Paying for potential as a sub-cap team: the fan experience

Plenty of interesting interpretations of Kyle Turris’ new deal out there. Maybe predictably, Sens blogs and fans think it’s a steal because the assumption is that he will progress towards the expectations of a third overall pick. If that happens, then the team bought some of Turris’ prime years at what might be a discounted rate. Others take a more measured (read: pessimistic) stance, assume Turris is getting a lot of money and term for not a lot of production, and wonder if Ottawa just threw $17.5MM at a nebulous concept.

Both of these perspectives are valid, of course, and both represent risk for the organization. If you lock him up ahead of time, you hope for value down the road at the risk of the player not reaching their projected performance. If you don’t, you sidestep the risk of an anchor contract, but at the risk that you may have to pay more if the player performs.¬†What I find interesting in all of this is that fans would internalize these two scenarios equally.

I think I’ve said before on this blog that if the Sens are not spending to the cap–even a cap rolled back in the CBA negotiations–then I don’t particularly care if Eugene Melnyk is getting great value for his money. A goal is no more enjoyable if the player scoring it is being paid less for doing so. At least not for me. The only scenario in which I care if an owner is getting value for his money is one in which he intends to spend as much as he is allowed, and the value of his contracts will help the team compete against other cap spenders. But this team, so laden as it is with over-performing rookies, entry-level contracts, and players like Michalek, Karlsson, Alfredsson and Anderson over-delivering value on their contracts, then it I certainly can’t get motivated to anger if a player gets paid because management didn’t have the foresight to predict his performance. If Turris ends up being worth, say $5MM, why would I, as a fan, care that the team has to spend that?

When we talk about the fan experience of watching a hockey game, one factor–money–is abstract, and doesn’t really impact how entertaining the game is. The other–term–isn’t abstract because we watch these players for the years of their contract. It seems logical to me that we should have a greater investment in the quality of the product on the ice than in the owner getting value for his money. These things are related, of course, but less so when you have a team spending so little in any case.

What should terrify fans more is term. If this 23 year old incurs an injury or mental block or simply fails to perform without the motivation of needing a contract for five more years, then it affects me as a fan.¬†Simply put, I’m stunned that this management was willing to give out a contract of that length after such a short audition. Erik Karlsson only got two more years than Turris.

Listen to Melnyk’s interviews and you don’t get the sense that this team is going through a temporary period of low-spending during a rebuild, to be followed, inevitably, by more spending to the cap. Something’s changed. Spending so much money only to have last year’s cheap-o team make the playoffs seems to have really gotten to Melnyk. Now, when he speaks about the team, he talks about it as if it inhabits a permanent state of small market spending, restraint, and patient prospect development. None of this is strange to me. What’s confusing is the attitude of fans (or at least those fans whose opinions I read online) who take some personal pride out of defending this billionaire’s cash. I’m not trying to troll here, Melnyk saved our team from bankruptcy after all. I’m trying to get at the tendency of armchair analysts like myself to look at every deal in terms of value for investment, even when the owner is openly saying he will spend less than he can on payroll and the league is in a bar room brawl over revenue sharing.

I like Turris (though I’ve been rough on the deal that brought him here), and he seems like a good depth player on a team that has a number of quality prospects coming up. And I hope that the team is seeing something in his off-season development that makes five years less of a risk than a one year, wait-and-see deal. But as of now, consider me perplexed.

2 thoughts on “Paying for potential as a sub-cap team: the fan experience

  1. Pingback: Senators News: September 4th | eyeonthesens

  2. The thing is, spending to the cap got us diddly.
    I’d rather The Euge spend as little as possible and see how the team develops. When it comes to big contracts, see if they are greedheads and want lots of money or if they’ll take LESS, a HOMETOWN DISCOUT of sorts to play for a team that will (should?) be a perennial contender.

    Spending less, “If it’s free it’s for me”, being cheap…all things I love in a friend/person and all things I adore in a business owner, especially if it’s the Senators that is that business.

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