Takes and trash talk from both ALL sides of the NHL's most obscure PATHETIC* rivalry

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Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Ducks Offseason: What the hell do I know?

You know, I’d like to write a really good post this time of year that kind of lays out what the Ducks’ gameplan is for the offseason, but quite frankly, there’s just too many unknown factors at this point to say anything definitively. So I thought I'd just lay out all the questions I don't know the answer to, and then give a few closing thoughts at the end.

Is Scott Niedermayer retiring? TSN reports that the Ducks' captain, fresh off a Norris finalist season (79 gp, 15 - 54 - 69 pts, +6, 34 PP pts) and a Conn Smythe postseason (21 gp, 3 - 8 - 11 pts, +2, 3 PP pts), is contemplating retirement, despite two more years on his contract. Rob Niedermayer has two years left on his contract, as well.

Is Teemu Selanne retiring, and if not, how much will be his base salary? This was more expected, even though Selanne had a tremendous season for the Ducks (82 gp, 48 - 46 - 94 pts, +26, 48 PP pts) and a capable playoffs as well (21 gp, 5 - 10 - 15 pts, +1, 6 PP pts). Selanne led the western conference in goals and the entire league in power play goals. Last year, Selanne signed a one-year deal that was for $3.75 M plus bonuses, and I'm guessing it amounted to something like $6 M, though this is a ballpark figure.

Did Dustin Penner sign a 3-year, $7 M contract? That's been the rumor floating the message boards, but I have not seen any official confirmation. The $2.33 M average would be a significant raise for the kid, as he played for league minimum ($450 k) last year. I'd say the raise is fair—he did pot 29 regular season goals in his "rookie" year.

How NHL-ready is Bobby Ryan? I barely pay any attention to prospects and minor league scoring, but I do know that this kid was the first pick Brian Burke made as a GM in the pick right behind Sidney Crosby. Should the Ducks be saving a spot on the roster for him this year?

Who is Jonas Hiller and why does he have Bryzgalov nervous? Sidearm Delivery provides a translation for Bryzgalov's quote in Sports Express: "I am sure that either I or Giguere will be leaving the club soon, since Anaheim have signed a strong Swiss keeper, Jonas Hiller. Giguere had a nice season, and I think Anaheim can sign him." Maybe another way to ask this question is: How set are the Ducks in net, even without Giguere?

What is the salary cap next year? This doesn't matter so much to the Ducks as spenders, necessarily, but it will impact the number of bidders for J.S. Giguere. While the Ducks do have exclusive negotiating rights with Giguere through June, it does feel kind of a meaningless edge; I doubt Giguere signs anywhere before this cap figure is finally released.

What will the Ducks' budget look like next year? The Ducks last year stayed well below the salary cap, thanks to a bevy of underpaid players. This year Beauchemin, Pahlsson, and Moen will get modest raises while Penner gets a significant one. Next summer Getzlaf and Perry figure to get significant raises, also. All that said, though, the Ducks enjoyed 12 extra home sellouts this spring, 4 of which were series-clinching games. Last summer they also renamed the team and redesigned the uniforms, coercing fans into purchasing all new gear. And by winning the cup, they'll benefit from champion merchandise revenue as well. By my eyes it had to be a monster year for the Ducks revenue-wise; how much of that will make its way into next year's payroll?

So, after all that, what's the right price for Giguere? Giguere went 36-10-8 in the regular season with a 2.26 GAA and a .918 sv%. In the playoffs he went 13-4 with a 1.97 GAA and a .922 sv%. And in terms of top goalie talent in the free agency pool, he's it. Giguere has indicated a preference toward staying in Anaheim, and for sure the fans love him, but what's the most that Brian Burke should be prepared to pay?


Pin the price tag on the goalie

Sleek's thoughts: Even if the Ducks lose Selanne, Niedermayer, and Giguere in the coming weeks, there is a benefit in losing 3 of the 4 highest-paid players on the team: replacement money. Using the $6 M estimate for Selanne, there would be nearly $17 M freed up to help patch the holes, and that's certainly enough money to pay some difference-makers.

At first I was worried that if Selanne and Niedermayer didn't come to a decision by July 1st, the Ducks would be in trouble missing out on first-day free agents. But then I remembered back to July 1st last year, and all the silly deals being handed out on that day, and I reconsidered. Even if there are holes that need to be filled, replacement money needn't be spent frivolously on expensive free agents. Given the choice, I'd rather see Burke fill those holes by trading with cap-tight teams.

Bottom line: there's too many unknowns here for me to do anything but "wait and see", but suffice to say I'm not that worried about the future just yet. Every one of Anaheim's potential "problems" comes with its own multi-million dollar "solution". That said, I really hope Scott in particular decides to stay, as his $6.75 M salary is looking pretty sweet compared with more recent UFA-defenseman signings (Blake, Redden, Jovanovski, Timonen), and I would like to remain spoiled by the Niedermayer-Pronger show for another year at least.

