After the First Day: Free Agency Thoughts

Market, via  Merriam-Webster:

d : the area of economic activity in which buyers and sellers come together and the forces of supply and demand affect prices <producing goods for market rather than for consumption>

I think a lot of hockey fans forget what a market really is when it comes time for free agency.  The market is defined by the supply and demand of the moment.  It may reflect the past and the future of the market a bit, but it’s really defined as what the needs of the moment are and what is available to fill those holes.

My shining example is Mike Smith, Tim Thomas and the goalie market.  Smith signed a five year extension, for $5.666… million.  At the time, it seemed like a lot of money for Smith (it is a lot of money in general, but the scope of that kind of money isn’t the real question here).  My immediate thought was, this isn’t a bad deal for either side.

A few days later, and look at what the market is for goalies.  Ray Emery is in Philadelphia, a bunch of backups shuffled around, but every other team is set with goaltending.  And who is left out there?  Ilya Bryzgolov and Tim Thomas.  There isn’t room for them right now in the league.  Bryz might look to the KHL if things don’t open up in the NHL, while Thomas will be sitting in NORAD waiting for someone to get hurt.

That’s the market Smith was signed in.  If this was next year, where the goalie market is much more open, he might not have gotten this much money.  And I fully expect that market to shrink considerably.  No way are that many good goalies going to free agency.  Most will be resigned.

Smith was able to work a deal in this market that was favorable to him, because the Coyotes were low on options.  Unless they brought back Bryz for another stint, they were going to be looking for another Labarbera / Garon dual backup “solution.”

And if you weren’t convinced of the state of goalie market, Nikolai Khabibulin went back to Chicago.  Yeah. Locked. Up. Tight.

That was what the free agent market was this year.  Lots of needs and not a lot of players to fill those slots.  It was a market that was going to be overpaid, but not by gigantic Kovalbucks.  There was talent out there, but not enough to go around.  Most teams had locked up and resigned the more attractive options before UFA day came (Letang, Ellis, Bickell, etc).  When Briere and Lecavalier are the biggest players involved, and everyone knows where they are going before signing day, it’s going to be a strange day.

There was plenty of action.  The Tyler Seguin move was a bit surprising. I look forward to seeing him in the West.  And the Ducks finally trade Bobby Ryan, which I think they will regret.  I like the way the Senators are building.  It isn’t a great team yet, but they are getting better and better all the time.

Some thoughts on the first day of free agency:

– Nathan Horton goes to Columbus and David Clarkson goes to the Leafs, both for similar money. Yet for Columbus it’s a good signing with risk (will Horton stay healthy) versus Toronto overpaying and making a huge error, according to the experts.  Despite similar numbers last season and Clarkson being a more physical and healthier player.  I wonder if the feeling that the Leafs are screwing this up simply comes from their long history of screwing things up.  I get the impression the media just likes that storyline.  Neither is a bad signing.  Too long of terms?  Maybe, but not bad deals.

– I was surprised we didn’t see more seven-year deals, the longest term allowed under the new CBA.  Only two seven-year deals, followed by 5 five-year deals.  Perhaps it’s the lowering of the salary cap, but I would think that would work towards the advantage of the team.  The cap comes down, they have to fit a player under that cap, then keep the deal / average cap hit rolling to maximize value.  Or the market didn’t hold enough players worth seven years.  I’m guessing it’s the latter.

– Jarome Iginla goes to Boston.  Shades of Marian Hossa?  Should we expect Chicago and Boston in the finals again?  I doubt it, but it makes for an interesting parallel.  Six million seems like a lot for a player on the decline and a team that is close enough to the cap ceiling that they can touch it without stretching too hard.  But considering the skill level (and toughness) Iginla started from, that decline could take a long time to effectively manifest itself.  Iginla has to perform for his new team quickly.  The fans wanted him before, were left at the alter at the trade deadline, and were not thrilled about it.  Since we live in the salary cap, Team NHL era, they may forgive quickly if he shows that he was worth the bother.  Otherwise, I hope he brought some ear plugs.  He’s going to hear about it.

– The three sites I have been going to over and over for UFA info have been TSN’s excellent trade tracker, Capgeek.com, and Spector’s Hockey from Lyle Richardson. The trade tracker is great because it’s a simple spreadsheet that’s sortable.  I’ve sung the praises of Capgeek before, and I hope whomever runs that site makes some serious bank.  They deserve it. As for Lyle Richardson, I love his work.  Enough said there.

