Aug 252009
 

Unlike Richard, I don’t believe that Gillis is spending too much money on too few key pieces. (Hey, just because we write on the same site doesn’t mean we can’t have different opinions.) While I agree that the Sedins and Luongo (current contract and any future contract extension) take up more than one-third of the Canucks’ cap room, I don’t think this necessarily means that he has handcuffed himself financially, and a quick trip down the salary cap era memory lane proves this.

In the 2006/2007 season when the salary cap was at $44 million, the Anaheim Ducks won the Stanley Cup with 39% of their cap space dedicated to three players: Scott Niedermayer ($6.75 million), Chris Pronger ($6.25 million) and Jean-Sebastian Giguere ($3.99 million). Add Teemu Selanne ($3.75 million) and Andy Macdonald ($3.3 million) and that’s 55% of their cap space dedicated to five players. The other Stanley Cup finalist that year, the Ottawa Senators, had 36% of their cap space to three playes: Wade Redden ($6.5 million), Daniel Alfredsson ($4.677 million) and Dany Heatley ($4.5 million). Include Jason Spezza ($4.5 million) and Martin Gerber ($3.7 million) and that’s 54% of their cap space dedicated to five players.

In the 2007/2008 season when the salary cap was at $50.3 million, the Detroit Red Wings won the Stanley Cup with 40% of their cap space dedicated to three players: Nicklas Lidstrom ($7.6 million), Pavel Datsyuk ($6.7 million) and Brian Rafalski ($6 million). Add Dominik Hasek ($4.05 million) and Nicklas Kronwall ($3 million) and that’s 48% of their cap space dedicated to five players.

Likewise, when the salary cap was at $56.6 million last season, the Pittsburgh Penguins won the Stanley Cup with 33% of their cap space dedicated to three players: Sidney Crosby ($8.7 million), Sergei Gonchar ($5 million) and Marc-Andre Fleury ($5 million). Add Evgeni Malkin ($3.834 million) and Brooks Orpik ($3.75 million) and that’s 46% of their cap space dedicated to five players. The finalists, the Detroit Red Wings, had 38% dedicated to three players: Lidstrom ($7.45 million), Marian Hossa ($7.45 million) and Datsyuk ($6.7 million). Add Rafalski ($6 million) and that’s 49% dedicated to four players.

If you haven’t noticed yet, the three previous Stanley Cup winners and finalists all committed big money to a select few players.

This isn’t to say that Gillis’ game plan will guarantee a Stanley Cup to Vancouver, but it at least says it’s possible. However, what will ultimately determine the Canucks’ success are two things: 1) whether or not Gillis committed the money to the right players, and 2) whether or not he can surround those players with the proper surrounding cast.

With regards to the first point, I believe the Sedins and Luongo is as good a group of three players to start building a team around. The Sedins are generally acknowledged as top-20 players in the NHL and both are signed to reasonable cap hits of $6.1 million each. If Gillis hadn’t re-signed them, his alternatives would have been to either start a full-blown youth movement and promote the likes of Kesler, Burrows, Hodgson, Grabner and Schroeder to more prominent roles, or take his chances that he could’ve signed two marquee unrestricted free agents to replace the Sedins. The former would kill the Canucks’ chances of signing Luongo to a contract extension; in hindsight, the latter wouldn’t have been likely considering what the marquee free agents signed for. (Well, I suppose he could have signed any two of Gaborik, Havlat, Hossa, Cammalleri and Gionta during the free agency frenzy, but then the Canucks would still be in the same position cap-wise.)

IMHO, the second point is where Gillis made his biggest strides. Fans can criticize the Mats Sundin and Pavol Demitra signings all they want, but both helped provide the Canucks with a legitimate second scoring line. Other Gillis signings, Ryan Johnson, Kyle Wellwood, Steve Bernier, Shane O’Brien and Darcy Hordichuk all had noticeable contributions, unlike Byron Ritchie, Brad Isbister, Tommi Santala, etc. from previous years. (BTW, this isn’t necessarily a criticism of Dave Nonis, but I do want to point out the difference in supporting casts.) Gillis may have committed a large chunk of cap space to the Sedins and Luongo, but he’s also done a very good job of assembling a strong supporting cast with the space he had left.

