After the Black Friday of FA comes paying the bills of reality – Pittsburgh Penguins – PenguinPoop Blog

After the Black Friday of FA comes paying the bills of reality

Let me first say thanks to Rick and Phil for inviting me to write here on PenguinPoop. Hopefully, when I do contribute, I can at least maintain the quality of what they have always brought us.

Rick Buker recently called July 1st the “Black Friday” of free agency. Rick, I think that was a pretty accurate allusion. As I read that little quip of yours I could see GMs pushing, shoving, and elbowing each other in the frenzy of desperate Christmas shoppers willing to spend exorbitant amounts of money on players that their teams may not really need or could not afford. Along with the spending spree comes the same insanity with resigning their own players and trading to make room for their acquisitions.

Unfortunately, then comes the dawn. Just like January when the bills from the ridiculous spending sprees come rolling in, eventually comes the reckoning for the reckless spending of the “Black Friday” of free agency.

Montreal and Washington are just two teams that are now facing this reckoning, but neither seems to have learned. The Caps over spent and over traded over the last several years trying to hoist the Cup now they are faced with, as their GM termed it, “The Stanley Cup Hang-Over” without having won the Cup. Just a few seasons back they signed UFA’s Brooks Orpik and Matt Niskanen off of the Pens for ~$5 mil each. They didn’t stop there. Over the last several seasons they traded for and signed players for nice hefty sums, culminating with their big pay-off from St. Louis last year, the much sought after Kevin Shattenkirk.

Now this year, they have lost Nate Schmidt to the Expansion Draft, Shattenkirk, Karl Alzner, and Justin Williams to free agency. Despite the hard lessons that should have been learned, Washington signed for $5.1 mil per year for 6 years and Evgeny Kuznetsov to $7.8 mil per year for 8 years. Now they find themselves with only 16 signed players at this point and only ~$5.5 mil in cap space to fill out their roster.


One could argue that Kuznetsov is worth the money, but whom will he be playing with?

Montreal is in a little better shape, at least this year, but they too have lost players to FA because they couldn’t afford them. Possibly motivated by fear that they may lose him, they gave Carey Price an 8-year contract extension for $10.5 mil per year. With a 0.923% Sv% and a 2.33 GAA one could argue that he may be worth it, right now but he is 29 years old; 8 years from now he will 37 and still collecting $10.5 mil. Will he still be worth it?

One last example of over-paying Shattenkirk; Erik Karlsson won the Norris Trophy this year had 71 points and was +10 but only was paid $6.5 mil. New York, fresh off of buying out their last mistake, Dan Girardi, threw more good money after bad, $6.65 mil to a player who only managed 51 points and was a –7 for the season. He will be getting a little more than the most recent Norris Trophy but only performed at about 71% of what Karlsson did last year.

What does any of this have to do with the Pens? Just this, Kudos to Jim Rutherford for refraining from joining the madness. It wasn’t that long ago that I was lamenting Ray Shero’s spending spree and Cap crunches. It wasn’t that long ago that these same Pens had to play several games with less than 18 skaters due to Cap constraints, during the stretch run of the play-offs.

And I am not just glad JR hasn’t jumped into the spending spree of free agency but also that he hasn’t thrown away anything on price gauging skin-flint GMs like Joe Sakic who are asking way too much for players that could be an asset. Yes, I am one of those that would love to see Matt Duchene in a Pens uniform, but not at the current asking price.

I would rather JR hold off a bit until we get closer to Christmas or for the after Christmas sales when prices get back to normal. I have no complaint that Brian Dumoulin and Conor Sheary have gone to arbitration. Neither of these players is irreplaceable. Dumoulin may be a little more important than Sheary, but Dumoulin was very inconsistent last year, only picking it up near the end. Sheary was the opposite. He played well early but then disappeared in the play-offs, particularly in the first 2 series, which really should have been the last two series as the opponents were the better of the four teams the Pens faced.

