Why is Scott Hannan still a free agent?

In my post about defensive errors, I made a statement saying that he was the Caps second best defensive defenseman last year. He had only 17 goal causing errors in a Caps uniform and saw the most defensive zone draws out of any regular defenseman on the team. He also was one of the best defensemen on the team when it came to shots allowed per game at even strength and their distance. Hannan also proved to be a good influence to the younger defensemen on the team and was a solid partner newcomer Dennis Wideman. However, I made the case that defensive defensemen like Hannan can be signed for a lot cheaper than the $4.5 mil he made last season. The Caps elected to let Hannan walk and signed Roman Hamrlik instead (for $1 mil less than Hannan) to take his place. Here’s a question for you, since Hannan had a good season last year and proved that he can play top-4 minutes on a contending team, why hasn’t anyone else signed him yet?

I’m not sure how much he was asking for but the Caps decision to sign someone who is six years older than Hannan tells me that either Hannan wanted to test the market, he didn’t want to stay in Washington or he wanted too much money. When taking a look at Hannan’s stats on the season, it does reveal why some teams would be leery or signing him but these numbers are not bad at all.

EV

TOI/60 QUALCOMP Corsi Rel QoC CORSI REL GAON/60 SAON/60 Ozone% Fin Ozone%
16.42 -0.014 0.285 -0.9 2.25 26.5 48.8 44.6

PK (4vs5)

TOI/60 SAON/60
2.62 45.5

Hannan put up about average numbers last season at even strength and on the penalty kill and you could clearly do a lot worse than signing him to a multi-year contract, especially if you’re a team with holes on the blue line. He isn’t the shutdown guy that Colorado thought he was but he is definitely serviceable and could really be of use to any team looking for a stay-at-home defenseman. If Andreas Lilja, Mike Commodore, Randy Jones, Kent Huskins and Radek Martinek can be signed to new contracts then I see no reason why at least one team wouldn’t take a chance on Hannan.

Predators make the worst trade ever, or are they just saving money?

Earlier today, the Nashville Predators made what seems like a head-scratching trade at first glance by sending center Matt Lombardi and puck-moving defenseman Cody Franson to the Toronto Maple Leafs for defenseman Brett Lebda and prospect Robert Slaney. This is no doubt a win for the Leafs even if Matthew Lombardi never plays a game for them. They got a solid puck-mover in Franson which Toronto needs with Tomas Kaberle gone and Dion Phaneuf playing a more shutdown role now. Franson and John-Michael Liles are going to definitely bring an improvement to what was one of the worst PP’s in the league last season. They also dumped Brett Lebda who was probably the Leafs worst defenseman last year and Robert Slaney who is a 22-year old who has yet to even crack the Toronto Marlies AHL roster. Why in the world did Nashville make a trade like this? One answer; saving money.

When you’re a small-market team like Nashville, you need to penny pinch and that’s what GM David Pollie is doing here. In terms of the players cap hits, it doesn’t look my much but it is in terms of salary.

TOR:
Matt Lombardi ($7 mil over 2 years)
Cody Franson ($1.6 mil over 2 years)
Total: $8.6 mil for the next two years

NSH:
Brett Lebda ($1.4 mil over 1 year)
Robert Slaney ($600k over 1 year)
Total: $2 mil over 1 year.

2011: Leafs spend $6.6 mil more
2012: Leafs spend $4.3 mil more

Toronto isn’t planning to win this season (as indicated with the Brad Richards trade) but they have money to spend and are able to take some chances and cap space with deals like this. They get the higher end of the talent but they could have to pay Lombardi’s $7 mil salary for absolutely nothing if he doesn’t get healthy any time soon (and it’s looking like he will be out to start the year) but it’s not a big deal because the Leafs have a lot of money, where as the Preds do not. The bad part of this deal for the Preds is that they are stuck with Brett Lebda’s awfulness but something tells me he could see himself bought out because it won’t cost much and the Preds have some young defensive prospects like Ryan Ellis who they can call-up to play instead of him. There’s also the possibility of another trade in the works involving Nashville taking on a front-loaded contract because the Preds have to eat up some cap space without spending a lot of money.

It should be noted that Nashville is saddled by a couple bad forward contracts (see Erat, Martin; Legwand, David) and are due to give Shea Weber a big raise so they need to pony up some money. Although, Nashville may not be in as bad of shape as some other small market teams, they still need to save money and this is one way to do it.