Aug 222009
 

Gillis made clear upon his arrival to the franchise that he was a mover and a shaker, while I got the impression some of the things he said were almost a show for the media, other things he said, he’s stuck by.

Gillis has struggled to put his mark on the team, to make that one move that marks the Canucks as Gillis’ Canucks – yet. After suggesting to the media and the fans that he was coming in with a revolving door policy, he’s stayed quiet relative to what we’d come to expect, and now facing the restructuring of contracts, and architecture of the team round a salary cap, he’s handcuffing himself by trying to build a franchise around too many pieces.

In the salary cap era, the team’s that succeed are built around one super star. Gillis is trying to build a Canucks team around Luongo and the Sedins, something that financially is a stepping stone in the road to disappointment and disaster. While the Sedins are not labeled as superstars, they are amongst the league’s top tier of players, and well Luongo has a 30 foot posterization of himself at the NHL store, so I think that speaks for his superstar status.

Gillis has locked up the Sedins for 13 million dollars, and Luongo commands 7.5 in the last year of his contract, their total combined salary is 36% of the Canucks cap space. Gillis needs to pick who he want’s to build the franchise around. There’s no way he can build a contending team with 64% of the cap to spend on 20 players. He’s trying, and it’s left us in a situation that doesn’t have a bright side. We’re lacking a top 6 forward, and a top 4 defenseman, something you can’t do with only ~1.5 million dollars of cap space, after locking up 3 players to over a third of your allotted spending money.

If the Burrows experiment continues to be a success, Kesler picks up where he left off last year, Demitra actually earns his 4 million dollars, and Hodgson steps up like he’s expected to, and so do the rest of the bottom 6, the Canucks could have a shot at this. Oh yeah, and it also banks on Luongo not letting in 7 goals in the most important game of his career. There are a lot of intangibles going into this season that could, can and will define this year’s edition of the Vancouver Canucks. Gillis has one year to make this “work”. If it does “work”, then next year he’s in deep. If Hodgson pans out, Hodgson’s rookie bonuses will count towards a larger cap hit and with 3 players chewing up nearly 40% of the salary, Gillis better hope for a miracle if he wants to keep Ryan Kesler and Willie Mitchell around.

You can’t build a franchise around more than one star. When it comes down to the money it’s not possible to bring in a solid supporting cast on the budget he’s left himself. Gillis now has his hands tied because the Sedins have been inked for 5 years, and if he gives Luongo what Luongo wants he’s likely to command as much as he’s making this year if not more. He deserves it, he’s the best goalie in the league, but in a salary cap era, there’s no way you can afford the right supplementary and complementary players when you blow the bank on 3 guys. Gillis is banking on Luongo being a rock and playing year round, and in the playoffs the way he did against Dallas in his first playoff run, and he’s banking on the Sedins and Burrows to be godsend. I’m not buying it yet. I’ll believe it when I see it, but Gillis’ lack of action around signing Free Agents because he’s invested too much money in too many players has hindered the team in the long run. Gillis is is taking a gamble by banking on a young team built on a lot of ‘ifs’.

Jul 022009
 

The more I absorb the contracts handed out to this year’s group of unrestricted free agents, the more I appreciate the Sedins’ new contract. Committing a combined $61 million over the next 5 years to Henrik and Daniel isn’t peanuts, except when compared to some of the massive terms handed out to lesser players.

I’m glad Mike Gillis got this deal done. If the Sedins had walked, Gillis would have been faced with a complete rebuild of the Canucks’ top line. If it had come to that, his options would have been limited – he either has to anoint the likes of Ryan Kesler, Alex Burrows, Steve Bernier, Cody Hodgson and Michael Grabner as top line forwards, or dole out bigger money, bigger-term contracts to unrestricted free agents.

