Monday, July 02, 2007

Lost Players Find Homes

Day 1 of the "Free Agent Frenzy" has come and gone, and we've all had time to process the moves that were made or not made as the case may be around the NHL.

Some thoughts...
- Let's deal with the biggest issue on everyone's mind - no, we didn't sign Gomez or the gruesome twosome from Buffalo. Uh...did people actually think we were going to? The prices and length of term for those three guys who, I'm sorry, are grossly overrated, would have put the Caps in a financial and contractual bind and prevented them from moving forward with extensions for our youngsters in the coming years. They're good players, sure. Are they worth $6-7 million a year until the end of time? Absolutely not.

What's more, we all knew those were the kinds of dollars and contract lengths being tossed around for any one of those centers, and had we signed any of them there would have been cries of "overpaid!" coming from every corner of CapsNation. Now I'm well aware that I've repeated time and time again how much I love Chris Drury and wanted him here. But not for five years at just over $7 million a year, no thank you. And now that he's donning the hated blueshirt, my love and respect for him has just taken a serious hit. Sorry, Chris, but you can't be the heart and soul player for a team that has neither heart nor soul. Good luck with Satan Jagr...

- As always I took a spin around the Caps online world to get a feel for the verdict on yesterday's action, and while I was pretty impressed (and frankly surprised) with how positive many people seemed to be, to the rest of you I have to say one thing: quit your whining. Look around at the deals being made all day yesterday, huge dollar amounts flying left and right, lifetime contracts being doled out...then look at the fantastic job that GMGM did.

He got us a puck-moving defenseman who can, wait for it, quarterback the power play. He locked him up for four years at $3.5 million per year, maybe a tad overpaying but definitely low considering the market. Maybe not a number one defenseman, but still top four and all in all a good pickup. Then he went out and got a guy who has played with Ovechkin, who put up career numbers last year, who at just 30 is still in his prime, and who can fill the need for a skilled right winger. Price tag? Two years, $2.5 million. Voila.

That's filling two holes that needed to be filled with relatively little risk involved, particularly with Kozlov. If either doesn't work out, a 2 or 4 year deal is much easier to move than a 6-8 year contract...we know that all too well. So that's $6 million tied up in two pretty decent players, leaving tons of cash left over to go after one sexy center, whoever that may be...I know who I want.

- Back to the Poti deal - this is a guy that I actually wanted to see here the last time he was available and the more I think about it the better I feel about this signing. People are complaining that he's sometimes prone to defensive mistakes. Guess what? He wasn't brought in to be a Scott Stevens or even a Brendan Witt. He was brought in to do exactly what he does, play the point, boost the offense, and occasionally shut down the other team's scoring.

The organization has quite a few youngsters who will, in time, fill that stay at home d-man position. Jeff Schultz leaps immediately to mind, as does Shaone Morrisonn. Big bodies, young players who will grow into their role, and the only way to let them do that is to actually give them experience doing just that. It may continue to be a little bumpy along the way, but let's face it - how much worse could it really be? And in the meantime you get a guy with playoff experience, a guy who knows a few of his new teammates, a guy who can pick up some badly needed points on the power play...I say well done, McPhee.

- The Rangers are really bugging the crap out of me, I'll say it right now. It's not that I thought Drury or Gomez would come here because I honestly didn't, as I mentioned before. It's the sheer audacity they have in resuming the game I like to call "New York big bucks franchise tries to buy a championship" (See Steinbrenner, George.) Last season I found myself occasionally praising the team I loathed for getting away from all that crap and trying to build through the draft and acquisitions based more on character and ability than on name alone (around Jagr, sure, but still...) Flash forward to yesterday: they sign Drury and Gomez, the two biggest names of the UFA frenzy. They're going to lose Nylander, they just lost Ortmeyer...and they're back to square one. Of course, they still don't have any defense to back up their "firepower", so at least we can hang on to that lovely thought.