Tomas Vokoun, steal of the summer

Remember what I posted yesterday in my Free Agent Frenzy article? If not, let me refresh your memory:

HOWEVER…..Tomas Vokoun is unsigned and the goalie market stinks right now so maybe we can get him to sign with us on a cheap contract to mentor our young Czech netminder. Wishful thinking but it’s worth a shot.

Sometimes wishes come true.

In what’s been an already great off-season for the Washington Capitals and GM George McPhee, things were only made better today after he signed goalie Tomas Vokoun to a one-year deal worth $1.5 million. Yes, you read that correctly. A goalie who has consistently been one of the best in the league since the lockout has signed with the Caps for what is essentially back-up money. It is honestly hard for me to comprehend how Vokoun was unable to get more than this from another team when looking at what some other goalies went for this off-season. I understand that the goalie market is very thin every year because only so few teams need one, most would think that Vokoun would be on the front of people’s wish lists when it comes to signing one in the off-season. Just look at his stats with Florida:

Year Team GP GS ES SA ES GA ES SV Sv % SAA
2006 NSH 61 60 1380 82 1298 0.941 35.6
2007 NSH 44 44 1008 70 938 0.931 13.9
2008 FLA 69 69 1728 127 1601 0.927 11.9
2009 FLA 59 55 1514 98 1416 0.935 24.7
2010 FLA 63 62 1681 106 1575 0.937 29.7
2011 FLA 57 57 1411 144 1297 0.919 9.8

Yes, last season was a down year for him but his numbers aside from that are simply outstanding. It says a lot about how bad those Panthers teams are that they weren’t able to get into the playoffs backed by the seasons he had from 2008-10. These are nearly Veznia-quality numbers by most metrics. This is why I do not understand how the Caps were able to snag Vokoun for so cheap. I know he’s 35 and had a down year by his standards but look at some other moves teams made over the last couple of days;

The Phoenix Coytoes let Ilya Bryzgalov walk because he wanted too much money, leaving Jason LaBarbera the only goalie on the roster so they clearly needed someone who could at least be a 1 a/b goaltender. They signed Mike Smith, one of the worst goalies NHL last year (.900 save %, -5.5 SAA, was put on waivers by the Lightning mid-season) to a 2-year $4 million contract, meaning that he makes MORE than Vokoun now. That to me is just crazy. Smith is younger but he has only had one good season in the NHL as a starter and is one of the worst puck-handlers I have ever seen. I know Phoenix isn’t in the best shape financially but they are a team who have made the playoffs the last two seasons and it was backed by strong goaltending with Bryzgalov. They had a chance to grab a goalie of Bryz’s caliber with Vokoun for a somewhat low price and they sign Mike Smith instead. I don’t get it.

Then there’s Colorado who would rather trade away their first and second rounders next year for an unproven goalie with a nagging groin problem instead of signing Vokoun. Hell, they gave JS Giguere a two-year contract to be put in a similar role that Vokoun might have in Washington. Even Florida electing to give Jose Theodore nearly the same contract as Vokoun got in Washington was surprising to me but I think that’s just me being shocked that Jose Theodore makes the same amount of money as Tomas Vokoun.

In the end, you have to give a TON of credit to McPhee here. He managed to get a lot of value out of Varlamov but stayed patient on signing a back-up goalie to let the dust clear a bit and was able to snag Vokoun for a lot less than he should have paid for him. Everyone knows that Michal Neuvirth is good but he is still very young and giving him a goalie like Vokoun to learn from can be very valuable in years to come. It also allows the Caps to have a strong goaltending tandem like they did last year and it will be a lot better. It’s going to be exciting to see what Vokoun can do for a winning team now.

“What Florida is doing is embarrassing”

That quote is referencing the Florida Panthers spending spree in an effort to get to the NHL’s new cap floor of $48 million, which they are still $1 million under. This actually started about a week ago when theyt raded for Brian Campbell’s ridiculous contract and then followed it by giving Tomas Kopecky $3 mil per year. Here’s the moves they made today:

Jose Theodore: 2 years, $3 mil
Scottie Upshall: 4 years, $14 mil
Ed Jovanovski: 4 years, $16.5 mil (35+)
Marcel Goc: 3 years, $5.1 mil
Tomas Fleischmann: 4 years, $18.5 mil
Sean Bergenheim: 4 years, $11 mil

