the right organization. This should be a blueprint for all organizations who have a particular item who is made excellent by pieces around him - Minnesota shouldn't pay dearly for goaltending, for example. San Jose shouldn't go nuts when players score on a line with Joe Thornton.
Lots of Names Missing There: UFAs from the Cup winner are: Miro Satan, Ruslan Fedotenko, Petr Sykora, Bill Guerin, Craig Adams, Hal Gill, Rob Scuderi, and Phillipe Boucher. Baseball Prospectus once said that most championship teams hoard the players from the victorious squad as though only they possess the magic of title-winning. GM Ray Shero has to tread lightly here - all his players will now be overrated and almost all of them will sign bad contracts.
Money To Spend: 8.3 million
Holes to Fill: 5
1st Line RW
Brian Gionta (4/14) - Gionta scored 48 goals in a season with Scott Gomez's buttery setups - could he do so also with Crosby?
Erik Cole (3/10.5) - Cole had a down year - he might even be convinced to sign for 2 years. He's a big body who can make space for Crosby to operate.
Bill Guerin (2/6) - Dollar Bill is probably the most likely player to fill this role, although emptor should certainly be caveat - he turns 39 in November.
Ruslan Fedotenko (3/7.5) - Ruslan's overvalued due to his 2 Stanley Cup Championships - he certainly steps it up in big games, but he's not so good during the regular season it seems.
Mikael Samuelsson (3/6.5) - Okay, so Mikael's first pass with the Penguins wasn't great (22 GP, 2 G, -21, in 2003). The Red Wings resuscitated him, making him into a solid scoring threat that happens to shoot a ton. It's not really in the Pens' playbook to get a guy who is probably overrated at this moment, but who knows, maybe they want to steal a player from the team they beat in the Stanley Cup Finals.
Todd Bertuzzi (2/4) - Bertuzzi's played for 5 teams since the lockout and hasn't impressed any of them. Calgary's probably not going to bring him back - why not try him out with Malkin or Crosby? He could be a 25 goal scorer on their wings.
Maxim Afinogenov (2/3.5) - Afinogenov has little finish but he can play in a high-powered offense., and it's hard to believe that the skills that led him to score a point a game after the first two post-lockout seasons have completely dissipated. Afinogenov is exactly the sort of player Pittsburgh has been signing of late.
Mark Parrish (1/.8) - Parrish is only 31, his career should not be over. He doesn't do very much well, but he's still an excellent tip man in front of the net. If Pittsburgh signed him, it would not be shocking for him to score 20 goals.
4th line RW
Rob Scuderi (3/6.5) - Scuderi earned his money with his kick-save in the waning seconds on Johan Franzen. There's not much to suggest he's that good, he's already 30, and provides very little on the offensive side of the puck - he has 3 goals in 300 career games. This is the kind of mistake Cup winners typically make.
Nick Boynton (2/4) - Boynton is a strong defensive player who takes the body - with Gonchar, Letang, and Goligoski on the backline, there isn't really a need for an offensive guy.
Hal Gill (2/3.5) - Gill is 33 and turns 34 in April - his career may be about over. Slow and prone to terrible decisions, his 6'7" height and tremendous reach is what keeps him employed.
Tuesday, June 23, 2009
It's entirely possible that the Phoenix Coyotes are not viable in Phoenix and this is just an enormous boondoggle that will play out over the course of several seasons, leaving a welfare team constantly rebuilding while they wait to bolt town. However, the NHL's other owners most certainly have a vested interest in leaving the team in Phoenix, if it is at all possible - they wish to have their cities continue to fund as much of their operations as possible.
Climbing All The Way To The Floor: The Coyotes owe almost $4 million in bonus payments, which should keep them right at the salary floor.
In February of 2007, Paul Holmgren sent Peter Forsberg to Nashville for Scottie Upshall, Ryan Parent, a 1st and a 3rd. He also sent veteran D Alexei Zhitnik to Atlanta for young stud D Braydon Coburn, and nabbed then-backup goaltender Martin Biron from the Sabres, whom he later signed. Holmgren was hardly finished; In June of 2007, before free agency, he swung a trade that brought both Scott Hartnell and Kimmo Timonen to Philadelphia for the aforementioned 1st round pick - both signed long-term deals in Philly. Malingerer Joni Pitkanen, a D with loads of talent but not always the ability to use it, was shipped off with veteran re-re-re-tread Geoff Sanderson for Jason Smith and Joffrey Lupul. The piece de resistance was star centerman Daniel Briere's addition to the club in free agency. The team had added Coburn, Lupul, Briere, Smith, Biron, Hartnell, Timonen, Upshall, Parent, and all for a minimum of cost to the current roster (Zhitnik and Pitkanen). With the improvement of Carter and Richards almost inevitable, the Flyers made the Eastern Conference Finals - a rise that should have shocked no one.