To be sure, look at some of the contracts handed out to potential Sedin replacements (all numbers via TSN): Michael Cammalleri – 5 years/$30 million, Brian Gionta – 5 years/$25 million, Marian Gaborik – 5 years/$37.5 million, Marian Hossa – 12 years/$62 million and Martin Havlat – 6 years/$30 million and Nik Antropov – 4 years/$16 million. These guys are good, but whether it’s their durability or consistency, each one has a question mark attached to them; on the other hand, the Sedins have proven since the lockout that they are both.

In the end, Gillis chose to dance with the devils he knew. Seeing now how much it would have cost him otherwise, it looks like he made the right choice.

Jul 012009
 

With the Sedins now locked up for another 5 years with a no-movement clause – a contract term that will take them to 14 years of service with the Vancouver Canucks – it may be time to start paying attention to where they stand among the franchise’s all-time leading scorers.

CANUCKS FRANCHISE LEADER IN POINTS

[Table=31]

CANUCKS FRANCHISE LEADER IN GOALS

[Table=32]

CANUCKS FRANCHISE LEADER IN ASSISTS

[Table=33]

In fact, the Sedins only need to average 60 points per season for the next 5 seasons to catch up to Markus Naslund as the franchise’s all-time leading scorer. Considering both have been almost point-per-game players since the lockout – Henrik has averaged 0.96 P/G and Daniel has averaged 0.95 P/G – that’s not much of a stretch. (*knock on wood*)

Henrik is 64 assists shy of Trevor Linden’s franchise-high 415 career assists. For what it’s worth, Henrik has averaged 64 assists/season in the last 3 seasons; it’s certainly possible for him to catch up to Trevor this season.

Daniel has his work cut out for him to catch up to Markus Naslund’s franchise-high 346 career goals. He’s 165 goals back, and thus would need to average 33 goals in each of the next 5 seasons to catch to him during the term of this contract. What is probably more within reach is the franchise-lead in powerplay goals scored (Daniel has 67 PPG, Markus’ franchise mark is 114), game-winning goals (Daniel has 36 GWG, Markus’ franchise mark is 49), and overtime goals (Daniel has 7 OT goals, Brendan Morrison’s franchise mark is 9).

Rightly or wrongly, I know Canucks fans have had a hard time accepting the Sedins as elite-level players. I wonder if this changes if they catch up to – and surpass – Markus’, Trevor’s and the Steamer’s franchise records.

Jul 012009
 

In what has been an up and down drama all week Canucks fans can rest easy for the rest of the day. The tough work is done for now. After the Sedin’s accepted a 5 year 30.5 million dollar offer to come back as Canucks the collective remainder of Canuck nation heaved a giant sigh heard echoing through downtown.

The Sedins had originally wanted a 12 year deal and it looks like Gillis won on that front getting them to stick to a 5 year deal. The cost was a larger cap hit which borders my comfort level with what I thought they should have gotten, but the bottom line is that without them the Canucks would have had a harder time replacing them.

This means the rebuild is still a few years away. Gillis has managed to keep the core intact at a relatively cost effective cap hit. The Sedins can only get better and if they improve upon their 82 point seasons and break the 90 point barrier, this deal is going to look genius. Gillis has already started to put a stamp on this team and I have a feeling we’re one big dip into free agency away from seeing what the Mike Gillis Canucks really look like.

What this all means is the Canucks now have approximately $9.5 million dollars in cap space to play around, based on the assumption Corey Schneider and his 1.084 million in the last year of his contract. The Canucks still need a top 6 forward and a top 4 defenseman at the top of their list. Burrows was a great triplet for the Twins next year, but they need someone else, and the void left by Ohlund is a bit bigger than anyone thinks.

Jun 302009
 

If Jack Bauer can save the world in 24 hours, surely Mike Gillis and the Sedins can compromise on a contract extension in the same time frame.

Right?