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  1. Jim's Gravatar Jim
    July 6, 2017 at 9:58 pm | Permalink

    Hello Other Rick,
    Really nice to see you writing a piece for PP. Great job my friend. Very pleased to see this well written post and look forward to many more in the future !
    I was away all day for work out of my City and I just got home an hour ago. I was able to read at lunch time your excellent critique on my phone but could not reply. I would have much sooner if I could have !!
    You have hit the nail on the head in that JR is not Ray Shero and JR is not going to over pay if he can help it. But we both agree that some of his other decisions have been questionable and we will not know for sure if he made the right choices until early next June.
    Your comment about Price is very accurate.You being a former goalie, know better than most of us that paying 10.5 million dollars for a 38 year old net minder is just crazy. We were paying MAF 5.75 million a year and he was a young 31-32 year old and most of us thought that was excessive. 10.5 million until the age of 38 !! What is the league coming to?
    When Matt Murray will want a raise in 2 years, and being true Pen’s fan lets say we win at least 1 more cup in 2018 and lose in the finals in 2019 to Edmonton Oilers or somebody in California. Murray will say I have won you 3 cups and 4 trips to the finals… Has Price done that ? NOOOO !
    Pay me. Then what do we do ?? That is the real danger Coach.
    Same as Mc David’s new 12.5 million deal. The way I see it that NHL has created a Monster and unless the Salary Cap increases dramatically, we have a potential time bomb just waiting to explode.
    Final point Coach…You are a voice of reason and financial responsibility, traits I admire greatly about you and your editorials are a welcome addition to PP. Keep it up.
    Thanks again 🙂

    Great job.

    • the Other Rick's Gravatar the Other Rick
      July 6, 2017 at 10:20 pm | Permalink

      Thanks Jim for your encouragement,

      You are right Jim, like you, I am not in complete agreement with everything JR has done. I do think that the team could be stronger than it is right now, but the Pens are in better shape than probably most teams in the league right now.

      And you are right, I have already wondered what will happen when Murray’s contract is up. I would love to see Murray play 10 or more years in the black and gold but $10mil for a any player? 14% of the cap space for 1 player? that is just stupid.

      I want to keep Murray but the truth is if Jarry or Gustavsson or even De Smith or Maguire can get the job done, the Pens have to do what is best for the team.

      • Jim's Gravatar Jim
        July 7, 2017 at 11:50 am | Permalink

        Hey Other Rick,
        You were right..
        I just got an update from Bruce Hollingdrake of the Hockey Writers and he posted an article by Rob Sorta about Edmonton’s Leon Draisaitl and his NEW contract request. Because of Mc Davids just signed $12.5 million, 8 year deal his agent now want a 9 to 10 million dollar deal of the same length for Draisaitl.
        For those in Pittsburgh who do not know Draisaitl, he out played McDavid in the play offs and he is in some ways a much better player than Mc David. He is big,fast, tough, strong and has about 95 % of
        Mc Davids offensive skill sets but plays away more physical game. Just like the Gretzky-Messier comparison or even our own Sid and Geno comparison. If Mc David had settled for a 10 million a year, 4 year bridge contract that many thought he would do then Leon would have signed a similar length deal at about 7 million a year local Edmonton sources reported.
        Now it will cost the Oiler’s organization another 5 to 6 million annually.
        You said this was going to happen in the league and I never thought it would only take 2 days !!
        How much will Laine or Matthews,Nylander, or Mitch Mariner will want now ? This is crazy….

        • the Other Rick's Gravatar the Other Rick
          July 7, 2017 at 12:01 pm | Permalink

          Hey Jim,

          The Leafs are already up against the Cap wall. When they go to resign or extend Matthews contract they are going to in a world of hurt. The closer we get to the regular season, the more the pressure is going to build for them to deal. A deal like Kadri for Rust or Sheary may start to look real good for them.

  2. Rick Buker's Gravatar Rick Buker
    July 6, 2017 at 12:39 pm | Permalink

    Hey Other Rick,

    Great thoughts!

