Sunday, July 19, 2009

RFA-Hunting We Will Go

Anaheim calling to the hockey world...

Barring a Giguere trade or Rob Niedermayer signing, Anaheim's offseason activity has concluded. By shipping Chris Pronger to Philadelphia and signing a handful of key and affordable free agents, Bob Murray has rebuilt his playoff team at (or slightly over) budget. However, the General Manager has most impressed hockey analysts with the enviable position he has secured for his team NEXT season.

Anaheim has less than 30M committed to payroll for 2010-11, a year in which many anticipate the Salary Cap will decrease. Key players are signed and key players named Bobby Ryan will need to be re-signed, but (budget permitting) the Ducks will be buyers, both at the trade deadline and offseason, in a buyer's market.

Daniel, you and I have discussed, at length, the salary cap headache that awaits Chicago next June, but other teams will be struggling to balance the checkbook. Who are you hoping the Ducks will poach, and how do you see them doing it?

First, let me start by saying this was a very difficult question to answer. I started with a short list to organize my thoughts, and it was ten players long. However, Chicago is in the most trouble, and they have the player that would be the best fit for us in Duncan Keith. He is the player the Ducks need to go after.

He's the closest thing I've seen to Scott Niedermayer. Keith skates like everyone else is standing still. He weaves through traffic, finds pockets in the defense, joins the rush and can get back on D. Watching replays of the CAL-CHI series on NHL Network makes me think he's a little turnover prone, but I'm sure Carlyle will teach him better habits and make him a stronger defender. He might even become Norris Trophy material. With Scotty's retirement imminent, it's time to start thinking about getting a Number 1 blueliner, and Keith could be it. He's going to want 5-6 million, and there's no way Chicago squeezes that when Toews and Kane will want the same money. They'd have to add almost $10 million more in salary to make it happen.

Ideally, we'd be able to trade for Keith during the season, so we can hold on to his rights and negotiate an extension. Bowman will have to trade someone on his team that's making $3 million in a stone cold salary dump. With the space we still have under the cap, we can take on one of those contracts. As a result, I see a trade a lot like the one you and I have been discussing, where Anaheim takes Keith and either a Byfuglien or Bolland in exchange for Wisniewski and an expiring RFA that can play depth like Drew Miller or Andrew Ebbett. Byfuglien is the top choice, since there's only one year left on his contract, but also because he'd look great camped out in front of the net, being force-fed by Perry and Getzlaf. He's Dustin Penner 2.0. Wisnieski showed last year that he can handle playoff pressure, so at least the Hawks get a capable defender with offensive upside who knows their system. It isn't a fair trade, but salary dumps rarely are. Chicago gets two expiring contracts without completely derailing their Cup aspirations-- after all Huet can do that on his own.

That trade makes the most sense. Especially because Murray is an old Chicago boy, and he should be there to lend a helping hand. I'm sorry, but Chicago isn't going to re-sign all three of these guys and be able to put a whole team on the ice. No one is going to take Huet or Campbell unless someone puts a gun to their head. If Chicago has to move someone, it should be Keith, because they still have Campbell, who is still really good, and Cam Barker. I'm not saying Keith's superfluous, just that they won't feel the pain as bad as losing Kane or worse, their Captain. If Murray can't convince Bowman that this trade is good, he might have to sweeten it with one of our extra First Round picks, but then there's always the off season. We can burn the extra First Round pick to sign Keith to an offer sheet if he makes it to July 1st. When Bowman realizes he doesn't have a choice, I'm sure he'll return Bob Murray's phone call.

I've been vocal about the possibility of acquiring Keith. Much more vocal than I was about Koivu. But I really think that Murph is the linchpin of this deal, not logic. His first trade deadline on the job for Anaheim, he reaches out to Chicago and his old Hawk teammate, Doug Wilson, in San Jose. Murray has clearly kept the respect of his friends through the years, and I have to believe that he still has friends at the United Center, even with Bowman officially in power.