Some of the negotiation details that were leaked out in the past week are sketchy, but I’ll try my best to sift through them and determine where Gillis and the Sedins can compromise.

So what does this all mean?

Assuming the first 5 years of the Sedins’ contract proposal is evenly distributed, this works out to $8.6 million per season during the first part of that contract. Because of the way the current CBA works, the contract amounts cannot be lowered by more than $4.3 million from year to year. With $21 million due in the last 7 years of the contract, it’s possible it was structured so that the Sedins are due $5 million in year 6, $3 million in years 7 to 11, and $1 million in year 12. If they intend to retire by, say, age 36 (year 7 of the contract), then perhaps they are in actuality looking at a contract worth around $50 million over 7 years – an annual salary close to their market value and at a term that will take them to retirement (with the remaining years tacked on to get to Gillis’ ideal cap hit). From here, it’s easier to see the difference between the Sedins and Gillis’ original position of $27.5 million over 5 years ($5.5 million per season).

I know I used a lot of assumptions in this post, but the logic would remain the same regadless. If the gap between the two parties is $22.5 million in real dollars and an extra 2 years in term, can they bridge it before tomorrow? Are they willing to split the difference? Is $40 million over 7 years enough to get it done?

The clock is ticking.

Jun 282009
 

Since hearing the news first break about the Sedins wanting a mammoth 12 year contract for $63 million each, there’s been little news of legitimate progress along those lines, or against them. I was recently discussing with Tyler of NHL Digest the value the Sedins have and how to measure their worth.

Lets break it down then. They’re 82 point player. They’re point per game players during the regular and post season. For arguments sake lets look at players that get points in a +/- 4 point range from their 82 points.

86 – Joe Thronton
84 – Jeff Carter
82 – Mike Cammalleri
80 – Martin St. Louis
80 – Mike Richards
79 – Rick Nash
79 – Alexander Semin
78 – Patrik Elias
78 – Mike Ribeiro

Of those players who you could be potential replacements, only Mike Cammalleri is a free agent, and one player can’t replace the two of them. So let’s look at their salaries.

7.2 million – Joe Thronton
5 million – Jeff Carter
5.25 million – Martin St. Louis
5.75 million – Mike Richards
5.4 million – Rick Nash
4.6 million – Alexander Semin
6 million – Patrik Elias
5 million – Mike Ribeiro

The Sedins are asking for 5.25. The average salary of all the players that scored around the same number of points as them comes to 5.52 million a year. When it comes to salary, the Sedins are giving the Canucks a deal.

The reality is, when it comes to the Sedins you’re paying for an intangible. The chemistry the Sedins have between themselves is something you can’t quantify. They are nothing without each other, or certainly much less. Even if you brought in two of the above mentioned point per game players, there’s no guarantee that there will be any chemistry between them, and at the end of the day, they performed the way they did because they had a chemistry with specific team mates. You can’t create chemistry on a whim, you can’t force it.

Only 12 players (including the Sedins) have scored 70 points a season since the lockout, including Ovechkin, Crosby, Kovalchuk, and Datsyuk. The Sedins aren’t asking for salaries like Ovechkin, or even near what Crosby makes. The Sedins are giving the Canucks what can only be called the home town discount.

The Sedins prove to be a consistent offensive presence, and are never a defensive liability. Perhaps the most telling stat is that in the 8 seasons the twins have played for the Canucks – they have missed a combined 24 games.

The Sedins have only known one NHL team in their career, and if they test the free agent waters, they are going to command at least 7 million dollars. If Gillis is playing chicken with JP Barry, or is thinking of passing on this dynamic duo, he better have a pair of aces up his sleeves or he’s going to be hard pressed to find someone to replace their scoring and point getting on a team that consistently hears fans complaining about a lack of scoring. I know the price is right, and the length is wrong, but Gillis needs to find some way to compromise on this issue because he’s going to be losing a lot if he wastes this opportunity.