    The only thing I can figure? Other teams feel they have to overspend in order to bridge the talent gap and compete. Most aren’t as blessed as we are to have elite talents like Sid, Geno and Phil the Thrill under contract, to say nothing of a stable of exciting young kids coming up.

    Still, trying to build a champion by overpaying for free agents almost never works. Remember the Rangers of the late ’90s and early 2000s? Glen Sather signed Eric Lindros and just about every other high-priced star he could get his hands on…and New York missed the playoffs seven years in a row.

    Welcome aboard!


    • the Other Rick's Gravatar the Other Rick
      July 6, 2017 at 1:14 pm | Permalink

      Thank Rick,

      You are right, the Pens are blessed with at least three of the leagues most potent Fs, particularly in Spring time hockey. The Rangers of the 90s and early 2000s are great examples of expensive failures in that pre- Cap era. The Cap makes it worse. Hockey is still solidly a team sport so it really seems a little wrong to tie up $7.5mil unless that player really is about 2 times better than the average player.

      Unfortunately some teams keep making the same mistakes year after year. They keep doing the same thing and expecting different results. Although SJ made the Finals last year but seriously $8mil for Thorton, a 38yr old who scored 7G and only had 50pnts all together? Talk about fiscal irresponsibility. If SJ gets bounced early this Spring or finds themselves out completely they need look no further than those $8mil

  3. July 6, 2017 at 12:00 pm | Permalink

    Hey tOR,

    Great Stuff. The asking price for Duchene is reported to be 2 first round picks and prospects now. Supposedly the Rangers are now leading the charge.

    I think prices go down around the beginning of August when players start to get scared that they aren’t wanted.

    In the mean time Rutherford had signed another undrafted player forward Adam Johnson to a two-year, entry-level contract.

    It is funny to me that teams like Colorado keep wanting picks and prospects and there is this giant pool of quality un-drafted players that it would seem only the Pens know about. Are teams relying too much on player ranking services and not looking at actual players?

    • the Other Rick's Gravatar the Other Rick
      July 6, 2017 at 12:25 pm | Permalink

      Thanks Phil,

      That is a great question. Although, scouting services would seem to be a great tool, an adjunct to my own scouts, I would still rely on the judgment of scouts that know my team and my coach. It also seems that these scouting services do not really do a good job at following up on older players who may be a little slower to develop. That may be the key for the Pens right now since they have been drafting so low. Often times as kids, and let’s face it these kids are kids, do not grow proportionally; their nervous system may not always be keeping up with their changing limb lengths and weights and let’s face it, muscle takes time to grow too. So a kid who may be slow or awkward on his skates at 17 or 18 may still develop as their muscularure and nervous system catches up with the stature amd frame.

      I hadn’t seen about Johnson until you mentioned it, but looked him up real quick before responding. It looks like he may just the kind of player Sullivan looks for. The NHL web site he has played all 3 forwad positions and even filled in on D. For a coach that values “team” over everything, he seems a perfect fit. It may take a little time in WBS but, from what I read he looks good.

    • James Arthurs's Gravatar James Arthurs
      July 7, 2017 at 9:12 am | Permalink

      Hey Phil,
      These 5 to 7 various Scouting agencies are all biased in one way or another.I am referring to the real agencies who do this as a business and not the hundreds of much smaller ones who represent a single publication or one man’s opinion. None of them really follow the US college programs as they should.
      I can only speak from my Canadian perspective but when kids do not get drafted many go the college route and it is then their Hockey career starts. The nature of the College game is that they play about 25 games a year and Major Junior teams play about 70 games a year. The result being College players takes longer to develop because of fewer games played.
      The player rating agencies do not do a good job of following 22 or 23 year olds unless they are Hobey Baker finalists.Same in Canadian Colleges.
      So I agree there are many players at the College level who can be excellent NHL players.
      Obviously the Pen’s have tapped into this talent pool.


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