- What the hell are the Flyers doing? I'm no expert in the ways of building a winning team, but to me it doesn't seem wise to lock up a handful of second-tier players to huge long-term contracts the year after your worst season in franchise history. To me this looks like the desperate act of a franchise trying to quickly win back their fans. Newsflash to Snider and Holmgren: Philly fans are fickle. Sure, the trades and signings that got done yesterday may make the Flyers an infinitely better could also blow up in their face. As a former division rival, am I the only one who is hoping it's the latter? If that makes me a bad person, I don't care. Too many long nights surrounded by fans in orange and black will make a person bitter.

(I will say that I do like the idea of Briere going somewhere I already hate - makes it easier to continue my own personal loathing of the evil little hobbit.)

- Winners of the first day: Colorado. Wow. Locking up Smyth and Hannan (who went for a lot less than I thought he would) augments what already was a pretty decent team...hey, any team that can make Andrew Brunette into a consistent scorer gets my vote. With Joe Sakic continuing to produce and lead in a way that only he can and now these two new additions, this Avs team is going to look pretty darn scary come the fall.

- Bizarre Award: Pittsburgh. They've already locked up their geriatric duo, Roberts and Recchi. So what's next? Go find a 35 year old defenseman whose best days are behind him what? Increase the average age in the locker room? Okay, sure. Then they pick up Petr Sykora (you know, the "good" one), who has never really lived up to the hype that surrounds him. Just ask Devils fans. Throw in the addition of a new backup goalie after spending this year praising the hell out of Thibault's performance, and rightly so, and you've got one strange, strange day on the market for the Pens.

- The Caps really were the best team in the division at improving their roster after their moves yesterday. Granted, they had more work to do than the other four teams who all either made the playoffs or really sat just on the cusp at the end of last season, but still. No Cup winner out of the Southeast Division this season? What's that all about? Let's take a brief gander around the Southeast:

  • Tampa: Signed Michel Ouellet to a two-year deal. Respectable point totals, but the guy couldn't score consistently on a line with Sidney Crosby. Please. I may not like Sid the Kid very much but I hear he's a pretty decent passer...
  • Carolina: Agreed to a two-year deal with Jeff Hamilton. Again, I'll say...who?
  • Atlanta: Signed Eric Perrin, formerly of the Bolts, to a two-year deal. Not necessarily a bad signing, just kind of...meh. Signed Todd White to a four-year deal. Again, not necessarily bad, just...meh. And they lost their silver bullet, Jon Sim, to free agency. Oops.
  • Florida: Signed Richard Zednik (2 years), Brett McLean (3 years) and Radek Dvorak (2 years). I'm sorry, I do love him, but Zed? Suckers. The other two are space-fillers at best, and with Bertuzzi and Roberts departing at the deadline they have very little grit. Of course they did swing that Vokoun deal at the draft, which fills a very urgent need in net and signals the end of Eddie "the Balding Eagle" Belfour's reign of terror, so that's an upgrade.

So now we sit and wait for the rest of the UFAs to go their separate ways, with many eyes suddenly and bizarrely on the Michael Nylander situation but also focused on *shudder* Alexei Yashin. The Caps are still looking for a top line center and I'll bet GMGM has been very busy today trying to lock one up as soon as possible...stay tuned.

Update: Per Japers' Rink (and courtesy of an alert commenter) it looks like my Nylander dream, like so many of my Caps-related dreams, has come crashing back to earth with a resounding thud. A second radio station is claiming Nylander has signed a 4 year deal with the Oilers. No confirmation from TSN as yet, but this is twice now that we're hearing word out of Edmonton of a deal - three times and I say we move on to...*sigh*...Yashin. I guess. Sure.


Murshawursha said...

JP says Nylander's off the market

Bring on Yashin... For some reason I'd really like to see him come play in DC. And if not him, maybe Jason Allison...

CapsChick said...

Well...crap. (Thanks for the heads-up!)

Is it weird that I would sooner take Yashin for all his neuroses and diva tendencies and laziness and locker room poison...than Allison, who can't skate and never could? So be it. Bring on Yashin.

That's right, I said it.