Saturday, July 11, 2009

Cap and Trade

No, Al Gore, I'm not talking about greenhouse gas emissions. I'm talking about the precarious position that Bryan Murray has created in signing Alex Kovalev to a $5M per year contract. Without question, the kid can score and play a dazzling brand of hockey, but what does his contract do to Ottawa's cap situation?

For starters, we have some core forwards that, like or not, are here to stay:

Daniel Alfredsson - $4.875M
Jason Spezza - $7.00M
Mike Fisher - $4.20M
Alex Kovalev - $5.00M

Then we've got this middle tier of players that make fair coin and allegedly play a critical role on this team that nobody could do for a fraction of the price:

Chris Neil - $2.00M
Chris Kelly - $2.125M
Jarkko Ruutu - $1.30M

And then there's Maude. Dany Heatley, if you've heard of him, makes a cool $7.50M

After that, we've got a hodge podge of affordable forwards like Nick Foligno, Shean Donovan, Cody Bass, Jesse Winchester, Ryan Shannon et. al. Not a major cap hit and not major trade return, these guys are your perfect third and fourth liners. Should we talk for a moment about how Neil, Ruutu, and Kelly are absolutely third and fourth liners and you can safely make that argument about Mike Fisher, as well.

We also have a set of kids that may or may not be ready for spot time in the bigs, like Ilja Zubov, Zach Smith, Peter Regin, and of course the foundation of the Havlat trade, Josh Hennessy. One would think that the new world order of salary cap hockey is to lock up your core for your top six forwards and then shuffle your bottom six with a combination of wiley vets like Donovan and young entry level guys like Foligno. When Nick is up for payday, the organization needs to decide if he's going to be a long-term core player or if he is maxed out for potential and we're better suited finding the next entry level player. Such was the case with Patrick Eaves - he was never going to develop into a top six forward, so why keep him around at over 2M when you can plug in a Foligno or a Bass?

The blue line is where things get murkier for the Sens. The top four are set:
Kuba - $3.70M
Phillips - $3.50M
Volchenkov - $2.50M - a UFA after this year
Campoli - $0.675M - an RFA after this year

We've got the curious case of Jason Smith (if only he were getting younger every year, right ladies?) at $2.6M this year, Brian Lee and Alex Picard at under 1M, and a hybrid in Schubert at 900K that we can't give away. Add in Erik Karlsson, who has a chance to make the big roster, and whatever else Murray gets in return for a potential Heatley trade. The Edmonton deal would have brought in Smid, for example.

I personally think Lee needs to be given more time. A lot of fans are ready to walk away from this kid but please do remember - he's 22 years old! Top defencemen take years to adjust to the speed and strength of opposing forwards. It is one thing to enter the league as a fundamentally sound d-man, it is another to develop the instincts required to stand up an incoming forward at a pace far faster than you're accustomed to seeing. Give the kid a couple more years and see how he is doing. Give him a regular defensive partner like Kuba that can work with him on positioning and allow him to learn from his mistakes and he'll be fine. Imagine if we had given up on Phillips after two years?

So what is a GM to do? Our obvious trade bait includes Gator Smith, Schubert, Kelly, Ruutu, and Picard. Murray must know that the return on these players will be close to garbage. All he should really be asking for are prospects on two way contracts so we can build up Bingo a bit more. The sad one to see here is Smith. There are rampant rumours that he's on long-term injured reserve and might retire, but I think this might be a case of preserving his dignity and instead of being a healthy scratch and end his career in the press box, we just throw him on LTIR and don't embarass him. He's far too classy of a player and the one benefit of the Oilers trade is you'd think they'd throw him a bone and let him retire an Oiler.

Here's the lowdown, gangstas - we're about $1.5M over the cap and we have to shed our off-season fur. This just adds to the Heatley saga because a return of #15 to the lineup means that other players are sent packing or sent down. That's the business of hockey, I suppose.