– The Red Wings have done nothing to reduce their reputation as being the Detroit Old Folks Home.  Daniel Alfredsson leaving Ottawa to sign there only reinforces that perception.  It isn’t a bad move for either one, and while Alfredsson was the franchise player in Ottawa, he didn’t seem too happy with the team in their last round of the playoffs this year, effectively sounding the alarm that he was quitting the series.  When it’s time for you to go, it’s time to go, and for Alfie, it was time to go.  Whether it works out for Detroit is anyone’s guess.  It could be the veteran they need, or it could be another Mats Sundin situation.  Please recall, that didn’t work out.

– Everyone wanted Andrew Ference.  I don’t blame them, he was pivotal in the Bruins run at the Cup. But considering where he went, for that term and that money (4 years / $13mil), less teams were in the running than the fans thought.  He took less money to go to Edmonton than he could have gotten elsewhere, making it a personal decision for him, and that’s great.  Edmonton is finally getting out of the draft-for-everything mode and starting to build a team.  Whether this set of components works out remains to be seen, but at least they are finally trying.

– As for the Colorado Avalanche, I’m fine with what they did in free agency.  Sure, it would have been great to see them land that perfect piece of the puzzle, but I have bad news for everyone looking to solve every problem with free agent signings.  It doesn’t work that way.  If your team solved all it’s issues in free agency this season, they didn’t have that may issues to begin with.  The sins of the past have not been forgotten in Colorado.  Scott Hannan, Greg Zanon, Jan Hejda, shall I go on?  That’s just the free agent defensemen signed that didn’t work out well.  Shane O’Brien? Oh, you want me to stop now?  OK, so those signings didn’t work out, there weren’t many defensemen on the market that would fit in a 1-2 role, and still, fans wanted to see the Avs make a splash?  Instead, the Avs signed a few depth players to stock up the horrid Lake Erie Monsters, which has been an issue for years.  I hope this means they are going to take the minors seriously.  There is still plenty of time for the Avalanche to make trades to shore up the defense, but this is not a problem that will be fixed overnight.  They are doing something, which is more than could have been said before the new regime was put in place.  That’s a good step forward.  There was no splash to be made this year. Perhaps only a slight ripple to be had.  Good enough.

Free Agency: Buyer Beware

Free agency is a sexy thing.  Lots of interesting players available to anyone if they have the money and the right pitch.  Fans love it, teams love it, and players and agents most certainly love it.  If teams didn’t have success last year, they are looking for parts to make themselves better.  If they did have success, chances are they lost a few good players to free agency or cap-related issues, and need to plug new holes.  Everyone is looking for someone.

There are a few problems:

– Everyone overpays on the first day of free agency.  Why do you think players love it?

– Memories are fairly short on previous free agency blunders, and if you forget history yadda yadda yadda.

– Fans want the world and they want it now, but the teams who need the most help either can’t afford it or aren’t attractive to the players (rebuilding a team is like announcing in the media they have an STD).

The Colorado Avalanche could use some help on defensive (and if you say “why didn’t they draft Seth Jones then?” I would ask you to read this).  The best options are to trade away an asset, or go buy some defensemen. At this point, there aren’t many players they would want to trade, with the ghost of Paul Stastny the one exception.

That means buying defense on the free agent market.  And I’m here to tell you, tread cautiously.  Here are a few names to give you pause:

Jan Hejda

Scott Hannon

Greg Zanon

All of them brought to the Avalanche in free agency.  All of them the new solution to the defensive issues of the team (yes, even Zanon), all of them disappointments.  Jan Hejda is still around, and with the compliance buyout option available, the Avs hanging on to him says they still think he is an asset, either on the ice or as trade bait.

But if it’s D you want, the free agency market may not actually have it for you.  From Capgeek.com, here are some of the ‘top’ defensemen available:

Marek Zidlicky
Joe Corvo
Ryan Whitney
Andrew Ference
Tom Gilbert
Ron Hainsey
Rob Scuderi
Michal Rozsival
Andre Benoit
Filip Kuba
M. Bergeron
Mike Kostka
Wade Redden
Jonathon Blum
B. Sanguinetti
Ryan O’Byrne
Douglas Murray
Mark Fistric
Toni Lydman
Greg Zanon
Kurtis Foster
Alexander Sulzer
Ian White
Adam Pardy
Adrian Aucoin
Tyson Strachan
Radek Martinek

Hey, look, a few former Avalanche on the list. How fun.