But the logic really is overwhelming, here. Last time we talked about this, I told you that Bowman's best bet is to try what we did with Perry. If the Blackhawks can somehow hoodwink Toews into an affordable contract, they can present identical terms to Kane and guilt him into taking it, lest he ask for more money than the captain. But they can't play that game with Keith, who has to calculate that he's worth at least 5M when Barker is making 3M, Seabrook is making 3.5M and Campbell is making 7M. They can't ask him to take a one-year deal when Barker just got three. They have to find his 5M/yr. for 3 years or let him go. And the latter makes the most sense for a team that has four defensemen making 2.33M or more (not to mention one who takes home three times that much).

Byfuglien/Bolland and Keith for Wisniewski and Miller. I see it happening at the trade deadline, when the slight increase in salary will affect only a handful of game checks. If it doesn't happen, I don't see how Murray passes on the chance to offer sheet Keith, maybe with a tacit agreement it won't be matched.

Alternatively, I like the idea of getting Setoguchi and/or Pavelski. I like the idea of getting Lucic, too, but as much as Boston loves trading with Southern California, Chiarelli didn't play on the blueline with Bob Murray. Doug Wilson did. I see Murph talking him into this deal because Doug will be looking to re-sign Nabokov and replace Marleau next offseason. That and the 4.33M they're paying Michalek may put a strain on negotiations with Setoguchi and Pavelski. To get both, we'd probably have to trade a forward, and sadly, all we have is Lupul. As such, I see Doug gifting us one of the forwards for some picks, or using one as a ribbon around Cheechoo's salary at the deadline.

We'll likely be losing Selanne and Niedermayer after this season (for good this time). And while Murray can't do anything to stop it, he'll have plenty of options to help him address it.


Rob said...

Good blog guys.

RE: Keith, I am under the impression he is untouchable and they'll do what it takes to keep him, so look at his partner, Brent Seabrook.

he's going to be the guy they lose if i had to bet, or Barker. we have two first rounders next year, so we will definitely be buying something from someone. That Huet contract is KILLER, as is Campbells, it wouldn't surprise me if both got placed in the AHL, Though I think Soup has a NMC?

I to am watching closely the teams in cap hell.

Philadelphia, a cap hit of 46 million committed in 2010-2011...and the cap is expected to be around 50.

They have no long term options in net. Nobody will touch Briere, I think they'll be forced to move Jeff Carter. He'll bring them a substantial return but he'll be a RFA the year after. Another 40 goal year and he's going to want richards money. Luckily they have some young talent coming.

Another to watch,Detroit.

They have 41 million committed in 2010-2011, WITHOUT having Lidstrom signed, in other words they'll either be significantly worse or have to move cash.

Pittsburgh is boned to, 41 million tied up, and astrocious on D.

and the Rangers of course, are being run into the ground,and that fool sather still has to pay Staal AND Dubinsky.

but you are right,Chicago is ripe to be poached. Toews and Kane will both command 5 mil each, easy, will they take discounts? i doubt that.

Murph has set us up brilliantly, after we re-sign Bobby we'll have atleast 18 mil to play with

Daniel said...

I think of the big 3 Keith isn't the one that is untouchable; the captain is. Toews and his 34 goals will be back in Chicago, but if you lose Kane's 45 assists, who's going to get him the puck?

I think a that a defensively responsible, puck moving defenseman is at least a viable replacement for Keith, because he can get the puck to Kane and Toews and they can score. In the end, if Blackhaws lose Kane and Toews the damage might be irreversible. Whereas a paying a good puck mover $2 mil as opposed to Keith's $6 mil, yes someone will offer him 6, might not cause your team to sip back into the dark ages with a disinterested Hossa and Campbell.

Anaheim Calling said...

@Rob. Thanks.

I think the problem with moving a guy like Seabrook or Byfuglien is that both are overpaid. And no team is just going to absorb those contracts to give Bowman a hand, not when the alternative is that Kane, Toews or Keith might shake loose.

Bowman's smart, and probably knows that if he is willing to lose Keith, he can get this done with one trade. Move Keith and one overpaid contract to one team at the deadline, and you can sign Kane and Toews before the season ends-- and hopefully pick up some picks to have a talented, but affordable, Bottom Six before the new Kane/Toews deals run out.

But if he insists on keeping Kane, Toews and Keith, he will need to find two salary dump deals for Byfuglien and Seabrook. There aren't enough teams that can do him that favor, even if any were willing to try it. Murph rides in on a white horse on this one, and gives them exactly what they want-- expiring contracts for a playoff run.