Question - if Heatley comes back and you have to trade one of Smith, Kelly, or Ruutu, who do you move and what is a realistic return that you'd accept? Would you trade Kelly for a 2nd round draft pick only? Would you trade Gator for a 6th? Moving Auld is fine because he was the third wheel, but what happens when we make it a regular occurence? Because the longer this Heatley saga drags on, the greater the chance that another player on the team becomes the odd man out. And the longer it drags on, the more I find myself coming around to the idea of having four elite forwards in Ottawa. There, I said it. I'm starting to come around to a return of the Heater. More on that later.


Canucnik said...


Your middle tire...what a precise description.

If we are to escape the prison camp of the CAP, the GM (the general)must shoot the wounded and sacrifice the men that eat too much for their value to the unit.

Let's get one wants Gator, Schub, Picard or Kelly @ his salary. So make 'em walk the plank! Kelly we keep; Schub walks (Tampa maybe)no questions asked; Gator goes away one way or the other; Picard waives his one way and goes to Bingo or he's put on waivers.

Here is one for you...if Philippé, @ his size refuses to hit, he's accused of having a cronic broken shoulder and placed on long term disability.
I know, I know he's a play maker...For that kind of money if he's playing for me (which he is)he better hit somebody!

Anonymous said...

I think all these moves are fine ..

I think the main question is whether LeClaire will play well. Also the team will do well. if the players continue to respond to Clouston ..

Anonymous said...

the next season depends on how many people play at their potential. I think Heatley will smooth things over and return. That means an insanely awesome 1st line of Heatley-Spezz-Kovy. I think that Fish would show himself to be a valuable second line centre if that line had Alphie and Foligno on it. Just think of that line for a minute. What a hard line to play against. Salary aside, Kelly is fine for the third line. The only thing he deosn{t have is finish. Shannon can finish for him. But they would need a tough banger to add energy and power to make that an effective line. But who...? Hint, starts with an N. As far as third lines go that is great isn{t it really? I really like the fourth line with Ruutu-Winchester-donovan (or actually I prefered it with Schubert) so that is great too. As far as defense is concerned, I think Lee is going to have a break-out year. Philips is hard to notice because he is always busy maing the top offensive threats of any team hard to notice. He does a great job of that and is worth every cent. I think the defense by comittee can work although a good point shot would be nice. They say that Kovy is a great powerplay quarterback. Goaltending is easy. If either Elliot or Leclair play to potential it will be great. If they do not, it will suck.

Long story short, I don{t see why people keep arguing that this is such a bad team. Certainly one of the guys you mentioned will be moved to create cap space, but really this will not impact the quality of the team much.


Canucnik said...


You are close; no big arguement...however we are talking Eastern Powerhouse again...Neil and Kelly are not very productive together and Shannon is so fast he makes Neiler feel bad...

Do not worry about your superb goal tending...monitor the group that comes out in twos and stands in front of the goalies!

Grinder said...

Nik is right on... There are a few players eating up way more money than they deserve, or who can be replaced by "filler" players or younger more eager players.

Guys like Smith, Kelly, Ruutu, Neil, Picard, Schubert, Donovan, etc... can be dropped without much of an impact to the team. Epecially now, when we have two potential scoring lines and when there are a few youngsters around willing to leave it all on the ice for minimum wage. We can afford to drop some salary by increasing the icetime of guys like Foligno and Shannon, in between double shifts for lines one and two.

Isn't that exactly how Detroit and Pitts do it?

I also agree that Neil can't keep up on that line. Obviously he won't be moved after Murray just greased him big time, but he looks lost with speedsters.

Too bad Murray signed him for so much damn money. I love a good scrap, but fighters who are bigger and tougher come at half the price.

What about the "D"? So many questions left to be answered. If only Phillips would hit, as has been pointed out a million times in the past few years! It would bring a whole new dimension to that team. As it stands, only A-Train really throws a good hit.

I "like" Kuba and Campoli as puck movers, but we still lack toughness back there.

If Heatley was moved, I would certainly wish for a big mean blue-liner first, who can log 25 minutes a game.

I also think that our goalies will do the job...

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