They say that Scott's got nothing left to win in hockey, but I can think of one thing he's never done. He's never won back-to-back Cups; that's gotta have some appeal, right Scott?

13 comments:

TNG said...

well, to cope with S.Niedermayer loss you'ld have to sign both Souray AND Rafalski and tie them up together like siamese twins to have a Dman half as good as Nieds... plus you've got the whole leadership issue.
Teemu and Jiggy are definitely important players but they're relatively easier for Anaheim to replace comparing w/ Scotty.
I agree with you, the captain has to think "what about back-to-back cups?" otherwise...

Rick said...

I don't know what kind of deferred comp Niedermayer has set up, and I know the NHL pension is very nice (my wife's cousin lives well enough) but I've got to wonder about a guy leaving that kind of money on the table. He's got a great job, has already done it all--so why not keep making things better and more secure for this family.

At 33, if he retires, something tells me he'll be back. He'll get bored.

But my god, Duck fans crying over this are spoiled already. He deserves his number retired because he was the catalyst for the Ducks cup, even though he was only here two years.

dbushik said...

I think the up-side to lossing Giguere, Nieds and Selanne is going to be a good draft position.

Nieds is the big worry. Selanne is done, but the team has plenty of young forwards and he is somewhat replacable. I know you were worried at some point there about Bryzgalov starting a PO game, but I have no clue why. He was fantastic last year when he had to start.

Giguere wants to come back too, so it's just a question of affording him and still being able to sign those young forwards in the next couple years. Seems clear Burke has decided to be serious about that and the cap is rising to ridiculous levels, so I think that is do-able.

Neids is the big worry. He is not replacable, and would likely mean the Ducks having to add two good defenders just to make it a small step back instead of a huge one. Without Nieds you have two guys suited to play in your top four. I love OD, but he's not going to look as good out there without the kind of talent he's had around him doing all the heavy lifting.

I kind of think he will be back, but would not be shocked if he calls it quits. There really is nothing left for him to accomplish and he's never going to have a better moment to close on.

As for repeating, I would just give the word of caution on hubrus. Especially with so many kids being big parts of the success. Teams have a tough time truely remembering how hard it was and how much work it took to win a cup. They tend to start believing they are as good as their fans tell them, and forget about doing the work. Just ask any of the previous Cup winners in recent memory. A lot of teams don't even make the playoffs the year after a Cup.

Earl Sleek said...

I think the up-side to lossing Giguere, Nieds and Selanne is going to be a good draft position.

I'm not that pessimistic, that's for sure. Yeah, there's top pieces that are threatening to leave, but it's not like the infrastructure is that ruined.

We know coming back will be 9 of the top 10 forwards, at least one capable netminder, at least 2 top defensemen, and a lot of money to spend. The situation is far from dire.

Besides, that's Edmonton's pick, not Anaheim's :)

He is not replaceable, and would likely mean the Ducks having to add two good defenders just to make it a small step back instead of a huge one. Without Nieds you have two guys suited to play in your top four. I love OD, but he's not going to look as good out there without the kind of talent he's had around him doing all the heavy lifting.

Yeah, I think this is mostly right; there's definitely a need to acquire some capable defensemen, whether Scotty retires or not. O'Donnell is a UFA, by the way, and unless he's going to play for close to what he got last year ($1.5 M), he'll be gone and replaced by someone who will play in that price range. Dipenta, Huskins, and Jackman are all UFAs also, but again, they are spare parts in the grand scheme.

As for repeating, I would just give the word of caution on hubris... Just ask any of the previous Cup winners in recent memory. A lot of teams don't even make the playoffs the year after a Cup.

Well, I didn't mean that last line to sound like hubris; it's merely pointing out an achievement that Scott does not have in his impressive career (in case he's in search for "motivation"). Oh, and Carolina was the only cup champ in recent memory to miss the playoffs the following season, not "a lot of teams".

Again, I don't see this all as a crippling problem so much as a hassle. Replacing top players can be done with available salary, and in this offseason, that's looking to be Burke's challenge. I see no reason why he's not capable of that. It's certainly an easier challenge than, say, having to replace Getzlaf & Perry's production using their miniscule replacement money.

dbushik said...

Didn't mean to say you were being cocky, but just saying it's something to watch out for as a fan.

Maybe "a lot" is a big over stating it, but I was just trying to get at the fact that having continued success after a Cup, or even a Finals appearance, is not the norm. Yeah, only two of the last 13 winners have not made the playoffs the following year, but that group has averaged a grand total of 1.2 PO series wins in the year following a Cup.