Theodore’s and maybe Bergenheim’s are the only contracts here that address needs but the rest is just a case of Dale Tallon spending money because he feels he has to but this is not what you want to do when you’re a team who is in financial trouble. What good does giving Jovanovski a 4 year contract do other than possibly block Erik Gudbransson from getting a roster spot? Looking at their potential depth chart, Scottie Upshall would be their first line winger, which he is not. He is a solid player who would make a good addition to a contending team’s 2nd or 3rd line but he is not worth the $3.5 mil per season and 4 year contract the Panthers gave him. The worst part of this is that these stupid contracts they are giving out is setting the market for other players, who are going to be overpaid as well. Upshall and Tomas Fleischmann’s DISGUSTING contract are proof of that. There were going to be players overpaid this summer and FLorida is doing nothing but making it worse.

All Florida is doing with this is losing money by investing them in mediocre players and letting them take up roster spots for the next 3-4 years that could go to some of the promising youth they have in their system. It could be an ugly next few years for this team.

 

Capitals Free Agent Frenzy Thoughts

I definitely was not expecting the Caps to be this active today but they really made quiet a splash on July 1st and did a few things I didn’t see coming at all. The best thing about it is most of the moves made make us a better team for next year and in future seasons. I’ve said it numerous times but this is a free agency pool that is flooded with mostly mediocre players and they were all going for way more than what they were worth (see James Wisniewski making almost as much money as Mike Green now) so I wanted the Caps to stay put on this day but they elected to make some noise and well, they were all pretty decent-great moves. Here’s a quick rundown for those who missed the action:

Signed C Jeff Halpern to a one-year $825 k deal

Traded G Semyon Varlamov to the Colorado Avalanche for a first rounder in 2012 and 2nd rounder in 2013

Signed RW Joel Ward to a four-year $12 mil contract

Signed D Roman Hamrlik to a two-year $7 mil contract

The best move out of all of these is the Varlamov trade. It took me by surprise because I thought he was destined for Russia yesterday but McPhee was able to trade him away and get something in return for him, which was a lot more than I (or anyone else) would thought he would get for him. Varlamov wanted to be the guaranteed starter and we simply couldn’t promise him that so he traded him to a team like Colorado who had no goalie options at the time and they gave up their first round pick next year (which has a very good chance of being a lottery pick) and 2nd rounder. This is a no-lose trade for the Caps in my eyes. Varlamov was not going to re-sign and the Avalanche have a good chance of delivering us a high pick in next year’s draft and it’s kind of mind-boggling that they would give up a first rounder for a goalie who has only played in 59 career NHL games. Then they follow it by signing JS Giguere, who I don’t think will be the back-up there, to a two-year contract so Varlamov may not be the guaranteed #1 starter there either. Either way, best of luck to Varly in Colorado. I hope the best for him but I hope the worst for Colorado for selfish reasons.

As for the other moves, I think getting Halpern for $825k was a great pickup. I said in my free agency post that he would make a great replacement for Boyd Gordon (who signed with Phoenix for $1.1 mil a year!). He was one of the Habs best face-off men (56.8 FO%), does a lot of heavy lifting against tough competition, kills penalties and can take a bunch of defensive zone starts to help take some pressure off Nicklas Backstrom. He is also coming off one of his strongest offensive seasons in recent memory with a 2.05 P/60 scoring rate. Penalty killing is a little worse than Gordon, but they are both above average with the man down so I love the signing.

The signing of Joel Ward also took me by surprise because I didn’t know we were even trying to sign him but he gives our forward corps a significant upgrade. There were a lot of team who were looking to sign this guy and if you saw him in the playoffs for the Nashville Predators you know why. However, his ability to provide secondary scoring is what teams are after. It’s his defensive capabilities, physical play and his ability to take a lot of tough draws and ability to get the puck moving in the right direction. He is almost an idea third line winger that almost every GM would love to have on their team. George McPhee wanted him so much that he was willing to pay a little more than what others were ($3 mil a year is a little steep) but I think Ward will be worth it in Washington. Pair him with Halpern and Hendricks and we’ve got ourselves an excellent shutdown line.