Aside from Andrew Ference, who do you want to see in an Avalanche uniform?  Wait, let’s do this a little more realistically.  Who do you want to OVERPAY to be in an Avalanche uniform?  Because other teams have needs on defense as well, they will be bidding for the same talent, sending the price higher and higher.  And the salary cap may have come down for this season, but that doesn’t mean the player’s asking price has.  You are seeing a wider gap between the haves and have-nots, a squeezing out of the NHL middle class.

Is Kurtis Foster still worth it?  A few years for Rozsival?  I wouldn’t mind Ron Hainsey for a year or two.  Corvo?

The interesting thing to me was which teams were buying out players, which ones were speculated to be buying out, and who didn’t.  The big money clubs were the ones doing the buying out, with the Flyers leading the way.  The Rangers were rumored to, as well as the Canucks.  But they held tight, with their coaching changes perhaps being enough to clean up the problems.  The only team that bought out a big contract that isn’t a wildly spending team was the Islanders, removing the mistake of the Rick DiPietro contract.  And why they chose to use the compliance buyout instead of a regular buyout and keep the cap hit (for a bargain basement spending team, they covet that cap hit) is beyond me.

The teams that didn’t buy players out, and haven’t been shuffling their mistakes around are the teams that have a budget and stick to it.  And by budget, I mean they pick a number below the cap.  For teams like the Flyers, Penguins and Canadiens, they seem to pick a budget within a few dollars of the cap ceiling.  How’s that working out?  Not so well, unless you consider the Penguins a success (which they arguably are).

If you need a reminder, look at the list of signings for last season.  Scroll down and look at the July 1st signings.  With just that list in mind, does your value of the free agent market change?

This is all to say one thing: free agency is sexy, it’s alluring, but it is a marriage, and it needs to work after the first date.  Fans want to see a splash in the free agent market, but those don’t work out as often as the storyline says they will.  Tread carefully, GMs, and fans, keep your pants on.

UFA Day Notes – Was The Early Talk Worth It?

Today is the start of free agency, but you wouldn’t know it.  Teams have been able to do what everyone knew they were doing, talk to players and agents before the official start of the signing period.  There is no way in hell a player would agree to a multi-year deal with a salary that went up and down year to year within fifteen minutes of the clock starting.  Yet that’s what we saw, over and over.  When dollars were just dollars, before the salary cap, things were simpler.  Here’s your money, yes or no?  Now it’s a lot of math to do a deal.  A LOT of math.

We already know what’s going to happen.  Like a Kanye West album leaking, we know the beats and moves, we know who is going where.  Lecavalier to the Flyers, Briere to the Canadiens.  When the biggest intrigue is what Daniel Alfredsson will do (more on him later), you have the makings of a very dull day.

Is the pre-signing day negotiations a good thing?  As I said, we all knew they did it behind closed doors.  The only difference is the ability other teams that may not have engaged a free agent early to get in on the conversation.  I would argue that it isn’t great.  If the player already know where they are going, it’s fairly pointless.  Most players have teams in mind they want to sign, even if they talk to twenty-nine other GMs.  They see how the other half lives throughout the season, they have friends or contacts (or enemies) on other teams that tell them the skinny.  If the ink might as well be drying on the contract before it’s even signed, then I think it’s useless.

A few thoughts on the UFA market and trades that have happened.

– The Dallas Stars have traded themselves back into relevance.  They lost a good player in Loui Eriksson, but gained a lot of potential in Tyler Seguin.  Did I mention I met him once? Regardless, between that and the Shawn Horcoff  deal, the Stars made a big statement, and at exactly the right time.  Aside from an easier travel schedule with the upcoming realignment, they have made themselves a destination a UFA might consider.  They decided they didn’t like the mediocrity their team was mired in and did something about it.  Whether or not it pans out isn’t yet relevant.  They did something, and that sends a big signal.

I like the move for Seguin.  It seems weird to need a change of location after winning a Cup and being in the finals again two years later, but the guy was blessed with a weird trade that sent his pick to Boston, and was lucky not to be picked by Edmonton.  Everything was coming up roses for him, but hockey is a business.  Maybe the move will show him he has a bit more to learn.

– It’s going to be weird to see Vinny Lecavalier in a Flyers uniform.  More so than Danny Briere in a Canadiens jersey.  That they both got paid, and both are not signing seven-year deals says a lot about their potential.  The Canadiens made a smart move only signing Briere to a two-year contract.  I wonder if they had visions of Scott Gomez when they were negotiating the contract.  If Briere doesn’t work out, at least it won’t last long.

– If you aren’t sure how buyouts work, Capgeek has a great buyout FAQ.  Find it here.  Capgeek is an amazing resource.  How did we ever live without it?  It’s like the double-stuff Oreo.  I just can’t imagine what it was like before.

