Tomorrow is July 1st. The day Unrestricted Free Agents (UFAs) sit by the phone waiting for their agent to receive offer from teams across the NHL. Will that big money contract that has been sought after while grinding out your first two be on the table? Will you get the offer from the team you want to play for but it be below market value? Will the dollars and the team match? And if the offers don’t meet your perceived value, do you go to the KHL? So many questions that come from play off the ice.
If you are a General Manager like Don Maloney (GMDM) you have two things that are coveted across the league. Dollars and options. The Coyotes are over 15 million dollars from reaching the salary cap floor. Meaning, you can go out and get two players for 5 million per year and one for 4 million and still have money left over before you hit the lowest amount a team can spend per the Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA). The CBA is in effect now but will expire in September. Therefore, a team must abide by the agreement and spend to the floor and not exceed the cap (over 70 million per year per team). The other thing GMDM has for him is options. Several players are coming off big dollar contracts (UFAs) meaning you can try to resign them but at their true value and not their previous contract value. It also means you can negotiate across the league to bring in a player who meets the team chemistry, can be plugged into your system, and can fill a hole in your lineup. Think of how the Coyotes brought in Boyd Gordon to replace the departed Vern Fiddler.
When free agency opens tomorrow (I thought Sunday was the day of rest?) three things are going on with the brain trust of your team. 1) Resign your top players that you want to keep, 2) make your offers to players you want to bring in, and 3) determine if one your UFAs has received a competitive offer, do you match it? This week several contract details have been released even though they could not be signed until tomorrow, we have a baseline on which player value has been determined.
- Shane Doan. 35 years old, 6’1″ 223 lb right handed shooting right wing who is a horse of a man. Shane is one of the hardest working players on and off the ice. His conditioning is insane. He punishes opposing players on the ice, fights, and has a wicked knee drop snipe that wins game in OT. Finally scoring a hat trick this past season, he led the league in forwards without a hat trick and 2 goal games. He is a team leader and NHL leader. Winner of the 2012 Mark Messier Award for leadership, he won the King Clancy award previously. Shane is a leader in charity off the ice, the face of the franchise, and the ultimate role model. Shane was the 7th overall pick of the 1995 draft and has only played for this franchise. 11 seasons of at least 20 goals a season, he led the team in goals and points (20G, 40A) in 2010-2011 and tallied 22G and 28A in 2011-2012. 1198 career games, 788 career points. Shane is coming off a contract that paid him 4.55M per season. Shane has said he wants to finish his career in Phoenix. His children only know Phoenix as a home, he has Ice Barns here. Shane is an asset to the community and Phoenix Coyotes hockey. He has said he will test the free agent waters due to ownership issues. However, the City of Glendale won it’s court battle with Goldwater, allowing it to award the services contract for Jobing.com management and ownership to Greg Jamison. The NHL wants to sell the team to Greg Jamison. Banks were hesitant to lend the money to Jamison until it was assured Glendale would pay &17M per season toward the Coyotes. What should GMDM do? Back up the Brinks truck and tell Shane to take what he needs. My starting offer would be 6M per year for 4 years. The community and team needs Shane and he cannot be allowed to slip away over a few hundred thousand per year. Move over Steve Austin, we have a new Six Million Dollar Man
- Daymond Landkow. 35 yrs old, #5 pick of the 1995 draft. 5’10″ 181 lbs left handed Center. For Daymond to stay here, he would have to take a major hometown discount. Currently a UFA, he was receiving 4.5M per on his previous contract. 11G 19A last season. Was averaging 25G and 30A until 78 games due to a neck injury (hit with a slapper at the cervical region of his spine). Seems to have no ill effect after playing a physical season for the Coyotes. Took time off to deal with the death of his mother, came back focused and was one of the better players in the playoff run for the Coyotes. I’m thinking 3M per season for 2. Bonus for playoffs.
- Taylor Pyatt. The 30 year old pride of Thunder Bay, Ontario is a 6-4″ left handed left wing who was the 8th overall pick of the 1999 draft. Averaging 10 goals a season for the Buffalo Sabres, his offensive production soared when he got to Vancouver and had linemates known as the Sedin twins. Personal tragedy befell him and he needed a change of scenery. The Coyotes were able to get him at a discounted price where he has averaged 13 goals and 11 assists the past three years. In the 2012 Stanley Cup playoffs, his big, physical play made him one of the standout players for the Coyotes. He digs the puck out of the corners, goes to the net, and has good hands. Taylor can play the penalty kill and has found a home on the 3rd line with Boyd Gordon. He has deceptive speed and great vision on the ice. Similar production players such as Travis Moen received 1.85M. Offer Taylor 8.0M over 4 years. He has been healthy and a good lockerroom player. He is quiet off the ice and not in trouble. Don’t even get started on the value of his eyes.
- Ray Whitney. The Wizard is a 40 year old playmaker who uses his hockey sense and vision to create plays for himself and others. At 5’10″ and 180lbs, the right handed left wing is the last player left in the NHL who was part of the San Jose Sharks. Ray is also one of 79 who have joined the 1000 point club. Playing with Radim Vrbata and Martin Hanzal, the Production Line led the team in scoring, assists, and power play goals. Plus, this line played against the top offensive line of the opponent. Not only were they to shut down the other team, they were assigned the task of scoring. Ray has averaged 20+ goals a season and 40+ assists the past 14 seasons. Ray has said he was tired of teams using his age against him when it came to contract length and would go to whomever offered the best contract for him. He has no intention of retiring in the Phoenix area, he has stated Carolina is where he plans to sit on the rocking chair and sip lemonade. So you are the Coyotes, what do you do? After paying Shane, Daymond, Taylor, you have almost 4 million dollars to spend before you hit the salary cap floor. Do you take a chance that at his age and give him the money his production deserves? Do you wait and let him field an offer from the Rangers or Nashville? No, you pay the man. He has produces his entire career and not had a bad year in the past 10 season. Offer him 4M a season for 2 years. You are giving him the money he wants but only 2 years when he is seeking three. It will be easier for him to cash the larger paycheck now than worry about what do to at age 42.
In conclusion, I’m offering contracts with significant raises to Shane, Taylor, and Ray. I’m offering fair market value to Daymond knowing that he has a home here and hoping he takes a hometown discount. I’ve added 15 million to the payroll knowing I was 15.3M from reaching the floor. Greg Jamison better have deep pockets.
Restricted free agents (RFAs) are not built into this picture as there have been little to no action on them being poached by rival teams across the league. It seems the GM’s are not willing to give up a draft pick as compensation for taking a player coming off their rookie contract. They will be discussed in a separate post as we find out the teams that have not tendered a qualifying offer to the player. If the qualifying offer is tendered, the player will usually not change teams as they are the property of their original team and cost the new team the player contract as well as some money and draft pick to the original pick. I’ll write about the RFAs not extended qualifying offers later.