That Doesn't Look As Bad As I Thought: The Flyers don't actually have to make a trade this off-season. The Flyers are helped by the fact that they don't have any restricted free agents to deal with.
2010-11 Looks Unpleasant, Though: Well, certainly. $48 million dollars, no goalies, and still three short on the bench too, and the salary cap is likely to be between $50 and $53 million dollars. The Flyers will have to move one of Lupul, Briere, Gagne, or Hartnell - Briere would be the most likely to move, except that he has a no-movement clause.
2011-12 Is Unpleasant, Too: Jeff Carter and Claude Giroux are RFA that season - both will require large raises.
This indicates a player who is RFA in 2009
This indicates a player who is UFA in 2010
This indicates a player who is RFA in 2010
Money To Spend: 6.2 million
Holes to Fill: 3
Monday, June 22, 2009
In 2005-06, the Senators were favorites for the Stanley Cup - their hopes derailed by an injury to star goaltender Dominik Hasek, who had a .925 save percentage in his time in Ottawa. His replacement, Ray Emery, posted only a .900 save percentage in the playoffs, dooming the tremendous offense. Regardless, the club looked like this:
Yes I Am Aware They Have 3 Goalies: The Ottawa Senators continued their mystifying tradition of buying damaged goods by picking up Pascal Leclaire in a deal with Columbus. Leclaire has had one impressive season but it is hard to imagine him outperforming a goalie who could've been available for half the cost. Either Auld will be traded or Elliott sent to the minors - it's ultimately irrelevant.
Money Available: 8.1 million
Holes To Fill: 1
Nikolai Antropov (4/15) - Versatile Russian can play either wing and center and seems to be continually improving.
Mike Comrie (4/10) - C/LW Comrie was re-acquired by the Sens in March in hopes that he would sign a new deal here. Given that the Islanders were the only team who wanted him when he left Ottawa, it seems rather likely that he re-ups with the Senators.
Ruslan Fedotenko (2/4) - Leaves room to upgrade the defense, if management wishes to.
Ottawa should contend for the playoffs this season - whether they make it depends on Leclaire's health and what happens with Heatley. Down the road, the Senators have a lot of guys signed for a lot of years and not much of a farm system; they are likely in that heap with the Rangers and Buffalo of Eastern Conference squads who are around 60% to make the playoffs in a given year.
Sunday, June 21, 2009
Devils with Pando playing over 13:30: 24-17-6
Devils goals for: 3.02
Devils goals against: 2.55
Shots Against/Game: 29.6
Devils with Pandolfo Playing Under 13:30: 21-18-2
Devils goals for: 2.59
Devils goals against: 2.5
Shots Against/Game: 30.7
There's a lot more that would have to be done to really understand how Jay's usage affected New Jersey (he had the second worst Corsi number on the team) - but one thing is clear - there is little correlation between Pandolfo's usage and winning and losing. Brent Sutter should not be excoriated for his usage of a checking line in the playoffs - not after losing six straight games and watching his team's shots against/game continue to escalate. Perhaps as his team's shots against/game continued to increase in the playoffs, he should have examined the very strict line matching he was doing, but that's all in the past now; whether Sutter is prone to panicking is something the Calgary Flames might find out.
Say What You Will About The Tenets of Lou-ism, At Least It's an Ethos: Lou Lamoriello played a little Back to the Future by acquiring former Devil Brian Rolston this off-season - Rolston, the most sought after free agent, summarily sprained his ankle and was ineffective for most of the season. His contract was an almost necessary gamble, but much like Michael Nylander's of Washington, it may be a difficult one from which to recover - due to the fact that Rolston was over 35 when his contract was signed, the Devils are on the hook for his cap hit even if he is not on the roster.
We Come Back and Cut Off Your Johnson: The Devils only have 16 returning players, but will pay out 44.6 million dollars in salary - the salary cap may indeed claim their Johnson. And stomp on it and squish it. 2009-10 is even worse - $40 million committed to 12 players means likely 10 million to the remaining 8, or some difficult cuts.
Money To Spend: 12 million
Holes To Fill: 5
Dominic Moore (4/9.5) - Another ex-Ranger castoff, Moore made himself into an assist man last season, posting 32 - his previous career-high was 12.
Sami Pahlsson (3/6.5) - Checking-line centerman has only scored more than 10 goals once in his career, but does the 'little things' right. Problem is, he does the big things wrong - a career -44 has to make teams wary.
Todd Marchant (2/2) - A million f'ing clams for the speed demon who can still kill some penalties.
Scott Nichol (2/1.6) - Feisty centerman has struggled with injuries but is always willing to drop the gloves.