If you take out the modern dynasty teams (COL, DET, NJ), the remaining winners averaged 0.8. Teams like COL, DET and NJ were able to have continued success because they had core veteran top level talent that did stick around and were able to keep the secret of what it takes to win within the organization. Selanne and Neids are those kind of guys.

And I'm really not here to beat you up, but you talk about replacing guys like you can just go down to the corner store and franchise players who will mesh with your team well are just lining the shelves.

Not to even mention availability, you are not likely to be able to just drop in guys and have it work well. One of the big things the Ducks had going for them was their resiliancy and overall team play. That kind of chemistry is not easy to come by.

I really do think the Ducks are in a position to keep being a solid team. They have the young talent and great management. I also think they are right now facing a big challenge. Not being pessimistic here, but just pointing out the reality.

Bryan said...

Niedermayer by far would be the biggest loss. There are some big Dmen out there to be gotten, but Souray is all but a King and regardless, no one is Scott Niedermayer. Giguere and Selanne are both replaceable by Bryzgalov and one of the big name forwards agents on the market. However, the cap is anticipated to rise almost as much as 8 mil. Thats alot of money to throw around at free agents and Ducks will really have to pay alot to keep Giguere. As far as getting forwards, the Ducks do have the advantage of attracting teams to a cup winning team in addition to the weather.

As far as Bobby Ryan, he broke Mario Lemieux's record for points in whatever minor league he's in. How ready is he for the NHL? I think he can probly be ready at least midway through the season.

Well I'm pretty sure Niedermayer does have the most Cups of any current player in the NHL. That's a good reason to keep playing.

Earl Sleek said...

I guess, but I'm not even sure the solution needs to be "franchise players". I mean, there's plenty of that already developing in Getzlaf and Perry, and on the back-end with Pronger.

I think the mentality of "replacing Niedermayer" is a bit misspoken--really it will be about building a set of blueliners around Pronger and Beauchemin. Two solid enough defensemen for a second pairing, and a capable third pairing.

If everyone leaves, the Ducks will have to sign or acquire one goalie (maybe), a bottom-four set of defensemen, one scoring right winger, and some fourth line goons. And it'll have something like $20 M to do it.

Sure, maybe I'm too optimistic, but I think there's great power in having big dollars to spend. Even with some hall-of-famers leaving, I think Burke can create a contender again. Will they be cup favorites? Probably not--there are still many good teams in this league. But I don't know why I'd worry that much about it, at least until I start seeing money getting misspent.

Well I'm pretty sure Niedermayer does have the most Cups of any current player in the NHL.

Yup. Four is tops, followed by folks who played extensively for NJ or Detroit.

Teams like COL, DET and NJ were able to have continued success because they had core veteran top level talent that did stick around and were able to keep the secret of what it takes to win within the organization.

Sorry I'm jumping around, but I don't think this is totally the case. One might argue (for DET and NJ especially) that they were able to negotiate when top players left because they kept so much of the infrastructure intact. Lesser lights like Maltby, Draper, Brylin, and Pandolfo were a big reason why those teams continued to win, despite departures from bigger stars like Sykora, Arnott, Kozlov, etc.

Anonymous said...

saw this on a canucks board we could use him on our team


http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v156/xyster/bauer.jpg

Jeremy said...

Selanne is the least to worry about. I've read about a claus in the CBA that allows a team to exceed the cap by 7.5% on a short-term, incentive-laden contract for a player over 35. I'm thinking 2M base salary, with 4M playoff bonus if Teemu wants to come back.
I think Giggy knows enough about the team to realize the potential over the next several years. The question is how much of a discount he'll take to continue to get yearly shots at Lord Stanley.
As for Scott, making up his mind by June 30th seems necessary to the team. That way Burke knows if he'll have to get into the defenseman UFA market. I imagine a summer of healing his foot, and the lure of a fist-full of Cup rings is enough to see him back next year.

Earl Sleek said...

As for Scott, making up his mind by June 30th seems necessary to the team. That way Burke knows if he'll have to get into the defenseman UFA market.

Oh yeah, today's L.A. Times did have this nugget:

"Agent Kevin Epp said he spoke with his client on Tuesday and indicated that Niedermayer would like to decide by July 1, the first day of free agency."

So that part's probably likely, although Burke made it clear that there wasn't any hurry on his end. I'll reiterate my concern here: generally speaking, the team that signs a free agent on July 1st loses. Sure they've secured a player, but it probably means they've overspent or overcommitted to do so.

Anonymous said...

generally speaking, the team that signs a free agent on July 1st loses

Why is it that so many teams still do that every year? The Stars are still paying for their guy that they pounced on at 12:01am on Free Agency Day (Guerin). I agree that those deals seem to smack of desperation.

--Patty in Dallas

Niekon said...

and Giguere's price was $6 million... but for another 4 years...

Moné Peterson said...

Scotty has also never won a Cup in a year ending with an "8." Or a "9," for that matter.