– I’m amazed at the amount of eight-year contracts we are seeing handed out to pending free agents.  It’s now the most teams are allowed to resign players for, with seven years the upper limit for free agent signings.  Which makes me wonder, how many seven-year contracts will we see signed this off-season.  Looking at the list of free agents, I’m guessing not many.  But who knows, player’s agents can be crafty.

– Daniel Alfredsson should go the route of Teemu Selanne and Milan Hejduk and start signing one year contracts until he retires (if he comes back to the Senators at all).  What does he have to loose?

– It sounded like the Detroit Red Wings were kicking the tires of just about every free agent out there.  Detroit is always a team players want to go to, thanks to their winning tradition.  But keep in mind that they are moving to the East next season, and won’t be in the same division as the pushover Columbus Blue Jackets, the almost always pushover St. Louis Blues, and the sometimes pushover Nashville Predators.  All of those teams are getting better, but it isn’t the same as stepping into a very tough division with the Bruins and… Oh, that’s it?  Well, never mind.  Still, moving East, does that change the perception of the Wings?   Their success was guaranteed, but I would argue that it is less so lately.

– Don’t forget: rumors are useless.  They are a great way to build up a lot of anxiety over nothing.  Most of them never pan out.  Make sure you are paying attention to real sites with real sources and real news, not made up garbage.

Avs Before Free Agency

We’re about five minutes away from another free agent frenzy, and I just wanted to pop in with a few quick thoughts on the Avalanche and what they might or might not do.

You will notice I used the word might, and not the word will. The reason is that no one really knows. The Avs are infamously tight lipped, and don’t tend to show their hand before they do anything. While the Leafs are the most obvious team in the league when it comes to telegraphing their moves, the Avs are always in stealth mode. Anyone who says they know what the Avs will do is just joshing. Anyone.

OK, so here are my thoughts.

– Parise and Suter: If the Avs even bother making an offer for either of these players, I would be surprised they tried at all. These guys want to win a Cup, especially after the playoff runs both experienced this postseason. The Avs don’t show the kind of opportunity other teams like the Penguins and Red Wings display year after year. Yes, the Avs have a lot of cap space, and they might even spend some of it, but that doesn’t mean a big time free agent is going to want to take it here. Both of these players are going to be paid handsomely wherever they go, or if they aren’t payed as much as they could command, it’s going to be for their own personal reasons. The Avs might not even bother.

– Staying the course: Every signing this off season points to one thing: there is enough faith in the direction the Avalanche are taking that they want to stick with it for a few more years. I tend to agree, so long as needs start being addressed in a realistic way. I don’t think overspending on a single free agent is going to get those needs addressed. There are about four or five things the Avs need, and all of them should start with the word ‘mean’ or the word ‘tough.’ More than one decent 25 goal scorer wouldn’t hurt, either.

– The Hejda factor: Let’s be honest, would you want to take a big dip in the free agent waters if you had the kind of success the Avalanche have had the last few times they have ponied up? If Scott Hannan and Ryan Smyth aren’t cautionary tales, Jan Hejda certainly is. This doesn’t seem like an organization being blinded by the shiny stars. Free agency can be pretty on the outside, but nasty on the inside.

– Duchene’s deal: I didn’t think of this until a few days ago, but Duchene’s deal will run out when it’s time for Landeskog to get paid. Good timing, like when the Islander’s lease runs out about the same time the arena in Quebec should be ready to open.

– Wait it out: I think the needs of the Avs would be better addressed when the dust settles on the first few days of free agency. I would rather see them make a smart move then throw cash at a one dimensional solution that probably isn’t much of a solution in the first place. Signing a big free agent to a lot of long term cash isn’t going to put a lot more butts in the seats at the Pepsi Center. And in the free agency period before a new CBA could clamp down on the salary cap, there is not sense in spending everything you have available. It’s disappointing to the fans to see the first day of free agency go untouched, but that’s what I think the Avs should do.

But hey, that’s just me. I’ve been wrong many times before.

Long Shadows

There are three banners hanging beside the center ice scoreboard in the Pepsi Center that cast long shadows on the ice.  The shadows reach from end to end, and are particularly dark near the goal crease.

The one with the number 77 on it has the shortest shadow of the three.  Some people who aren’t fans of the Colorado Avalanche don’t think it should be there, and I’m sure there are some fans who agree.  Ray Bourque was with Colorado for a moment, but his presence was as necessary to the Stanley Cup winning team as any other person on the ice.