Joe said...

I'm pretty much in agreement with you guys. Keith is likely to be the odd man out, in the wake of Barker's new contract. He's probably the defenseman they'd most like to keep, but they dicked their salary situation up too badly to make that a reality. Even dumping Buff and Seabrook likely wouldn't be quite enough to make keeping all three of them doable, and Kane and Toews HAVE to stay. Tough noogies, now get back in the Central Division basement.

Seeing Keith go to Anaheim would really irritate the shit out of me though. How about filling that roster up with some softies, huh?

Rob said...

I'm going to be curious about Barker, maybe he's the guy they view as replacing Duncan Keith should they not be able to keep him. Keith will get big dollars. Hopefully Sbisa shows alot of potential this year so we have a better idea about what we have. Gardiner, Sbisa, Whitney, Wis and Mitera could potentially be an excellent group to build around. Now you add one more top pairing type and we would be set for many years.

Anaheim Calling said...

@Rob. From your list, Daniel and I are definitely interested in poaching Helm, but shhhh, don't tell Joe. He loves that guy. Philly and the Rangers are different. I don't like their contracts, and they're not losing any great young players next year.

If we can get Keith, then we'd have Keith/Whitney as #1 and #2. At that point, I wouldn't give Wis another raise. I'd just call up our first and second contract guys and make a run.

@Joe. You know we trade specifically to hurt your Wings.

Rob said...

The Rangers are going to be sending a few guys to the AHL, it sucks that they'll be able to circumvent the cap that way.

also I wouldn't be opposed to doing what SJ did a few years ago, take a contract and get another first round pick.

lastly, I have heard the ducks budget was a hard 50 million, well we're about 1.3 over that, I am in favor of keeping Giguere, but he might have to go to meet budget requirements, OTOH there doesn't seem to be a market for him

Joe said...

@Rob. From your list, Daniel and I are definitely interested in poaching Helm, but shhhh, don't tell Joe. He loves that guy. Philly and the Rangers are different. I don't like their contracts, and they're not losing any great young players next year.


Damn dude, if the Ducks poached him, I honestly think I might start rooting for the Ducks.

Anaheim Calling said...

@rob. I hadn't heard that about the Rangers. I suppose they had some guys hit their bonuses unexpectedly.

On Giguere, I think the bigger question is what cities are on his list. Montreal can still afford to trade Giguere for Price straight up, but that would put them right against the cap. He may have an addendum to his list of teams if he can't earn his job back.

On the Ducks' budget number, Duchatsek of the Globe and Mail put it at 46M and Mirtle estimated 47.8M. Those would both be straight numbers based on percentage of revenues. Obviously management will give Murray a little more rope. I've seen the 50M number on the HF Boards, but have not seen any official report of such a hard figure. Either way, if they're giving him at least 2M above the strict revenues numbers, then they will be lenient. And rightfully so, with all the excitement that Koivu's signing will generate.

It WILL affect how often we get to call up Mitera, who takes home a handsome game check. But come trade deadline, when most of the checks have been handed out, I think Murph can acquire some salary without management objecting.

And I liked all of Murray's offseason expenditures except for Wisniewski. He threatened an arbitration hearing, and he should have followed through. I understand that he didn't want to alienate the kid by taking it to a hearing, he would have to point out that Wiz gets caught in the offensive zone and his right knee is held together by hopes and dreams after two ACL tears and an MCL sprain. But . . . his right knee is held together by hopes and dreams. There's no way he's actually worth that much.

Anaheim Calling said...

@Joe. Haha. This man-crush of yours is getting unwieldy.

Rob said...

the situation with the rangers is an assumption on my part looking at their cap problems and whos making the money, nobody will take Redden, or Roszival without sending contracts back.

Staal is a guy that could get poached if the cap sinks but again i'm certain they'll waive Redden at some point.

Anaheim Calling said...

@rob. Redden and Rosival get a little easier to move next year with their actual salaries dropping to 6.5M and 4M respectively for the 10-11 season. They are 8M and 6M this year.

If they keep Gilroy on defense and move some cheap talent up front, I think they can get under the cap for 10-11.