Today was full of overpayments and Ward’s contract was one of them and you could certainly make a case that the Caps overpaid 38-year old defenseman Roman Hamrlik with a 2-year $7 mil contract. I also looked at Hamrlik as one of the players the Caps could sign to replace Scott Hannan and said that I would be “okay but not thrilled” if we did sign him. Hamrlik may have ranked fourth among Habs defensemen in quality of competition but the fact that PK Subban, Hal Gill, James Wisniewski, Paul Mara and Jaro Spacek were trusted with more defensive zone draws tells me the Habs doubt his defensive ability somewhat. He is getting up there in age is definitely a lot slower so I’m a bit leery about us giving him a two-year deal (not the worst but still not a huge fan of it). That said, Hamrlik as a 2nd or 3rd pairing defenseman should work out pretty well for the Caps. Allows them to give Erskine a few nights off and more depth on the back-end is always good. However, we are paying $3.5 mil a year for someone who might be our 3rd pairing defenseman and I can’t help but shudder at that. Here’s hoping he exceeds my expectations.

Pundits seem to be labeling the Caps as the “winners” of Free Agent Frenzy but it’s a little too early to say that because the season is still a few months away but McPhee definitely improved this team on paper and addressed needs but there’s a few things that still hang in the air.

1. With Ward signed this means that Laich will be forced into the 2nd line center role, which I am okay with for now given how crappy the market was.

2. Neuvirth is the only goalie on the roster but there’s still time to sign a cheap back-up even though people want Braden Holtby to have that role. I think he needs a starter workload in Hershey before he gets called up to the big club full time so a one-year deal for someone like Ty Conklin would work best here. HOWEVER…..Tomas Vokoun is unsigned and the goalie market stinks right now so maybe we can get him to sign with us on a cheap contract to mentor our young Czech netminder. Wishful thinking but it’s worth a shot.

3. The Caps have a little over in $2 million in cap space left and still need to re-sign Karl Alzner and Troy Brouwer and possibly sign a back-up goalie. What we have left is nowhere near enough to re-sign Alzner or Brouwer so a trade has to be in the works. Whether it’s shipping off Alex Semin for draft picks, sending Tom Poti, Eric Fehr, Jason Chimera or someone else away, someone has to be on his way out if we want to keep either Alzner or Brouwer. It’s going to be important to get this done because Alzner’s pretty vulnerable to be offer sheeted right now unless he goes into arbitration. McPhee isn’t a moron and knows how important Alzner I believe that the team will get something worked out. This active summer in Washington is far from over.

Southeast Division Free Agency: Tampa Bay Lightning

The Lightning are in better position than the previous two teams I looked at. They went from a bottom-feeder to one game away from the Stanley Cup in the matter of one year. Lots of credit goes to their new GM Steve Yzerman and head coach Guy Boucher but the potential for this team to be good has been there for awhile. Steven Stamkos won a split of the Richard Trophy the previous season, Victor Hedman gets better with every season and Martin St. Louis has always been consistent with his production. The difference last year was that Yzerman was able to build a better supporting cast around them with players like Dominic Moore, Simon Gagne, Eric Berwer and Sean Bergenheim. That and the acquisition of Dwayne Roloson finally gave them some stable goaltending which made them a contender and they came very close to making the Stanley Cup finals. Yzerman has locked up most of his free agents for next season and appear to be ready for another run. The big question now for the Bolts is surrounding Stamkos and what kind of contract Yzerman will give him

What Have They Done So Far?

Re-Signed RW Blair Jones to a one-year deal worth $525,000 – Decent bottom-six forward and can usually be counted on for the Lightning to play a few games when injuries to other players occur. Good decision to keep him around.

Re-Signed D Eric Brewer to a four-year deal worth $15.4 mil – Hard for the Lightning to not bring Brewer back after how well he played for them. However, a four-year deal for someone who is going to be 36 when the deal runs out is a bit sketchy, especially for someone like Brewer who has battled with injuries in previous years. His huge role as the Lightning’s shutdown guy in the playoffs definitely kept him from getting a more significant paycut than he did, but it should be noted that he got dominated in a few games in the Boston series which I tracked chances for, showing he has some limits. It’s a risky move which could pay off for them depending on how well Brewer plays and how much his role decreases over this contract. It will look bad if he is only the third-pairing defenseman by the end of this contract.

Traded F Marc-Antoine Pouliot to the Coyotes for a 7th round pick – Wasn’t doing much when he was called up to the Lightning but he had a very good season with the Norfolk Admirals with 72 points in 44 games. That said, Pouliot never made a big splash in Edmonton despite cruising in the AHL there, as well so it was good for the Lightning to get something out of a player who was going to be a free agent and wasn’t contributing to their main roster.