The shadow cast by the banner with the number 19 is pretty long.  It also has the captain’s C on it, and that is the part that makes this shadow particularly insidious.  The Avalanche had a great captain in Joe Sakic.  He was a leader on the ice, and in the locker room.  But the key word is ‘was.’  He retired as a player and moved to the front office when it was time to do so, but it is as if the rest of the organization and the fans don’t want to move on.  Moving on doesn’t have to mean forgetting the past, but it’s time to put the past where it belongs.  There is a reason the NHL keeps going back to nostalgia when it comes time to sell something.

The number 33 banner is the hardest to overcome.  The shadow is a back breaker, because it is held so highly in the minds and hearts of the fans.  Patrick Roy was an unbelievably good goaltender, the kind that doesn’t come along very often.  He helped change and refine the position.  And he left the crease for good when it was time.  He moved on, but the fans don’t want to move on.  They still want Roy back.  They want him as a coach, a GM, and falling short of that, they want his reincarnation.

The Avalanche needed three things desperately coming off the bust of last season: goaltending, a bigger defense, and goaltending.

The Avs gave up two draft picks to sign Semyon Varlamov, and wound up bringing in JS Giguere, both for two years.  Eerily similar to Craig Anderson, the Avs are taking a chance on Varlamov, and if it pans out, they will look like geniuses.  It looks like a huge price to pay, until you start looking at how many top draft picks have worked out for the team, and how many goaltenders that were drafted by the Avs ever played for the Avs.  HockeyDB provides the Avalanche draft history, and when you take it all in, it’s an interesting picture.

Here’s the goalies drafted by the Avalanche to play in the NHL through their history, starting with the most recent:

Tyler Weiman – Drafted 2002 –  Played 1 game (16 minutes in relief) for the Avs

Peter Budaj – Drafted 2001 – Played 242 games for the Avs

Philippe Sauve – Drafted 1998 – Played 17 games for the Avs

David Aebischer – Drafted 1997 – Played 174 games for the Avs

Marc Denis – Drafted 1995 – Played 27 games for the Avs

Brent Johnson – Drafted 1995 – Played 0 games for the Avs

This is only a list of goalies the Avalanche drafted.  It doesn’t include draftees of the Quebec Nordiques, such as Tim Thomas, who never played a game for the Nords.  You may have heard of him?

The thing with that list is, the most successful goalie, in terms of games played and longevity in the league, never played for the Avalanche (and you can include Tim Thomas in that as well).  The ones who did play for the Avs did so in the shadow of Roy.  How does your guy feel when you read their names?  Most of them are disappointing, but I don’t feel like it was entirely deserved.  The Avs haven’t developed a goalie that could steal games like Roy could, or like Craig Anderson could in his first season with the Avalanche.  Taken in that context, to me, a first rounder and a second (that is made up for with the trade of John-Michael Liles to Toronto for a second round pick) seems like a small price to pay for a good goalie.  He doesn’t have to be Roy, and hopefully he won’t be held to the fire to be Roy.

The defense got bigger starting with Eric Johnson coming to the Avs for Stewart and Shattenkirk (who I think will be the one who got away), and the Liles trade made way for Jan Hejda, a free agent signing by way of the Columbus Blue Jackets.  Ever since Scott Hannan was traded to the Washington Capitals, the need for shutdown defensemen was obvious.  If the Avs have their men, then that need was addressed, even if it isn’t completely solved.

The final shadow belongs to the captain.  The Avalanche are only one person removed from the captaincy, and that was a fairly obvious choice at the time.  There wasn’t another person who had the respect of the team, or the fans, to wear the C.  But by continuing to hold out and make the C a bigger deal, it becomes heavier and heavier.  The Avs are going to have to announce a captain at some point, and the longer they hold out, the worse it is going to be for the person who has to wear it.  The obvious choice to me is Paul Stastny, and if it doesn’t work out or someone else steps up in a few years, give it to them.  It’s sacrilege to the faithful, but you shouldn’t even try.  Joe Sakic was the original captain, and after that, it’s someone else’s turn.  Let them do it their way.

Those shadows, they loom large, but they aren’t helping.  Living in the past doesn’t work anymore.  By continually looking back and wishing things were like the old days, there is no room for the new.  There isn’t room for success, or possibility.  It’s time to let the boys be boys.  Let them play, without having to live up to the standards of 2001, and come out from the shadows.  It’s time for the new Avalanche to emerge.

