Tuesday 3 July 2012

7 Thoughts on Free Agency Thus Far

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When you follow a team that seems to hate the playoffs, you start to look particularly forward to certain times of the year: the trade deadline, the NHL Entry Draft, and of course the opening of NHL free agency.  A fair bit has happened around the league over the last 2 days so I thought I would provide my opinion on some of the activity.  In no particular order, here are 7 thoughts on Free Agency thus far:

1) Ottawa Senators: Foligno/Methot and Latendresse

I hate to say it, but I like what Ottawa did here.  To me Foligno has always seemed like one of those young players who seems like he has a bright future, but can't take that "next step".  After 17 goals in his rookie season, maybe I expected too much out of him, but at 24 he still hasn't turned into a definite top 6 forward (I would say he is borderline at this point).  Perhaps with more TOI in Columbus he will take that next step.  Time will tell...  Ottawa's return in that trade was Methot.  Admittedly I have very little first hand knowledge of him, but from what I have heard he is a good defensive defender.  Looking at Ottawa's D-corps a player like this was a big need, and at 27 he should fit well into their future plans.  Perhaps this was a true "hockey trade".

The part that I think was a great move by Ottawa was the signing of Latendresse.  While I wouldn't have advocated the Leafs to sign him (with our glut of NHL forwards), I think he was a prime buy-low player this summer.  While he has been unable to stay healthy over the past 2 years, he has been very productive when on the ice for Minnesota.  With a low cost signing (both in terms of cap hit and term), he'll either be a big win for the team, or a forgettable loss.  After all he scored above half a goal a game in his 70+ GP in Minni the last 3 years and is still in his mid 20s...

2) Brandon Prust

I'll admit I wasn't against the Leafs signing Prust.  I know we have a lot of bottom six forwards, but I like what I have seen from him.  I haven't looked into his advanced stats, but from observation he seemed like a good forechecker, who was physically intimidating (for whatever that's worth), and could put up solid numbers for a depth forward.  However, both 2.5 million/year and a 4 year term are individually laughable.  Together they are downright hilarious.  Enjoy that atrocious contract Montreal.

3) Olli Jokinen

Not too much to say here, besides that I think this was a very good contract for the Jets.  The cap hit is probably about right, but I am impressed that they kept the term so low.  Jokinen is unfairly maligned (IMHO), because of his fall from grace.  In his prime years he was a PPG and 40 goal scorer (or at least threat).  Then about 4 years ago (when he left Florida) he fell back in his abilities to a 20ish goal 55ish point player.  Because he used to be so much better, people seem to think of him as a poor player.  However, this production still puts him as a poor first line C or good second line C.  How has he performed in the last 2 years?  He is 31st in goals by a centre and 22nd in points.  He should be at least a 1b centre on the Jets.  The biggest concern is that at 34 next year he may start declining (and fast).  The Jets did a good job protecting themselves from this by signing him for only 2 years.  I like this contract.

4) Jiri Hudler

I like this contract in a vacuum.  While his first year back from the KHL (two years ago) was poor, the other 2 of his last 3 years saw him scoring like a top 4 forward (both in goals and points) and he did this while playing 13-15:40 minutes.  In fact, Hudler was tied for 21st in ES goals with 23 last year.  With an increase in minutes (and PP time) in Calgary he could produce pretty well.  However, if you are an attentive reader, you'll have noticed that I wrote I like this contract in a vacuum.  The problem with this contract (along with basically every other move by the organization over the last 3-4 years) is that it doesn't address their extreme need for a rebuild.  As I have said before this is the 2007 Toronto Maple Leafs.  They are old, with ageing stars and way to many NTCs.  The one good side of this contract is that Hudler is still young enough that if they recognize their need to rebuild soon, he could be a good (and not too old) veteran on a rebuilding team in 3 or 4 years.

5) PA Parenteau

I like this contract.  I understand that he is a late bloomer (only really entering the league in his late 20s and exploding offensively then), and that his high end performance has been with Tavares.  That being said he has been a dominant performer in the AHL for the 5 years before his NHL debut with the Islanders and just didn't seem to get the chance in the NHL.  From 2006-2007 to 2009-2010 he played 252 AHL games and scored 276 points; and while he won't be riding Tavares' wing anymore he can ride the wing of the guy drafted two spots behind, Matt Duchenne.

6) Jay McClement

To keep this short and sweet, I like this signing.  He is good defensively and good-great on the PK.  Our PK has been absolutely attrocious the last few years so bringing in a player who is supposed to help there is fine in my books.  As well, Carlyle seems to want to run a true checking line, so having a player like McClement (who jibblescribbles (sp?) and Blues' fans seem to love) seems smart.  Further, his contract is reasonable both in term and cap hit.  The only thing that stands out to me as a potential negative is our complete glut of NHL forwards (most of which are not high end) now.  But to me this just means a trade is coming...  I guess I am not ecstatic by having two low scoring C's in our depth chart (him and Steckel), but if used appropriately that is fine by me.

7) Martin Brodeur (and Hedberg) and the New Jersey Devils

Bahahahahahahahaha *breath* bahahahahaha!  Martin Brodeur is inarguably a HHOF goaltender.  People can argue whether he was the best of all time elsewhere, so I will simply say that he was a great, great tender.  That being said he is at the end of his career and really hasn't produced well recently.  Over the last 2 RS's he had a 0.903 and 0.908 save percentage.  Admittedly, he had a very good playoffs (0.917 save percentage) where he was a key piece to carrying his team to the finals.  That being said, signing a declining 40 year old goalie for 2 years is a bad idea, and doing it for 4.5 mil/year when you are in financial trouble is even dumber.  They completed the idiocy by signing a 39 year old backup for 2 years also.  Yeah this sounds smart...

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