Traded future considerations to the Islanders for D Bruno Gervais – This is the Lightning choosing Gervais over Matt Smaby and Mike Lundin to be their 7th defenseman seeing how they didn’t tender either of those two’s contracts and signed Gervais to a one-year $550k deal. All three play similar roles in which they are 3rd pairing defensemen but Lundin kind of struggled early in the season when he was getting top-4 minutes and had a bigger contract than Gervais and Smaby didn’t fare well against weak competition. My guess is this is the Bolts trying to save money because tendering Gervais contract would cost slightly less than Lundin’s and they didn’t feel Lundin was worth the extra $200k or so. I think Lundin is a slightly better player than Gervais but it probably doesn’t matter much now as they won’t see that much ice time.

Re-signed D Marc Andre Bergeron to a one-year deal worth $1 mil – Cashing in on a strong playoffs with a one-year contract. He had one of the best scoring chance ratios among Lightning defensemen but it helps when your coach uses your strengths to your advantage and only uses you in offensive situations (69.2 OZONE%). Bergeron is as advertised; Good powerplay quarterback and decent 3rd pairing defenseman but he is a liability in his own zone. Therefore, the Lightning knew they couldn’t overpay him too much so a $1 mil contract isn’t that bad for MAB.

Re-signed RW Adam Hall to a one-year $600k deal- Great defensive forward and he seemed to thrive in the Lightning’s system on their shut-down line last year and even managed to contribute offensively a little bit. Can never have too man solid third liners at cheap contracts.

Re-signed G Dwayne Roloson to a one-year $3 mil deal – Roloson may have saved the Lighning’s season as they were exceeding in every category except goaltending before he showed up. They became an even better team then and he was simple outstanding in the post-season. $3 mil isn’t a bad deal for a team with plenty of cap-space and especially not bad for a one-year contract. His age is a concern but he always seems to give teams great value with his contracts over his career so we’ll see if that trend continues this season.

Cap Crunch

Tampa Bay currently have about $46 million invested in 17 players (9 forwards, 7 defensemen, 1 goalie) under contract which gives them a little under $18 mil to play with. Their #1 priority is locking up Stamkos for awhile and they definitely have the space to do it but after that, there are some holes on the roster which should be addressed:

Malone ($4,500,000) – Stamkos (RFA) – St. Louis ($5,625,000)
??? – Lecavalier ($7,727,273) – Downie ($1,100,000)
??? – Moore ($1,100,000) – Purcell (RFA)
Tyrell ($845,833) – Thompson ($900,000) – Hall ($600,000)
Ritola ($516, 667)

Brewer ($3,850,000) – Ohlund ($4,607,143)
Kubina ($3,850,000) – Hedman ($3,500,000)
Clark ($1,500,000) – Bergeron ($1,000,000)
Gervais ($550,000)

Roloson ($3,000,000)
???

RFA: Stamkos, Purcell
UFA: Lundin, Smaby, Gagne, Bergenheim

Team Needs:

I am not buying for a second that Tampa will not re-sign Stamkos. He is too important to the organization for them not to do that and they have the cap space to re-sign him. Offer sheets are a fun thing to think about but I think Tampa will match any offer that’s thrown their way unless it’s something like $8-10 mil per year. Even then, the idea of a team forfeiting four first round picks for one player (who has two amazing seasons under his belt) just seems like it won’t happen, at least not this off-season. Stamkos is the #1 priority and it will stay that way. Aside from that, Tampa Bay needs to find two left wingers to replace Sean Bergeheim and Simon Gagne. Someone like Joel Ward seems like a perfect replacement for Bergenheim. He takes a lot of defensive draws, can provide secondary scoring and is a very good third line player who could be a good replacement for Bergenheim. Players like Tomas Fleischmann, Michael Ryder and Raffi Torres are intriguing as well. I’m not sure who will replace Gagne because there aren’t too many appealing options via free agency but a trade isn’t out of the realm of possibility because they have a few extra forwards who would make decent trade-bait. The only other need is finding a back-up for Roloson because I don’t know if they want to have him playing 70+ games this season at the age of 43. Cedrick Desjardins might be called upon to be the full-time back-up because he did well in the few games he played last year and they had after their failed experiment with Dan Ellis last year, they may go within the organization for this instead of free agency.