Mattias Ohlund (3/13) - Ohlund may be headed elsewhere if the whole Team Sweden thing falls apart in Vancouver - his consistency is something no doubt prized by Lou Lamoriello, although given what happened with Rolston, he will likely get in a fight with the chief of police of Malibu and be sidelined for three months.
Jaroslav Spacek (3/11) - Spacek has 73 goals in 701 NHL games, and plenty of assists to boot. Newark will likely look like Hawaii to a man used to the Buffalo skyline. 3 years and 11 million dollars may be wishful thinking compared to what Roman Hamrlik is being paid, but the NHL is not always particularly good at valuing talent.
Johnny Oduya (4/14) - Oduya is a fabulous skater and has learned how to play in the defensive zone. Only power play prowess keeps him from getting a $5 million per contract - he is a +48 the past two seasons.
Francois Beauchemin (3/10) - Beauchemin only recorded 1 assist in the 33 games he played this past season, but he's got a Stanley Cup ring and plays a ton of minutes. While almost certainly not a superstar, he is less likely to implode than players like Spacek and Ohlund.
The New York Rangers - Not The Only Large, Unwieldy New York Based Organization To Completely Underestimate The Possibility of Failure
Normally one would think this is just a fluke and that the Rangers could score 30 or 40 more goals next season, but their top three centers are not tremendous shooters by any stretch - We've already covered Gomez, but Brandon Dubinsky also has a 7.6% career percentage and his hands are one of the few things keeping him from being a bona fide star in the future. Chris Drury may have a 12% career shooting percentage, but that was buoyed by playing in Buffalo; remove those and he's at 10.7%, which is exactly what the Rangers have gotten from him these past two seasons. Recall that shooting percentage is, in itself, not a skill - Chris Drury is still a strong player and worth having on one's team. However, none of the current Rangers are particularly adept at filling the net regularly, and it shows on the team's shooting percentages, both career and otherwise. Glen Sather's master plan seems to have been that Scott Gomez could waken the sleeping sticks on his team, but that plan has certainly not come to pass.
Whither Nikolai Zherdev? Zherdev and John Tortorella did not see eye to eye, and his minutes were reduced down the stretch. It is certainly possible that the Rangers may non-tender their second leading scorer in hopes to acquire something better. Zherdev is a tremendous talent but he appears to lack the finish to justify his lengthy swoons in effort.
Whither Wade Redden? It is a very remote possibility that Wade Redden could be waived. Redden's play was horrid under former coach Tom Renney, but seemed to improve under the new coach, enough that Glen Sather will likely hold off on something so drastic. Were he waived, he almost certainly could not be called back up during the season - the Rangers would have to replace his minutes.
Wow, The Rangers Are In A Bad Spot: The Rangers clearly went with an aggressive free-agent strategy in hopes that the salary cap would continue rising. With a constantly rising salary cap, it would have been possible to salvage bad contracts (e.g. Avery) from teams that needed them gone, plus they could have been one of the few teams to spend up to the salary cap each year. In an increasing salary cap world, bad contracts ostensibly get better because they take up less of a % of a team's salary cap. Now that the salary cap will come down, the Rangers are stuck with four albatrosses - Drury, Gomez, Roszival, and Redden are nowhere near elite at their position, but they are all being paid close to elite money. The Rangers are thus a thoroughly average team.
Money to Spend: 8.4 million
Holes To Fill: 5
Two cheap options:
Taylor Pyatt (3/5.5) - Pyatt has always had the 'look' of a power forward without the finish. While there's more than enough NHL history to suggest that Taylor Pyatt will never be better than a 3rd line LW, there's also the one season where he scored 23 goals - doing that as a 6'4" 230 pound player will have NHL GMs pounding down your doors 10 years later.
Janne Pesonen (2/2.3) - Pesonen led the Finnish League in goals and points in 2008, but in his debut stateside he could not crack the Pittsburgh Penguins roster. He did manage over a point a game for their AHL affiliate, and may be the kind of Jan Hlavac-style place holder who scores 15 goals and 25 assists.
Nikolai Antropov (4/15) - Antropov did everything that he was expected to as a Ranger. He's got scoring touch around the net, and while he's the sort of player that always leaves fans expecting more, it's not unreasonable that he could fill this hole.
Brendan Shanahan (1/1.5) - Ditto.
Martin Skoula (2/3) - Skoula is the kind of defenseman the Rangers love - he's got supposedly good puck moving ability, even though this has never really manifested itself.
Mathieu Dandenault (1/1) - Dandenault would make a valuable place-holder for a deadline acquisition. The Rangers suffered almost no injuries last season and got away with playing rookies when the need arose; they will need more depth this season. While Dandenault may not be the guy, they certainly need a player who can play 30 or 40 games without being a disaster.
