NHL Free Agents are alot like strippers. Come July 1st, NHL GM's will be like the guy who just broke up with girlfriend - let's call him Bob. The ex may be a crazy jealous bitch sucking Bob’s will to live, like a 35-year old 12-goal scorer sucking up salary cap space, or a young hottie who was out of your league to begin with, like a 25-goal scoring RFA coming out of his entry level contract. But just like most NHL teams when they reflect on thier last season, most times Bob is disappointed with the outcome of the relationship and he's eager to look around for a better partnership. Bob is out to play the field again – and to pick up the most promising free agents, so to speak.
At times like this, Bob feels the need to make a big splash to re-introduce himself to the marketplace. For Bob – being a man, and therefore not being of the best judgment all the time, thinking with something other than his brain and all - this means heading down to his favourite gentlemen’s club somewhere on Ste Catherine Street Ouest. For NHL teams, this means chasing FAs at noon on July 1st. In both cases, wallets are open looking for entertainers. Both are willing to overpay, and in their desperate rush to hook up with a free agent, their perception of the true value of the entertainers is fucked up. In other words, too often both of these poor souls are about to overpay for similar disappointing results.
In order to help both Bob and NHL clubs, FHF relies on its years of personal research to bring you our stripperific guide to this summer’s NHL Free Agents. Hopefully this will allow our favorite team - and Bob - to avoid any unfortunate mistakes in thier relationships, like asking Sergei Samsonov out to dinner again.
The “Featured Performers”
NHL translation: Cream of the UFA crop. Best talent available, but they’ll demand a premium in remuneration and commitment. Bob will need to pull out his ATM card and find a comfortable chair. NHL GM`s will need to pull out a calculator and find a capologist. While the talent is undoubtedly there, it'll keep costing Bob until 2015.
Montreal is rumoured to have offered Mats Sundin $8M over 2 years, which seems fair given it's a short term deal. If Ryan Malone can score $7M per (although it is front-loaded), someone will give Marian Hossa $8.5M a year over 5+ years. And they better have a centre like Crosby to get him the puck if they expect him to score at his playoff pace. Montreal has a shot at one, not both. Brian Campbell may be the prototype for the New NHL with his skating and puck-moving skills, but it`s hard to believe he`ll be a perennial Norris trophy candidate, which is why he`ll be overpaid at $7-8M per for more than 4 years. Although there are rumours linking Campbell to Montreal, it seems unlikley with two $5M plus defencemen already. The Blackhawks are supposedly ready to offer $8M per.
The “Main Stage Attractions”
They’re hot and have no major flaws. All you need is one drink to get your motor running and start to forget about how you lost out on the featured performer of the evening.
NHL translation: Not the top-tier/big name catches, but solid upgrades for the top two lines/defensive pairings.
Michal Roszival May be the 2nd best defencemen available, but shouldn’t command more than $3.5M per. The Rangers and Oilers could get into a bidding war over Wade Redden, resulting in a conmtract worth north of$4M per for more than 3 seasons -well out of the Habs' price range. Brian Rolston arguably belongs in the featured performer this off season, but doesn`t have the big name recognition of the top tier guys – yet. If he moves to a major hockey centre (say, Vancouver?), his profile might skyrocket (of course, Brian’s skyrocket won’t carry his reputation close to Roberto Luongo’s Jenna Jameson-like heights.) His point total might skyrocket playing with Vinny in T.Bay, and he also would be the next best option for Montreal after Mats & Marian. Cristobal Huet is the best goalie available, but as Habs fans know all too well, he may be good, but he hasn’t proven to be great over the long haul. Still, a team like Tampa or LA will keep the Frenchmen knee deep in Camembert for as long as he wants. Corey Stillman seems to score wherever he goes, so he might rope some poor GM into giving hm $3M plus a year, even though he’s a complimentary player at best. Andrew Brunette would be a cheaper, but less flashy option with less upside. With the addition of Tanguay, don't look for these guys in a Canadiens uniform next year.
The “Mid-Week Stalwarts”
In the dark corners of your favourite gentlemen’s club, there's nothing wrong with them. However, exposed to the harsh light of day their drawbacks are accentuated. Best enjoyed after a least a couple of drinks.