Free Agency Afternoon Thoughts

Just some general thoughts on day one of free agency:

Florida Panthers – Dale Talon has a lot of people scratching their heads today, but I’m not one of them.  Talon knows how to build a team, and the team he’s building looks a lot like the 2010 Stanley Cup Champion Chicago Blackhawks.  They don’t have the younger draftees, and they don’t seem to have a rookie goalie in the wings to scoop the team up, but he looks like he could be a few years away from just that.  I don’t doubt the man, so long as he stays comforably away from the upper limit of the salary cap.  And considering he is in Florida, that shouldn’t be an issue.  Jose Theodore is the new Christibol Huet, Scotty Upshall is the new Dustin Byfuglien, and Brian Campbell is still Brian Campbell.  I don’t know where Jovanovski fits in yet.  The big difference here is that Florida got better.  That’s been a long time coming.

Vokoun – I don’t think we will hear much from Vokoun until later, but his options are waining.  It’s been suggested that the Panthers should have given him one more year, but I couldn’t imagine how that would help Vokoun.  His market value is as high as it’s going to get, even as his options for locations are shrinking.

Jagr – AH HAHAHAHAHAHA!!!!!! But seriously, it’s probably Jagr’s last year in the NHL ever.  He needed to follow the money.  Heart has never been his strongest suit, but it was kind of a dick move for Ray Shero to try and tug at those heartstrings.  Manipulative? Maybe.  But Jagr made them pay.  Hockey hate in Pittsburgh is going to be at an all time high.

Christian Ehrhoff – What a joke of a contract.  Two signing bonuses? A signing bonus 4 times the amount of the salary for the year it’s handed out? Just a freaking joke.  Contracts like this give the owners more ammo for the next CBA.  This is the bastard child contract of Brian Campbell and Ilya Kovalchuk.

Colorado Avalanche – I’ll do more on the Avalanche later, but for now, the best I can say is that they got better.  They worked towards filling holes on the club with the available market.  I’ll go deeper later.

Carcillo to the Blackhawks – AH HAHAHAHAAH!!!!! Oh, how the Canucks are going to hate the Hawks twice as much next year.

Erik Cole – I would have liked to have seen him in an Avs jersey.  He’s quietly good, the kind of player the fans like here in Colorado.

 

Overall, lots of teams got better today.  I think the overall sentiment online has been, “why can’t I be a GM?”  In this market, there are more role players than difference makers.  If you had a hole to fill, this is the market to do it in.  If you need big stud, you have few options, and you will pay for them.

More later….

Varlamov to the Avs: Why I’m Not Worried

Semyon Varlamov is now an Av.  After making a lot of noise about going to the KHL, the Avs traded a first and second round pick for Varlamov, and the Capitals got out of a bind.

To Caps fans, the general sentiment on Varlamov is, don’t let the door hit you.  It reminds me of how fast the Avalanche faithful turned on Budaj after his stellar season that almost shoehorned the Avs back into the playoffs in 2006-07, after Jose Theodore (who signed a two year deal with Florida) tanked.  Then again, Budaj and his agent weren’t talking smack about the Avalanche either.

The knee-jerk reaction on twitter (which is where I go for my calm and well thought out analysis) is that the Avalanche overspent by a country mile on this deal.  A first and a second is a lot to give up for what was essentially negotiating rights, and word is the 2012 draft is kind of deep.  And the Avs faithful don’t think they will do much better next season than they did this season.

But then again, the Avalanche seem to be addressing some of their needs, regardless of the ‘rebuilding’ tag.  They have a much bigger defense (Liles and Shattenkirk out, Johnson, O’Byrne, and Hejda in), and from the goaltending tandem of Budaj and Elliot, we have Varlamov and (insert someone here).  It’s not like the Avalanche have been good at developing goalies anyways.  Look at the time spent on Tyler Weiman, and he was shipped off.  Vitaly Kolesnik didn’t get a legitimate shot,.  And the Avalanche system was stocked with third and fourth goalie talent last season, and doesn’t look much more promising this season.  At this point, if you were going to stick with Varlamov, and not go after Vokoun (which I am not convinced that the Avs are out of the Vokoun race yet), you might as well bring back Budaj (too late, 2 years with Montreal).  If there isn’t anything worth using in the system, why not give up a pick for a guy who at least has NHL talent?  If you can’t develop ‘em, buy ‘em.

It’s way to early to pass judgement on this deal.  People think Varlamov is washed up, but what do the fans know?  I’ll refer you to the fans in Boston who thought Tim Thomas was washed up a year after winning the Vezina.  He had lost the starting job (and justifiably so) to Tukka Rask.  One off-season hip surgery later, and he won the Stanley Cup, Conn Smythe, and his second Vezina.  I don’t think Varlamov is going to do the same thing, but there is a lot of unknowns for those of us who are sitting behind our keyboards.