Jun 182009
 

As the July first deadline draws closer, Canucks fans everywhere, yours truly included, have been wondering what’s going to happen to the Sedins. It’s arguable that for a while now they’ve been the backbone of the franchise and without them we wouldnt be able to compete. They are our top point getters and co-lead the team this season with 82 points a piece in the regular season, and 10 points a piece in the post season.

We finally get some insight into what they want as a Swedish newspaper is reporting that if the Canucks want to keep the twins they’re going to have to step up for a $63 million dollar 12 year deal that’s front loaded similar to Ovechkin and Zetterberg’s longterm contracts.

Firstly, these long contracts are all part of a “loophole” in the CBA where if a player should choose to retire at the age of 35, the remaining years in his contract don’t count as a cap hit, and so the Sedins, after 6 years, could choose to leave the team and retire from the NHL and now have a portion of their intended salary affect the team.

So they want $63 million each. That doesnt fly with me. It’s not the price that’s wrong, the price is great. Both Sedins at 5 mill a piece on average (obviously with front loaded deals) is a steal. It’s the 12 years that’s irking me. Signing the Sedins for that much for 3-5 years would make sense. Gillis offered them 5 years, they want 12. My feeling is they’ll meet in the middle, somewhere between 7-9 years. (IF Gillis does decide to keep them)

The Sedins are FIRST LINE PLAYERS, they are not FRANCHISE PLAYERS. It would be great to see them play their entire career here. It really would, it’s rare thing to see in this day and age of the NHL. I think the Sedins are a vital part of this organization at this point in time, and I would hate to see them go, but I don’t think i want to be handcuffed by a 12 year contract and for that reason I would drive them to the airport myself. The price is right, the time is wrong. At a 5 million dollar cap hit per year you wont find any other Point Per Game players. But I just can’t settle on the length. After 5 years it just become a headache for the team, and Gillis if he’s around that long.

Gillis has yet to put his stamp on this organization. What better way than to dump the Sedins, and build in a new direction. Perhaps around Kesler and Luongo, bring in Gaborik to play with Kesler and Burrows? Just saying.

Jun 132009
 

So, it’s been a while, eh? This lovely summer weather hit and I turned into a total blogger slacker. I do apologize my lovelies.

- The Penguins win last night delighted me. There’s a lot of guys I like individually on the Wings but I just wanted it more for the Penguins. Tangers made me weep when he mentioned Luc Bourdon and winning it with him. That is why I wanted the Penguins to pull it off. Geno Malkin was ALL KINDS of adorable in his post game interview. Oh the broken English “Big day…my life…my friends happy…I happy” Ahhhhh. So precious. I want to skip down the street arm and arm with him and have him sing me songs. Max Talbot is a folk hero and I assume he is locked up long term in Pittsburgh but damn. He and Burrows would make one sexy, charming, French Canadian sammich. Next time I’m near a fountain I’m going to wish that so hard.

- Should we talk some Swedins? Lately I’ve been calling them the soft peepers thanks to a blog friend of mine. I kind of like it. It’s pretty cute. Now, if they want 7 million, I say that’s too much cabbage. We’ll have to say hejda (that’s goodbye in Swedish). But if it’s for less than 7 let’s get it done. We need those two crazy kids. With their complexions, they wouldn’t do well in Tampa or LA or other steamy locales. I think for their skins sakes they should stay in Vancouver. Just to do our part, we should try to do everything we can to get them to sign.

Write them haikus. If they were in Swedish and scented to give a little something extra that would be even better.

Send them for massages at the Swedish Touch Massage parlour. Offer to drive the bus. Also, spring a surprise stop at IKEA for meatballs and affordable furniture. If you are at all mechanical offer to put their newly purchased affordable furniture together for them.

Buy apples and carrots for their racehorses. Oh and suger cubes. Horses love that shit.

Wash their volvos.

- The poor little Moosies were eliminated last night. Don’t worry little babies, you’re still totally rad and got further than your parent team did by a long shot. Heh. There’s always next year. Those Bears will…go into hibernation next time.

