Couple of days off here before we take our streak to the Slugs, so I started looking at our payroll and how we shape up next year. It isn't a surprise to anyone that the biggest hindrance on that list is the $3M Cheechoo hit. He really doesn't have any fans left here as even those 'he works hard' people are starting to see that he makes too much to just skate hard and not do anything. I'm not trying to be mean about it, but we've already discussed how he doesn't actually provide us with anything out there that we couldn't get from Zach Smith at a fraction of the price.
There's a rumour floating out there that Burkie is going to once again clear payroll so that he can make a trade with a Kovalchuk suitor to absorb a bad contract. He might demote Finger to the Marlies and then help the Rags or the Bruins or the Flyers send away bad contacts so that team can then pay Kovalchuk. They actually did this last year in acquiring Kolzig from the Lightning in a move that nobody actually talked about much.
It got me thinking about options we have to deal with Cheechoo. He is signed through next season at a bad contract and really prevents us from doing much at the deadline and doing much in the summer. Which option is best?
1. Keep him on the team
We've seen what Cheechoo offers - he has 5 goals and 8 assists in 56 games and is a minus-9. He doesn't work on the powerplay or kill penalties. He doesn't play top six minutes. He doesn't have a great shot, he isn't a superb backchecker, and his skating makes Brad Marsh look like Paul Coffey. Seriously, why does it look like Cheechoo is skating on the Canal the day after temperatures went above zero? By keeping him on the team next year, we're stuck with a third or fourth liner that makes too much money for what he does. I hate to say this, but he actually makes linemates worse. Regin and Shannon were playing great when they had Kovalev. Now that they're with Cheechoo, they were unanimously seen as the worst line in the win over the Habs. Whichever line he has been on, his trio has struggled. I don't like the idea of him being around next year. All we gain is the occasional ability to compare his stats combined with Michalek against Heatley's numbers, and I'm tired of that.
2. Send him to Bingo (or Cornwall, as one blog would have you believe...boooooo)
I proposed this earlier in the season when it was clear that Cheechoo wasn't good. It clears the space, it allows us to ice a better team with better players, and it would give him a chance to try and rediscover anything he has left outside the spotlight in the AHL. Two drawbacks - Murray might take heat for essentially trading Heatley for Michalek, and it sends a bad message to impending UFA's. I'm a firm believer that the players and their agents discuss this when contemplating offers in the summer. They know that in New Jersey, you'll be sent to the minors to ride the buses if you struggle - right, Alex Mogilny and Richard Matvichuk? It gives us short-term relief on the cap, but might hurt us in attracting UFAs in the future, which we already have trouble doing. I don't mind the idea, but it isn't the first choice of the organization, methinks. I also think, as I said earlier, that there is some stubbornness at play here as Murray won't want to answer questions about benching his acquisition, regardless of the crappy circumstance in which he was acquired.
3. Buy him out
Costly. We already pay Emery for the next two years, so Cheechoo would give us 2/3 of his salary ($2M, says my math), spread over two years. So for a million bucks a year for the next two years, we can re-release Cheechoo to the league. In addition to the points made in option #2, it might also not make economic sense. Let's say we go sign some forward for $2M, it actually is a signing for $3M because it was Cheechoo's buyout that allowed it to happen. I know we have to look at buyouts at a sunk cost, but for me, we need to consider all of these costs before the buyouts happen. This option isn't outrageous and might still work out, but it would suck to have a couple million bucks against the cap for guys that play for opponents. Anybody think this one is best? I'm on the fence.
4. Trade him to a team that can absorb his salary, plus take some picks from us.
Last March, Kolzig was traded along with two minor leaguers (who are now unsigned, not even with Toronto) to the Leafs, along with a fourth round pick, for Richard Petiot, who is also no longer with the team that picked him up. So the Lightning buried salary on another team and it cost them a fourth round pick. Truth be told, there are teams that can handle Cheechoo's $3M salary. Does Murray have the ability to pull the move to send off a third rounder with Cheechoo for nothing but a no-name prospect? To me, this is a beauty of a move. I know we lose a pick, but it beats having him on this team, it beats the negative press around burying him in the minors, and it beats the cost of buying him out. Atlanta, for instance, has $25M committed next year and could maybe see upside in taking him on, either on the big team or sending him to the A. It doesn't give us a bad name because we're truly trying to give him a fresh start instead of ending his career in the minors.
Listen, people, I'm not in favour of mistreating players. Cheechoo is a hard worker that has hit a roadbump. My concern is that by being polite as fans or being stubborn as an organization, we're hurting this team's potential. Cheechoo is not good anymore and I can say that if he were a free agent, I don't even see him being worth a contract at this point. Sorry, buddy. Let's give him a fresh start, give this team some cap relief, and give the spot to Chummy or Zach Smith for the rest of the year. Send him and a pick and dump the salary.
Thoughts from the masses? I didn't have an option of trading him for players of value because I don't think it is possible. Am I missing something else here? I just hope Murray can accept that he's not helping this team and cut ties.
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