My half-hearted attempt at finding an image that represents “Rebuild.”
James to Conrad, Peter
Welcome to this email.
So I noticed that we have settled into a groove of unbelievable(ly long) post game recaps. It seems like it was only a month ago (ed note: it was) when we we were dealing with abstract concepts in our postings (there was no hockey then). Hey, I’m happy we don’t have to use our thinking caps as much as we did in the summer, but let’s get knee-deep in some NHL psychedelics!
You know all this Kovalev has got me Kovaleving about Kovalev lately (Kovalev).
On my way into work (the CCFR headquarters) these guys on the radio were talking to a turtle man about Kovalev, blah di blah, it came up about how his contract is up this year (doi). Now, no doubt, next year will mark a new era for Kovalev himself: The Alexei Kovalev Rides the Train From Minsk to Omsk for a Road Game Era.
With Kovalev and some others coming off the books next year, barring any re-signings, the Senators are going to be open to over 10 million dollareedoos of cap space!
I think people have been having visions of the 2011 off season dancing in their heads since as far back as last season’s Post Heatley World (or the Cheechoo Being On the Team/Leclaire Literally Breaking His Face Era). I’ve had a look at the upcoming free agent crop and there are some gravy boats. Brad Richards being the #1 Jade Monkey Skull, but would likely require the moving of the somehow cheaper Jason Spezza. That is unless of course we want to be on some wild Pittsburgh Penguins centre position strength. Tomas Vokoun* strikes me as having the most interesting potential as he is human man who plays goaltender and is generally respected as effective at his job (are these qualities too good to be true!?).
This has got me thinking. All told, the past couple seasons have been have seen a star (who I hope juuust stubbed his toe) leave town, 19 coaches, a playoff miss and an injury-riddled first round exit all the while in goalie hell. Heatley’s exit was hastily patched up with Kovalev’s signing. (These glam shots outside the arena aren’t going to replace themselves!) The question on my mind is, will we look back on this time in a few years as “The Alex Kovalev Era” characterized by a certain lack of consistency but enough success to hold off a full scale change of plans? This isn’t meant to sound super negative. I just don’t think we have all the pieces right now. A few fixes and I think the Sens could be worlds better. So, what if the Sens do end up landing Vokoun and maybe a solid presence on D and the team stabilizes in a positive way? Will it be like a lesser version of the Jaromir Jagr era for Washington Capitals fans where you think back going “ugh, remember those days of frustrating softies and our Upper Canada Village-crafted scoreboard?” I don’t know guys…what do you think? my heart is racing. I think I have to stare at my Gary Bettman blacklight poster and come down a little off these psychedelic visions.
*Who, all due respect, I hope gets lit up tonight.
Conrad to James, Peter
I think back to Sens teams of yore and have epiphanies like, “Holy shit, remember when Peter Bondra was on this team?” (Or Hasek?) Kovalev might be a personality on an order with those dudes, but ultimately I hope that when we look back we just have a general concensus that signing aging free agents to expensive deals (or, in Bondra’s case, trading assets for them) doesn’t usually work out. The way of the NHL ninja is now defined by the cheap, young player. I’d gladly pass up the fading superstar for a chance to draft, say, TJ Oshie.
I think the Sens have a serious case of the economic mopesies when it comes to team-building. I maintain that next year is the perfect time to rebuild (you do it when your salary expenditures are low, rather than tanking while paying out to the cap, i.e. Edmonton). Unfortunately, this team, and this owner, will insist on competing – and who can blame them, really, for not wanting to sign on for five straight years of losses followed by five years of rebuilding one’s credibility with a fickle fan base?
The problem, ultimately, is that the choice is not between signing a big free agent or rebuilding. It’s that the Sens can’t compete with the Philadelphias and Torontos and New Yorks and LAs when it comes to playing the UFA market. Those cities sort of sell themselves. We had to overpay for Kovalev, and for Gonchar, in years and money. So what would we have to pay for, say, an Alex Semin? $20 billion over five years? Those kinds of decisions can cripple a franchise for half a decade. Or, in the case of New Jersey, two decades.
The way for small market teams to compete is by drafting well and holding on to their assets. Which also happens to be Murray’s strengths (giving away two 2nd rounders last year notwithstanding). I think we’ll look back on this era of Sens hockey and think wow, does that window ever slam shut on you. You could argue that it closed on Chicago the day after they won the cup. The Pens haven’t been the same force since they won two years ago. But Ottawa can’t spend themselves back into contention. We’re not trying to compete with the Atlantas of the league, but the Washingtons.
Which isn’t to say that if they go the free agent route that there aren’t some interesting options. First, I’d like to point out that while Kovalev and Leclaire being pushed out on an ice floe alone will net $10M in cap space, if this team really wanted to reshape its image it could also decline to re-sign (glove doesn’t fit, you must acquit!) Phillips, Ruutu and Shannon, which means almost $15M in cap space. That’s a one-year rebuild on order with what Montreal did last year, if that’s the way we go. (Keeping in mind that Ottawa is no Montreal to live in. We aren’t coaxing this year’s Cammalleri on the strength of our nightlife.) At the time, I thought Gainey was on some psychedelics of his own. Seems to have worked out, short term.
