Friday, July 3, 2009

Is Murray Missing Out?

This is Anaheim Calling to the hockey world.

The Free Agent maelstrom is continuing around the league. No one knows why the Rangers gave that much money to Gaborik, how the Blackhawks are going to re-sign the key players that go RFA next year, what the Kings did to scare away every elite scorer in the league or if the Canadiens got better or worse.

Meanwhile, the only splash the Ducks have made in the free agent market is re-signing Scott Niedermayer. Arthur, you and I have both said that the Ducks need another Top 4 blueliner and a second line center. So, what do you think? Is Bob Murray going to "wait and see" his way out of the best options to fill those holes?

Well, Bob Murray's staring at a budget. Duchatschek of Globe and Mail puts it around $46M. I think that's payroll, not cap hit, and maybe conservative by a few million. Without signing Wisniewski, that gives us around 3M to spend. Maybe 1.3M more if they already paid Bertuzzi.

If that's our wiggle room, I think Murray's doing all he can, maybe even more than he should. He's confident about matching offers to Wisniewski, and many believe he's put an offer down for Koivu. I don't think he's in the market for any of the big names because I don't think he can afford them.

That being said, promoting from within isn't very attractive. MacGregor Sharp makes as much as Nokelainen, and Matt Beleskey only a little bit less. Mark Mitera and Stu Bickel both make more than 1.25M. And, while I think a LOT of the minor leaguers will collect NHL game checks this year to save them from spending the entire season scattered around the AHL, I don't think any of them can solve our depth issues.

Murray can probably make a move for one guy: Koivu or maybe Jay McKee, but either would have to take a pay cut. After that, I think he has to rely on a lot of the guys already in the system. He basically can't have a complete team until he moves Giguere's salary.

If our budget is $46 million, Anaheim fans better hope for a repeat of the 2003 playoffs, with Hiller playing the role of Giguere. I can't imagine putting together a Cup worthy team for only $46 million, especially when you consider how weak we are on the blueline. With that number, signing Wisniewski would end our offseason and eliminate any chance of improving the team at the deadline.

Murray can sell me on Ebbett. He was productive, and maybe a full year will make him more patient and prevent those retaliatory penalties that were so problematic. But I have a hard time believing we are solid on the back end. Beauchemin is a Top 4 guy who has played here, and, as you pointed out, can change a Playoff series. I might be pleading, but you can't let a guy like that get away. He put in his work. Reach into your pocket, and sign him, Murray . . . Please!!!

Now that I've mourned Beauchemin, let me just say that waiting on Giguere scares me. The best trade partner, if we really are trying to create cap space, would be Montreal. Trading with Toronto would probably involve Toskala's $4 million, and that still wouldn't solve the problems we have. Burke is crazy, but $10 million in net minders is a little ridiculous. He won't deal unless we take Vesa. But, Carey Price is a serviceable backup for Hiller, and we'd save almost $4 million in the deal. Giguere for Price and 2 First Round picks might work. Then we'd have room for our Top 4 D.

I think Murray is being too passive. We have too many holes to sit back like this. I think you might be right in saying Niedermayer came back for his second gold medal because right now, nothing about this offseason leads me to believe the Ducks are taking a serious shot at the Stanley Cup. I'm glad I haven't heard us drop out of the Koivu race, but if we don't start making something happen, it's going to be an early playoff exit for the Ducks.

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