NHL translation: good players, if they play a limited and set role they can be useful. However, exposed to the harsh light of a March road game, their drawbacks are accentuated. Due to injuries or off-seasons, their stocks have dropped - and in theory, so should thier salary. In theory.
Brendan Morrison would be in the last group if not for an injury plagued season; someone desperate at centre (i.e. Columbus) might make a big pitch, including MTL if they strike out with Mats & Marian, although he is smallish. Brad Stuart has to decide between more money in SoCal or a better fit in Detroit, where he excelled in a limited role. Supposedly some Montreal fans see him as our 4th D, but that ain't happening. Kristian Huselius could be a steal on the right team at the right price, which means Atlanta will overpay for him and he’ll be on waivers in 3 years. Montreal is better off with Tanguay. Mike Commodore may be one dimensional but seems to have a Tie Domi-like cult following; hopefully NHL GM`s will figure out it won`t take much to overpay considering his limited potential - I am confident Gainey will. Much has been made of Mark Streit’s versatility, but he says he wants to be a full time defenceman. He’ll be a small defenceman (just like half of Montreal’s back end), but some other team is going to give him more than his track record commands anyway. We’ll see how he handles a different role than in Montreal - and he is undoubtedly gone if Mats or Marian signs. Jay Pandolfo may be the latest in the seemingly annual July 1st ritual of free agents fleeing New Jersey – but Pandolfo may regret leaving considering his style is so suited to his current team. Ron Hainsey may have some offensive skills, but doesn’t play an all-around game or use his size - like the stripper who is packing the 36 double d’s beneath a thin layer of lingerie, it still looks nice, but you're inevitably left wanting more.
The “Last Calls”
Some moderate to major flaws are apparent, but still enough there to be interesting - especially after several rounds of shots.
NHL Translation: Over-the-hill free agents or those more interested in off-ice puruits (Alex DAigle ruled this category before he retired). These guys come with baggage. And unlike the NFL, NHL GM’s seem to care about their player’s drunken rule-breaking.
Todd Bertuzzi is a grumpy headcase who needs very strong lockeroom to keep him reined in. Still has a huge profile, so he'll get another shot - HF4 hopes in Montreal. I doubt it. The question with Jose Theordore is who will show up: Focused, athletic and intuitive Theo? Or I’m-a superstar-who-can-bang-whorish-celebrities, flopping, erratic Theo? Either way, is that a smart $5M gamble on anything longer than a year? Sean Avery may be a total jerk, but would thrive in the right environment, which he had in NY. Rumour is now T.O., which would make for a great porno starring Long Don Cherry and Shot From Behind Sean Avery. Admit it, you loved Darcy Tucker in Montreal. Question about him is really the same as for Milk Carton Mike Ryder: was last season a blip or a sign of things to come? Ray Emery is a mess who might be playing the wrong sport.
The “You believe them when they say they’re 23” Girls
These are the girls that seem too good to be true – too sweet, too girl-next-door, too, umm, underage. One major problem: often have a “Pretty Woman” complex and expect you to profess your undying love, publicly.
NHL translation: RFA’s. NHL GM’s show their love with huge front-loaded numbers and lengthy contracts which, in retrospect, all too often seem to take lifetimes before expiry. They're attractive because they're young and usually haven't hit thier peak. If there is movement here, look for a trade rather than a free agent offer sheet.
Jay Boumeester and Mike Green headline this group, as two of the best young defencemen in the game. It seems unthinkable that Washington wouldn’t do anything to keep Green feeding Ovie 90-foot passes – even if a lot of those passes end up going in the other direction. Boumeester could move, as Jacques Martin seems to have followed the path walked by all too many Quebecers: after moving to Florida, the slow, relentless decent into senility and madness was inevitable. Corry Perry isn't going anywhere, unless Brian Burke really is going to Toronto at the end of the seaason and he scams his way into giving Perry to the Leafs.
On the other end of the spectrum: you’re wondering whether they take their kids to work with them.
NHL translation: Guys who were stars when Don Cherry was relevant.
Take your pick : Jaromir Jagr, Pavol Demitra, Doug Weight, Markus Naslund, Jason Smith, Bobby Holik and Mike Peca. Only Jagr seems even likely of ever having a major impact again. None of them are getting any better, so contract length is key cause NHL teams are on the hook for any salary given to an over 35 year old. Right, Cliff Fletcher?