Expectations:

The Bolts appear to be in good shape for next season. St. Louis and Lecavalier are in their 30’s but their play didn’t show that the last year and I see no reason why a squad that mostly resembles the one they had last year shouldn’t have the same, if not higher expectations. There are some concerns here, mostly on the blue line. Kubina didn’t live up to expectations last season and was hurt for a good part of it. I am having trouble envisioning Marc-Andre Bergeron playing as well as he did last year and it’s possible that Brewer’s play could regress and Mattias Ohlund isn’t exactly at the point in his career where he is a top-2 defenseman but Hedman might take over that role soon. I still think that the Lightning will contend for the Southeast title and might even win it.

Southeast Division Free Agency: Florida Panthers

The Florida Panthers are a little similar to the Carolina Hurricanes in the sense that they are under the cap floor and might depend on the young talent within their organization for next year. They are different because the Panthers have not been a good team in nearly ten years and it doesn’t look like they will push for a playoff spot at all the next few seasons. New coach, possibly losing one of the best goalies in the league and having a GM who keeps making bad signings and trades doesn’t bode well for an organization.

What Have They Done So Far?

Fired head coach Peter DeBoer and hired Kevin Dineen – I think DeBoer is a good coach and he did well with getting the most out of these awful Florida teams, especially in 2008-09. However, ti was clear that GM Dale Tallon wanted to go in another direction and bring in  someone new for the coaching position. Dineen did well in the AHL as the coach of the Portland Pirates so we’ll see how this translates into the NHL as the coach of the Panthers.

Re-igned D Keaton Ellerby to a one-year deal worth $787,555 – The former first round pick hasn’t quite lived up to his full potential yet but he only has one full NHL season under his belt and he seemed to improve last season so locking him up for another year at a low cost is wise on the Panthers part. Jason Garrison and Mike Weaver have stepped in as the team’s shutdown pair so it’s up to him and Dimitry Kulikov to give their blue-line some more offensive presence, which they haven’t yet.

Re-signed RW Jack Skille to a two-year deal worth $1.65 mil – Acquired last year in a trade with the Blackhawks for Michael Frolik and Alexander Salak, Skille has continued to not be much of a threat as a forward despite getting more ice time at even strength and on the powerplay after being traded. Tallon seems to like him, though so I guess it was predictable that he would re-sign him but I guess you could do a lot worse. I thought trading for him in the first place was a bad idea on his part but he has talent and has performed well in the AHL but he still needs to show me that he can perform at the NHL before I say that re-signing him is a good idea.

Signed D Roman Derlyuk to a one-year deal worth $710k – A 6th round draft pick from 2005, Derlyuk has been working on his game in the KHL for the past three seasons. He is kind of skinny for his height but he appears to be a solid physical defenseman but I think he will either stay in Russia or play in Rochester next year because it doesn’t appear as if he’s a future star or every-day NHL player.

Signed LW Garrett Wilson to a three-year entry level deal – The send round pick from 2009 is coming off a very good season in the OHL with the Owen Sound Attack recording 88 points in 66 points. He has recorded over 35 goals in the last two seasons there and had 40 last year so this kid could definitely be a good roster addition to Florida if he keeps developing well and plays more disciplined (114 PIMs). He is still only 20 so it’s unknown if he will stay in junior for one more season or have a chance to play for the Panthers or San Antonio next season. Hockeys future has him projected as a a solid lower-line player in the NHL because his skillset isn’t that impressive but that could change with another good season.

Re-signed LW Tim Kennedy to a one-year two-way contract – Acquired from the Rangers in the Bryan McCabe trade. He didn’t do much in Florida last year (1 point in 6 games) but he was a decent third/fourth liner in Buffalo and then was bought out because he thought his 26 points in 78 games was worth more than his $1 mil arbitration award. What he can do with a full-season in Florida with a weaker supporting cast is yet to be seen but he coud make the roster with the way things look for them right now.

Traded RW Rostislav Olesz to the Chicago Blackhawks for D Brian Campbell – When the cap floor was raised, it was a given that teams like Florida who don’t spend a lot of money were going to have to take on a bad contract or two but this move still shocked me. They traded away one overpaid player for someone who has arguably the worst contract in the NHL and is due $7,142,875 per season over the next five years. I have given up trying to figure out Dale Tallon’s logic after seeing this trade happen because if Florida wanted to save money while getting to the cap floor, they could have made a better move than this. Although, Tallon said he did this because “he likes Campbell.” Well, he gave him the contract in the first place so that’s not too surprising, I suppose. Campbell’s value as an offensive defenseman has gone down a lot in previous seasons so it’s not like Florida’s going to get a lot for this deal and they gave up a solid forward in Olesz who should make a good replacement for Troy Brouwer in Chicago.