In the end, it’s going to be up to Varlamov as to how good this deal is for the Avalanche.  If he plays his ass off, he will make those two draft picks less and less valuable for the Capitals.  Since he signed a 2 year, $5.5 million contract, he’s with the Avs for the foreseeable future.  I’m happy to sit back and see how it goes.

Besides, if the Avs can get this kind of thing from Varlamov, why not?  Maybe the Avs can capture lightning in a bottle again.

Dog Days of Summer

Alf

Last summer seemed like the longest off-season ever. For me, it dragged and dragged, and I couldn’t wait for October to come. This summer has a different feel to it, with the impending approach of training camp and the start of the season feeling like a bulldozer riding up my ankles.

I’m looking forward to the start of the next season, but it sure does feel like summer is going by fast. Perhaps it’s the entertainment that we have had all year. I haven’t been chiming in much lately, so I just wanted to throw some thoughts up here.

I’m happy the NHL won the Kovalchuk case:

Yeah, I know. Evil Bettman. I’m not a Devils fan. Whatever. But I didn’t like this contract for a multitude of reasons. It did more than just circumvent the salary cap, it circumvented parity, created a false market for star players, and restored the have and have not spending of the pre-cap days. It also wasn’t bargaining in good faith, which should be expected across the entire leagues, all teams, all agents, and all players. I understand that some people didn’t want to see the NHL win this case. I’m certainly glad they did.

The Avalanche are doing nothing:

This is the offseason of our discontent. The Colorado Avalanche haven’t touched the free agent market, and that has some fans concerned. I don’t blame them, but for the moment, I’m going to take the approach that the Avs have confidence in their minor league system (which just fells strange to type), and are very happy with the team they have now. I would have liked to see the Avalanche plug a few holes in the lower end of the market (two 20 – 25 goal scoring wingers and a bottom three defenseman), but looking at the over-spending that went on in the first part of free agency, I’m glad they didn’t repeat the mistakes of a few years ago (how did that Ryan Smyth / Scott Hannan free agency ‘splash’ work out?). I wouldn’t be surprised if a few bargains are picked up along the way. I would rather see two half Kovalchuks on the team than the real deal.

Twitter is killing my blogging:

I’ve been on twitter a lot lately (@Tapeleg). It’s a great time waster, but also a great place for conversation (not every conversation is great, mind you). I got into hockey blogging to have a conversation about hockey, to talk to people about hockey in a way that I wasn’t getting in my day to day life. Twitter is decent for that, but it isn’t perfect. It does fulfill some of my needs as a hockey fan, but not all of them. Twitter is great for reactions and instant analysis, but that doesn’t mean it’s superb at either. And staying away from my blog make me a worse writer. Those stumbling blocks come up more often, and I get more frustrated when I haven’t been regularly writing. It’s time to get back to the blog.

Jerseys to come:

Remember when I hated the RBK EDGE jerseys? Yeah, about that. I still hate the EDGE 1.0 version, which are just garbage. And the retail versions are an insult to your wallet. More expensive for a cheaper product? If you buy an off the shelf jersey, you are being had. But the player’s RBK EDGE 2.0 jerseys? Pretty nice. I’m still not convinced of the cut, but it’s a huge improvement over the 1.0. I now own two 1.0 jerseys, and a 2.0, all player jerseys. The 2.0 is a much nicer jersey than I was expecting. I will have photos to post at some point.

I also have some more jerseys to post. Photos have been taken of some jerseys I have owned for a while. The new ones still have to be photographed, but their day will come. For now, I will go back into the archives. And check out the jersey posts from Jay at The Avs Hockey Podcast and from Greg at The Post Pessimist Association blog.

More to come, I promise.

And if you need your fix, there was a new episode of The Rink posted. You can find it here.

Free Agency Day, 2008

It’s always amuses me that Canada Day and Free Agency Day occur simultaneously. While it may make sense to some, Canada being a hockey mad country, I think the pain associated with losing a player in the free agent market would make many Canadians wish the two were separated (Ryan Smyth anyone?). Also, with phones that have data plans, I hope those of you keeping a constant vigil keep your eyes on the road, and don’t ignore the kids too much.

Twelve noon, every July 1st since starting this blog, a little buzzer goes off in my head. I get excited, and watch the screen. At 12:02 PM, I start pacing, and about a minute later, I start to realize that this is going to be a long day. A feeding frenzy doesn’t look like a frenzy until it’s well under way.

