Friday, July 3, 2009

Hockey!! Hockey!!! Hockey!!!

Just as a forewarning, this post will have nothing to do with video games or movies, which I'm sure you've noticed, is the majority of what I blog about.

As any hockey fan knows, July 1 is not just Canada Day to us Canadians but also the start of the NHL's free agency period. As a Leafs fan, I always wait with baited breath to see what latest mistake whoever the current GM of the team will make, especially in the new salary cap era of the League. Overpay for a player who turns out to be a bust and your team is screwed. For the first three years of the salary cap era, we had John Ferguson doing this every year. The first year saw him sign Pavel Kubina to a 4 year, $20 million deal that apparently most other GMs in the league laughed at. Then two years ago he signed Jason Blake to the same kind of deal after only ONE 40 goal season. Part of the decline in Jason's play the first season with the Leafs wasn't totally his fault of course but that deal really hurt the team. Thankfully, Ferguson was fired the season before last. Now we have Brian Burke in charge.

I was quite curious to see what he would do with the team. I knew he was going to toughen us up and try to make us somewhat of a modern day Broad St. Bullies (the infamous 70s Flyers were one of the nastiest teams to ever play the game). Indeed he did this by signing Mike Komisarek from the Canadiens and Colton Orr from the New York Rangers. He also traded for Grant Exelby from the Atlanta Thrashers by sending them the aforementioned Kubina. I feel sorry for anyone who has the puck (or not in some cases) when crossing these guys).

The most important thing he did I think was not go out and overspend on a bunch of players like the Canadiens did. I won't go into it too much but I think the Canadiens have screwed themselves in terms of the salary cap by trading for Scott Gomez from the Rangers (cap hit $6.5 million) and signing Mike Camallari (cap hit $6 million) and Brian Gionta ($5 million). They're all good players but are they worth top line money? Obviously, that remains to be seen but I doubt it. If the cap does drop next year like they are speculating it will, then they won't have a lot of wiggle room if these players don't work out like they are hoping.

The one thing I've really noticed lately is that teams are signing guys to very long deals. Usually 3-5 years was considered long term but now they are signing guys to deals that are 10, 11, 12 or even 13 years. Of course, the Capitals signing Ovechkin to a 13 year deal only makes sense. He's young and probably the best player in the league (at least in my opinion) but the Blackhawks signed Marian Hossa to a 12 year deal!!

Of course, the Red Wings have done this with players as well. I think they are doing as a way to get around the cap. They sign playes to long term deals that are front end heavy in terms of salary so that the cap hit is less over the full term of the deal. For example, Hossa's deal will pay him $7 million or so for the first 8 years and then about $3.5 million for the last 4 years. Since the deal was 12 years for $63.5 million or so, the cap hit is only just over $5 million. I think the league will try to do something to stop this from happening but it won't be any time soon. Can't blame the GMs or players for doing it though. Just smart business.

In the end, I am pleased with what Burke has done so far with the Leafs. We are a rebuilding team and he is definitely putting us in the right direction I think. I'm definitely getting very excited for the new season. Is it October yet? lol

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