Waking from hibernation

July 24, 2006

For the last few days, I’ve been lamenting the fact that I have not been updating regularly during the off-season. So many others are doing well at keeping up on the current events, but I just couldn’t find the topic that encouraged my brain to write something that all three of you would care to read. Now, I’ve got it. Before we get to the main course, here are the appetizers that have been simmering for days.

Pascal Leclaire is signed by CBJ to two-year deal. EOB brief reaction: The team has put up the money, now it’s up to Pazzy to put up the numbers.

Jason Chimera and the Blue Jackets avoided arbitration and agreed to a two-year term. EOB brief reaction: The third line gets to keep its offense.

Nikolai Zherdev and the Blue Jackets are having difficulty coming to terms on contract length. As an “insurance measure,” Zherdev has signed with a Russian hockey club in case a deal cannot be worked out prior to the season starting. EOB brief reaction: The team needs to get this deal done. We have no replacements available to fit on one of the top two lines at this time. Bite the bullet, and give the Puck Wizherd his three years. The team cannot afford to lose any offense.

– The Islanders are battling for the title of “Worst Run Franchise in the New York City Metropolitan Area (and thus all of sports).” Just a month past hiring Neil Smith to be his GM and Pat Lafontaine to be a high level advisor, owner Charles Wang fired Smith and hired backup goalie Garth Snow to be the new GM (Jaw-Dropping Personnel Move of the Year nominee), which prompted Lafontaine to come to the realization that maybe this wasn’t the place for him. Islanders fans and new coach Ted Nolan have to be crying themselves to sleep at night. EOB brief reaction: I’m utterly fascinated to see how Wang’s “business model” works out. Also, as bad as MacLean may be, I’m glad I don’t pull for the Islanders.

And now the issue that woke me up from my more-than-week-long slumber. Forward Daniel Briere was awarded a one year contract worth $5 million in arbitration. The EOB offices have run the complete range of opinions on this one.

The first reaction was disbelief. EOB staffers do not follow the Eastern Conference as much as they should (lack of NHL’s Center Ice package, hint hint Mrs. EOB!). I saw him perform admirably in this year’s playoffs, but haven’t heard much on Briere outside of that. For him to be making $5M seemed a little outrageous to me.

Curiosity followed disbelief. I remember reading a while back that Martin Havlat’s $6M deal with Chicago was going to be a benchmark for some other contracts this summer. So I decided to do a little research. It’s been reported that the contracts signed by Havlat, Marion Gaborik, and Alex Tanguay were used as benchmarks for Briere’s arbitration case. I crunched some basic numbers, and the arbitration award made a little more sense.

All four players have comparable career point per game numbers (AT-0.89, MH-0.79, MG-0.76, DB-0.70) and three of the four outpaced their career point per game averages in the 2005-06 season (Havlat did as well, but only played 18 games for a fairly insignificant sample size). Translated into GM speak, this means that all four are due a healthy raise. Since GM’s continue to pay for past performance instead of future expectations, Havlat, Tanguay, and Gaborik were all able to secure nice contracts.

The funny thing about the UFA/RFA market is that many GM’s trip over their own feet to give huge sums of money to players. Yet when one of their own players (whom they would be aggressively pursuing on the UFA market) is eligible for arbitration, they will sit on the other side of the fence and come up with any and every reason why they should not give that player their market value (a market value which they likely helped create by overpaying for other talent).

I’m likely to believe that most cases that go to arbitration involve players who probably won’t be on their original team when the next season starts. I wonder if I have the energy and time to track this (or if anyone knows anything more than anecdotal evidence)? If I were a GM and I really wanted to make sure I continued a healthy relationship with my players, I’d probably secure contracts prior to arbitration. But that’s just me. These cases will be messy for at least one, if not both sides.

In conclusion, I think Briere got a fair deal considering what had already transpired with the benchmark cases. I think the most likely scenario involves a sign and trade type deal, with Briere being shipped out of the division. I wonder if the Red Wings could take Briere and Biron, and what they’d have to give up? Any thoughts from the A2Y corner?

Who knows if I’m back to writing on a more regular basis. I’ve been toying with the idea of incorporating more statistical analysis into my posts, but I’m having a hard time figuring out exactly what I want to examine. In any event, thanks for stopping by. See you soon at the End of the Bench.


  1. Old people HIBERNATE. :-p

    I am so kidding, man. Good to see you back with a new entry. I’m still a little shellshocked over what the Hell happened over in Long Island with Wong, Smith, and pretty much every other upper level member of the Islanders.

    It’s frustrating that Zherdev is playing games with MacLean, too, isn’t it? Someone at LGW speculated that Zherdev may just be trying to get a scare out of MacLean and that he’s just bluffing, since it took Hell and back to get him out of Russia in the first place and he wouldn’t go back over a piddly contract dispute.

    Then again, Kovalchuk almost went back last season, so you never know what to think, and taking chances isn’t exactly something ol’ MacLean should do with Zherdev.

  2. Drew: I’d give the chances of a Wing B and B sign/trade/deal of any sort is unlikely given Kenny Holland’s failed Summer of Ken. He hasn’t been heard from in two weeks. Most likely he’s been in the fetal position since Shanny walked.

  3. It’s not too late for the Wings and Crazy Eddie connection, is it?

  4. I think all four of them are overpaid. The abundance of players who are signing contracts for 6 million or more is astounding.

    Just be happy your team is somewhat sane with salaries. I don’t know why MacLean doesn’t want to give Zherdev a long term deal unless he’s just asking for way too much money.

    Given his stats, he probably should be given around 2.2 million per year – rough equivalent of Michael Ryder. Who knows what he’ll get?

  5. I’d be shocked if Z gets $2.2M per. But it would be a good shocked, because a deal needs to be done.

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