Wednesday, June 17, 2009
A Yawn That Swallows The Whole World: The famed French poet Baudelaire said that was the definition of 'ennui'. It's also a good summation of how NHL fans feel about the New York Islanders, who are bad now, will likely remain bad in the future, who play in the NHL equivalent of a housing project, and have a former goalie turned GM still piloting the team.
Mark Streit Might Have The Best Contract In the NHL: Mark Streit flourished on Long Island, ending up as a plus player on a rotten team, while playing an absolute ton. He should score less goals next season, but that shouldn't take away from his ability - he is a top defender in the NHL.
Money Available: 13 million
Holes To Fill: 2
Conclusion: The Islanders' third-highest paid player is Alexei Yashin, which sums up the team quite nicely. GM Garth Snow has actually done a not-terrible job in putting together the Islanders, and while they are almost certainly a last place team, there's room to grow. As long as the Islanders do not botch this rebuilding attempt, they should be a playoff team in 3 or 4 years. However, the Islanders have traditionally been outstanding at bungling rebuilding attempts, and the payoff might not come until the Islanders are uprooted to Kansas City.
Buoying these deals are two one-million dollar seasons for Franzen and Zetterberg at the very ends of the contract - Franzen will be 38, Zetterberg 39 when these million dollar seasons kick in. Each will of course still have their full cap hit for these seasons. It is difficult to imagine either of these players actually playing these seasons - but the deals are truly brilliant in two senses. First, Zetterberg and Franzen receive almost all of their money in the first seasons of the deal, but thanks to these two seasons at the end of each, their cap hit is reduced throughout the contract. Furthermore, when their cap hit begins to exceed their salary by a great deal (and likely their performance too), they will only be making $1 million per season, and will probably retire instead of playing for that sum. If they do want to play out their entire contract, odds are that Ken Holland will be forced to demote them to the minor leagues - in 2019/20, Franzen and Zetterberg will be making 2 million dollars, but taking up 10 million dollars of the Wings' cap. Now here's where the magic comes in: someone will almost certainly acquire them if they get waived! The league will always have a few sickly franchises that would prefer to have a large cap hit for a small amount of performance, if that cap hit happens to involve a low salary being paid out. Even if not: Detroit's economy is unstable, and if the city never recovers, it's possible that the Red Wings would no longer be a top spending NHL squad. As a result, Zetterberg and Franzen's contracts might stay on the books, providing a money-saving solution for a frugal team. Any way you slice these contracts, Ken Holland came out way ahead; even if both Zetterberg and Franzen develop injury problems later in their careers, he's managed to keep together as much of an NHL dynasty as possible in this salary cap era, and has ensured that the Red Wings will remain near the head of the pack in the NHL for the near-future.
Do People Really Think Hossa Can Come Back? Michael Farber of SI reported that Hossa had signed a long-term deal that would not be reported until the end of the season. However, the team already has 57 million in salary committed for next season, and they lack a backup goalie. It would be a major stretch to think that the Wings could afford Hossa - Hossa is likely gone to the highest bidder.
Are All The Red Wing Players Idiots? The Red Wings seem to underpay all of their players, and beyond that, they get them to agree to money up front deals, e.g. Kris Draper. Draper has a cap hit of 1.583 million but in 2010/11 his actual salary will only be 1.2 million. It's likely that he's no longer a Red Wing in 2010/11, either playing for some minor league team or a team not particularly interested in winning.
Will Lidstrom Retire In A Year? Only Nicklas Lidstrom knows that - but playing the playoffs with a ruptured testicle might influence his decision. Lidstrom has been rumored to return to Sweden since he stepped into the league almost 20 years ago. If he retires, regardless of what the Wings fill that hole with, it will not be as good as Nicklas Lidstrom, who certainly has a case for being the NHL's greatest defenseman of all time behind Bobby Orr.
2009-10 Projected Lines
Okay, But Seriously: It's unclear how the Wings solve this problem. They can certainly move players to the off-wing, but which ones?
Conclusion: The Red Wings are the league's best drafters, and as a result they usually have the best team. Even with their brutal Stanley Cup Finals loss, they will still be the favorites to win it all next year. The young players they have now don't look to have the upside of a Datsyuk or Zetterberg, but they will be solid 2nd and 3rd line contributors in a few years time. The only thing that could slow down the Wings' reign of terror is if Lidstrom retires - his retirement will expose Brian Rafalski and severely weaken what has traditionally been the best defensive corps in hockey. Regardless, the Wings will almost certainly be one of the NHL's best teams for the next five years at the very least - it's hard to imagine them not winning another Stanley Cup in that time.