Traded a seventh round pick to the Chicago Blackhawks for LW Tomas Kopecky – Florida then signed him for four years at $3 mil per year. My guess is this is Chicago returning the favor for the Brian Campbell trade. Kopecky had 42 points last year but that was with his most frequent linemates being Marian Hossa and Patrick Sharp. He won’t have that luxury in Florida so his production taking a dip would not surprise me. Although, it’s possible that he might get some time with Weiss and Booth and while they aren’t the Blackhawks, they are two very good players. Florida better not hope they are depending on him for their main source of scoring.

Cap Crunch

Saving money doesn’t seem to be what’s on Florida’s mind right now even though it should be with the new Collective Bargaining Agreement to be in place by 2012-13 so the main priority for them appears to be getting to the cap floor of $48 mil by signing players to more contracts than what they are worth. They have a few restricted free agents who will probably receive significant raises as well as some rookies who will be called up. They currently have a little over $26 mil invested in 13 players  (7 forwards, 5 defensemen and 1 goaltender) and currently have nearly $38 mil in cap space, but they are $22 mil below the cap floor so we could see the Panthers hand out some big contracts.

Booth ($4,250,000) – Weiss ($3,100,00) – Dadanov ($875,000)
Kopecky ($3,000,000) – Santorelli (RFA) – Skille ($825,000)
Kennedy (???) – Timmins ($761,667) – Repik ($816,667)
??? – Matthias (RFA) – ???

Campbell ($7,142, 875) – Kulikov ($1,325,00
Weaver ($900,000) – Garrison ($675,000)
Ellerby ($787,500) – ???

Clemmensen ($1,200,00)
???

RFA: Caruso, Cheverie, Duco, Matthias, McArdle, Plante, Santorelli
UFA: Bergfors, Bernier, Bitz, Samsonov, Hordichuk, Carter, Vokoun, Sulzer, Callahan

Team Needs:

I’m still not sure what kind of deal Kennedy got but if he doesn’t make the team then I eould expect Florida to sign someone to fill his spot. Kenall McArdle, Mike Duco (I know…) or someone else will probalby fill the holes on the fourth line. It’s also possible that they will sign a right winger for the second line because I do not think Jack Skille is up to that role. That or give Repik another shot there but he wasn’t impressive last season. Santorelli will probably get a nice raise after a good 2010-11 so that will help them get to the cap floor a little bit. The other hole here is that they need at least one more defenseman and I would hope that Erik Gudbransson fills one of those spots while someone like Steve Eminger, Ruslan Salei or another free agent will fill the other.There’s going to be a few moments where you say “Oh, I forgot that guy was still in the league” when you watch Florida next season.

The biggest hole on the roster is at goaltender with Tomas Vokoun possibly leaving and possibly looking for a huge pay-off after Ilya Bryzgalov got his. He is coming off his worst season in awhile and isn’t getting any younger so his value might take a hit there but he is still an elite goalie and whoever signs him is going to be very happy. Scott Clemmensen is a 1 a/b goalie at best in my opinion and I’m not sure if they are going to call-up Jacob Markstrom just yet because he’s only 21, has two years left on his entry level deal and doesn’t help them get to the cap floor. The free agent market for goalies doesn’t look any better, though unless they want to take a chance on JS Giguere or Jose Theodore do be their starter.

Expectations:

Unless there’s a few players who blow away my expectations, Florida is looking at another lottery pick and the most frustrating thing for fans is that they don’t appear to be interested in saving money either. At least that’s what the Brian Campbell deal tells me. They are put in a tough spot with the cap floor increasing though and it’s going to have a negative effect on many small market teams in the league but Florida is probably who it impacts the most. Drafting well is the one thing Tallon is good at and hopefully Gudbransson can make some noise down there and maybe even Jonathan Huberdeau will make the team out of camp if they are lucky. I just don’t know how patient the fans down there are now because after only one winning season in ten years, they are in the beginning process of yet another long rebuilding period and it may be another couple years before Florida is good again.