Richards would be a great pickup, especially if he’s signed longterm for (relatively) cheap. I’d sign him to Havlat’s deal (6 years, $30M) in a heartbeat. I also don’t think this would be dependent on shipping out Spezza, and would give us a 1-and-1A combination down the middle. Vokoun is legit, having played his brains out for two mediocre teams. Why not a third? Target these two, that’s most of the cap space gone.
Speaking of psychedelic, it’s absolutely weird to think about Sens hockey without Alfie. When Spezza is out with an injury we all think “Oh well, Fisher’s not really a first line center, but Go Fisher Go!” When there’s no Alfie are we going to say the same thing about…uh….Foligno? Thinking about letting Phillips walk is similarly weird, but hey: is this a new era or isn’t it?
Peter to Conrad, James
Very interesting take. I’m going to make an argument for overpayment. Back up the Brinks truck! The cap system is there and it’s obvious GMs are still trying to figure out how to use it. Rebuild via the draft when it’s obvious that GM’s don’t need to be helped out of their own messes.
Basically we need to decide if the splashy free agent route is going to work or do we address what we need via smaller moves. We still need to overpay, but what about not overpaying for superstars? What if we doled out a reasonable amount of extra cash to younger guys?
I think there are a couple of very palatable free agents next offseason we could make a run at who could offset our current weaknesses. I’d love to be able to put out a first line with more scoring punch, but who wouldn’t? So, here’s my list of a few under-the-radar free agents I think this team could use. (in order of cost) All of these dudes make less than Alex Kovalev and even with raises they still wouldn’t obtain that lofty bank balance:
Justin Williams LAK
David Backes STL
Matt Moulson NYI
Ville Leino PHI
Kevin Bieksa VAN
Christian Erhoff VAN
Steve Eminger NYR
Jeff Woywitka DAL
Not too many low profile guys here that I’d take a chance on, especially untill we know what’s going to be done with Lehner. Maybe if a tender was the number one priority above all others, then take a stab at landing Bryzgalov? (Yeah I know he didn’t look that great on Tuesday.)
All of these guys are due for raises anyways. Maybe call a GM’s bluff? I’m not saying we could get all of them of course but add a 50 point guy like Williams (injury history though) or Moulson and then Bieksa on the back end. Seems like it would be a much better team.
All this in support of the forget Brad Richards argument. Really after him and Semin, there are very few first line guys anyways.
What do the readers think? Who do we go after? Or do we rebuild?
The CCFR After Hours: Bonus Unrated Content
James to Conrad, Peter
I know we posted already but me still got stuffs 2 saii.
I think your point of the NHL Ninja being cheap, dirty and young has a lot of merit. I don’t, however, know if this is completely true. Cherry-picking a few successful teams of lasteryear are a bit of a hybrid of the old way and the new cap way of building a team.
Phillidelphia, sure, James vanReimsdyk, Aaron Asham, Leighton made their presences known through the playoffs but this is also a team that signed huge and old fish Pronger to a retirement contract – he was undeniable for them. Also starring in that post season run was Mike Richards, Jeff Carter, Dany Briere, Kimmo Timmonen. Montreal is an even more freaky version of this ie. Bob Gainey’s island of misfit UFAs Canadiens. Sure cheap-o lateround pick Halak bailed them out, but high-priced acquisition Cammellerri scored in almost every game and Gill was amazing and also helped get them to the conference finals. Sure neither won the cup ultimately but if a smart free agent signing here and there can get a deep playoff run? I’d be on board for those kinds of rides again.
On the subject young, cheap winners, I wouldn’t really call the 2008 Penguins a cheap team what with their $6M goalie, Bill Gueren signing at the deadline etc …and in Chicago I do recall people – myself probably in there – laughing at them picking up perennial jinx Marian Hossa…and dude was and continues to be phenomenal for them. I mean, take this with a grain of Kovalchuk – who I have in my fucking pool by the way – but I’m just saying, I think Duncan Keith and Seabrook were more the differance than Neimi. (No one will argue me that I dont think.)
I also think we do have a lot of cheap players… Karlsson, Elliot, Regin, Foligno etc. and a few good prospects on the way. Sure some players are pricey – like our entire third line, but it is also our best line. Fisher is a tough call…he’s pricey but he’s glue. Alfie WILL be gone one day…he is our Datsyuk. More cap rare than the Jade Monkey skull. I expect management to replace him with someone great. Alexander Radulov great!
In Ottawa we have definitely been twice bitten by the ghost of FA signings past (Hasek); believe me I want Bobby Butler to emerge as an elite 1st line right winger because as of now ours is 37 and took a hometown(?) discount (not happening again)… but it still can be a difference maker for many teams. New Jersey stinks now but Philidelphia did too at this time last year. You never know if they can still pour on the Lou’s Memories of Kovalchuk, Parise, Langenbrunner, Volchenkov and Brodeur sauce.
ps. I dont really follow basketball but you know we were all rooting against the Heat for the very reasons I’m defending.