- Rumour on the street is that the Canucks have signed Sergei Shirokov and he may be coming over for training camp in the fall. Oooooh. We haven’t had a Russian in a while. I always love when the Canucks get more international. This hasn’t been confirmed so we’ll just have to wait and see but there could be some fun competition at camp. Cody Hodgson will be putting shaving cream in Michael Grabner’s skates and Grabby will be shrinking Sergei Shirokov’s sweater. Heh.

- I’m going to be at the draft in Montreal and it will be an epically good time. There will be tons of cooing over the Canucks draft picks and lots of schenanigans around Montreal. If you hear of a girl getting arrested for dancing on a table with underage defence draft picks, it’s most likely me. Send bail money if you’re so inclined.

- There’s only 110 days until the regular season starts! The Canucks will be making us cry and hit the bottle in no time at all.

Jun 122009
 

In talking about the Sedins’ contract extension talks this morning, Jason Botchford (Vancouver Province) mentioned something interesting:

The Canucks’ bargaining strategy hinges on two things: The belief the twins were honest when they said they are willing to take less to stay in Vancouver, and the fact Gillis is willing to walk away.

Without a deal nearing the middle of June, it’s clear Gillis believes life can go on without the twins. He wouldn’t have let it go this long if he didn’t believe he can reload without the Sedins.

It’s neither ideal nor his first choice. Both the trade market and the free-agent market are rife with landmines — bloated contracts and question marks. Yet Gillis is willing to take a calculated risk he can quickly rebuild this team without the twins.

It’s a strategy which has worked in another sport. In New England, the NFL’s Patriots have established themselves as the most successful team in sports since the advent of the salary cap. They’ve done it because they were willing to say goodbye to stars when the money didn’t make sense. When the demands got too much they kissed-off key players like Ty Law, Lawyer Milloy, Deion Branch, Adam Vinatieri and Ben Coates. The Pats didn’t miss a beat.

This is something that’s briefly crossed my mind before – letting marquee free agents walk away for nothing – though to be honest, it’s not anything I’ve given any serious thought to. Especially for a team like the Canucks, whose prospect pool is limited, letting assets leave – especially two of their best ones – without getting anything in return can be crippling.

Mike Gillis took a big gamble with the Sedins this year by not trading them at the trade deadline even without having an extension for them already in place. If he had, however, then what message does it send to Canucks fans? Or to Luongo, who’ll be in the same position next season? Gillis felt – as did most of us – that his team had its best chance to win with the Sedins in the lineup instead of, say, a couple of young players and a couple of draft picks for next year. It’s the same gamble St. Louis took by hanging on to Keith Tkachuk. Ditto Minnesota and Marian Gaborik, Montreal and Saku Koivu, and Anaheim and Scott Niedermayer. The hope, of course, is that these players all re-sign and their respective teams retain their assets.

Botchford’s piece made me think about this differently. In a salary cap world, cap space is as much an asset as players, prospects and draft picks. Much like the Red Wings let Mathieu Schneider walk away a few years ago, and then signed Brian Rafalski. Closer to home, it’s like letting Markus Naslund and Brendan Morrison walk away last season, and using then using the cap space to sign Pavol Demitra and Mats Sundin.

It’s true that free agency is a gamble and I’d never aim to build my team by bidding on players. But given the choice of overpaying players or using cap space more effectively and wisely, I’d opt for the latter. The Sedins may be good value at, say, $6 million per season (combined $12 million), but if they insist on $7 million ($14 million combined), are the Canucks overpaying them and can they spend that $14 million more effectively somewhere else? To put it another way, is $14 million better spent on Henrik and Daniel, or Mike Cammalleri and Marian Hossa, or Hossa and Marian Gaborik, or Hossa and Jay Bouwmeester, or… well, you get the drift.

It’s not good to lose your best players to free agency – and I’m not suggesting the Canucks should let the Sedins go – but if the alternative is to hand out bad, big contracts and handicap your team for years to come, maybe it’s not so bad after all.

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