Last year, I had to get on a plane, and found out when I landed that Ryan Smyth had signed a five year deal with the Avalanche. As exciting as it was to get one of the big four free agents, I am yet to be seriously impressed with his output (55 game, 37 points, yee-haa).

The year before, I was salivating over my keyboard, and all I got for it was Tyler Arnason, and watching Rob Blake go to the Kings, and Dan Hinote go to the Blues. Disappointed? Sure. Could I see the writing on the wall, that the Avs would miss the playoffs? No.

This year, the Avs need goaltending help. The market is thin, and while conventional wisdom says that Jose Theodore is the best one out there, which should tell you about the market. The Avs still have Tyler Weiman in the system, but he needs a little more time down there before being a solid choice for the big club. Aside from that, what does the team need?

Defense? Sure, you can never have too much, but with Liles locked up, and Adam Foote signed, show me the holes?

Forwards? A few wouldn’t hurt, but until the decision of Joe Sakic is made (and for all we know, the decision will be made to be a free agent), there aren’t going to be any big splashes.

Check back later for updates.

1:39 PM EST: Andrew Brunette is back with the Minnesota Wild. Three disappointing things here. 1) He is no longer an Av. 2) He is back with the Wild. 3) TSN’s free agent tracker is so lame, this news hasn’t popped up yet. My reputable sources right now are Alanah at Kukla’s Korner and James Mirtle. Bloggers win again.

2:51 PM EST: I thought this was old news, but I guess not. From the Colorado Avalanche:

The Colorado Avalanche Hockey Club announced today that it has signed forward Per Ledin to a one-year contract.

Ledin, 29, spent this past season with HV 71 Jonkoping of the Swedish Elite League, where he tallied 33 points (16g/17a) and 137 penalty minutes in 52 games. The left winger finished third on the team in penalty minutes, fifth in goals and sixth in points. He also appeared in all 17 playoff games for Jonkoping, which captured the league title.

Um… OK. I have no idea what to make of this. Are the Avs still looking to make up fro the sins of Hlinka?

BIG UPDATE: 3:00 PM EST: Things are starting to pick up, with some Avalanche related signings. Jose Theodore is going to be with the Capitals for the next two years, and Kurt Sauer got signed by the Phoenix Coyotes for four years, continuing a tradition of Avalanche defensemen going directly to the ‘Yotes.

The Theodore signing is big for the Capitals, and could tip the team in either direction, depending on which Theo shoes up that night. I haven’t seen a dollar figure yet, but I can’t wait to see how it lines up with his previous contract. I’m guessing that a one year deal was all the Avs wanted to offer, and Theo was looking for two. But that’s only a guess. Now, if the Avs signed Huet….

3:12 PM EST: This was one deal I thought may happen, and puts the fear back in my heart. Andrew Raycroft signed a one year deal with the Avalanche. Seriously. One bad goalie for another? Peter Budaj had better be ready, or this could be a wild ride. This had better be a two way deal, meaning they can send him down to the minors if need be.

3:22 PM EST: The day is getting worse and worse. From Jori at Colorado Avalanche Prospects:

According to NHL.com, it is now confirmed that Mitch Love, Dan DaSilva and Tyler Weiman were not extended qualifying offers. All three are unrestricted free agents as of 10:00 AM MST today.

I like Mitch Love, and I think the world of Tyler Weiman. This sucks. Nuff said.

3:26 PM EST: It seems like as soon as I update, something else happens. Jeff Finger was just signed as a free agent by the Toronto Maple Leafs, for 4 years at 3.5 million a season. There was no way the Avs were going to sign him for that long, with the signings of Liles and Foote. I think the Leafs are overpaying for someone who isn’t as proven as other defensemen out there, but good for Finger. The debate will last around four years as to who the Avs should have signed, Liles or Finger, but I feel the right choice was made. Leafs fans, pray he doesn’t drop his stick.

3:32 PM EST: I’m reading that the Theodore deal was for 2 years at $4.5 million a year. And with that, you can forget about feeling bad about Jose moving on. Overpaid? Sure, but he’s able to play a market where goalies are a little harder to come by, and number one goalies are in short supply. I don’t feel much of a loss here, other than a few blogging stories about how bad he’s playing. I’m sure Raycroft will more than make up for things.

4:19 PM EST: I go to the grocery store, and the Avs sign Darcy Tucker. The Avs got him for 2 years at $4.5 million total. I guess this isn’t a bad deal, but we’ll wait and see.