Free Agent Frenzy could be Free Agent Fizzle in 2015

Ken Campbell
Fleury

With the unrestricted free agent market for this summer pretty much picked clean, it’s time to start looking toward 2015. And if you’re doing that, you might be disappointed, since the best free agent out there next summer might be Mike Babcock.

Yes, there’s the likes of Jason Spezza and David Krejci, along with Derick Brassard and Marc-Andre Fleury, but chances are much of the top talent will not even see the calendar turn to July 1 before re-signing with their current teams. Chances are, the Dallas Stars didn’t trade for Spezza only to lose him after one season, so there will be a full-court press to sign him. And the Boston Bruins, for all their cap woes, will probably do everything they can to keep their playmaking center in Krejci. Read more

Steven Stamkos as a Leaf: less of a long shot than you’d think

Adam Proteau
Steven Stamkos (Scott Audette/NHLI via Getty Images)

A leisurely summer weekend took a bit of a turn for me early Saturday afternoon when the Twitter account of Lightning captain Steven Stamkos favorited a tweet from THN’s account linking to my story on the idea of a Toronto-born superstar – you know, like a Steven Stamkos – joining the Leafs in the prime of his career, the way NBA icon LeBron James did last week when he returned to his hometown Cleveland Cavaliers.

For the most part, there were two types of reactions: utter joy from Leafs fans who saw Stamkos’ act as a guarantee he was destined for Toronto; and utter rage from those who went after the messenger instead of acknowledging the fact Stamkos made this story an issue by favoriting the tweet. Both of those reactions were entirely expected; Leafs supporters are famous for believing every player is interested in playing for their team, and there’s never any shortage of true-believer fans in every market who refuse to consider a star player would want out of their city.

(Of course, that second group of people clearly didn’t read the original column, or they would’ve noticed the part where I wrote, “I’m not saying it’s likely either star ever gets to the point where playing for the Leafs becomes a possibility…”. But hey, basic reading comprehension skills aren’t everybody’s strong point. It won’t be the first time my words were misconstrued by rage-a-holics and the pathetically bitter, and it won’t be the last.)

That said, after speaking to more NHL sources since that article was written, I think there’s a better chance of Stamkos coming to the Leafs than I did when I wrote it.

Why? A few reasons. Read more

Will Steven Stamkos, P.K. Subban or any other young NHL star be the LeBron James of the Leafs?

LeBron James (Murphy/NBAE via Getty Images)

For the past few days, much of the sports world has been swept up in breathless anticipation of the future of NBA phenom LeBron James. The superstar is mulling over whether to re-sign with a Miami Heat team he led to two championships and four league Final appearances in the past four seasons, or whether to return to his hometown Cleveland Cavaliers. Some observers have a tough time believing James could wave goodbye to the sun and sights of Florida for Ohio’s far less exotic environs, but his deep connections to his birthplace of Akron, Ohio and his lasting roots in the area clearly are tempting.

The pressure on James after a return to Cleveland would be monstrous, but it’s a credit to him that he’d be willing to deal with it as a form of community service – and, let’s face it, a karmic payback for clumsily leaving the Cavs in 2010. Sure, the Cavs have enough elite young talent to make his return pay off competitively, but James could play on any team for any amount of money and he should be commended for considering heading back to that environment.

But it got me to thinking: when will there be a LeBron James for the Toronto Maple Leafs?

Here’s what I mean: with the NHL’s salary cap limiting the amount of money any team can pay a star player, personal choice is as big a factor, if not the biggest factor in the employment decisions free agents make. In recent years, we’ve seen numerous NHL stars eschew higher-profile destinations in favor of teams/cities they had an off-ice connection to: In 2012, Minnesota signed stars Zach Parise and Ryan Suter in part because Parise grew up in that state and Suter’s wife hails from there; this summer, Thomas Vanek turned down more lucrative offers to sign with the Wild because his wife is from the area and because he attended college at the University of Minnesota.

But the same never seems to be the case for the Leafs. Read more

Long-term deals great if you give them to the right players

Doughty

At one point during negotiations for a new collective bargaining agreement during the 2012 lockout, a juncture during which things weren’t looking particularly good, NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly outlined the league’s insistence on limiting contracts to five years and called it, “the hill we will die on.”

Everyone knows you never end a sentence in a preposition – the correct way to say it would have been, “It’s the hill on which we will die” – and you don’t make extreme statements during negotiations that you’re going to later have to retract. The NHL did not get its five-year contract limit and it didn’t die on any hill. Read more

Cory Schneider signs for seven-year deal with $6 million cap hit – terrific value for the Devils

Rory Boylen
schneider-185714667

Cory Schneider has never played more than 45 games in an NHL season. But starting in 2015-16, he’ll be one of eight (possibly nine) NHL goalies who will make at least $6 million against the cap.

Wednesday, shortly after the Kane/Toews signings were announced, the New Jersey Devils signed Schneider to a seven-year extension, in which he’ll get paid $6 million against the cap. Schneider could have become UFA eligible after 2014-15 and when you consider what he got in relation to other goalies, this deal is an absolute steal for the New Jersey Devils.

Lou Lamoriello’s magic. Go figure.

Schneider will make $4 million against the cap for one more season before his new deal kicks in. Is $6 million worth it for a goalie who has yet to get a starter’s workload over a full season? Consider this: Read more

Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane are rich, but they could have been richer

Ken Campbell
Kane and Toews

Bobby Hull has a statue outside the United Center in Chicago and he won only one Stanley Cup for 15 years with the franchise. Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane have won two each in less than half the time. And by signing identical eight-year, $84 million deals, there’s a good chance they’ll be adding more silverware to their portfolios in the coming years.

So logic would dictate that both Kane and Toews will be bronzed themselves someday. And if they don’t get their own likenesses on Madison Avenue, they can take comfort in the fact that they’ll have enough money to buy a plot of land outside the arena and erect their own statues. Read more

Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane sign eight-year extensions with $10.5 million cap hits – a fair market price

Rory Boylen
Kane & Toews (Photo by Jonathan Kozub/NHLI via Getty Images)

The Chicago Blackhawks got out well ahead of any speculation in regards to the futures of Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews beyond next season. The two Hawks stars were entering the final year of their contracts and would have been eligible for UFA status next summer. No more.

The leaders and lifeblood of one of the NHL’s two top contenders both signed eight-year extensions that will come with cap hits of $10.5 million. They are the biggest, defining contracts of the post-2013 lockout so far, where you can’t “circumvent” the salary cap by tacking on significantly lower-salaried years at the end of contracts.

The $10.5 million the two stars will make against the salary cap starting in 2015-16 will be the highest cap hits in the NHL, surpassing Alex Ovechkin’s $9.538 million from a deal he signed before the 2008-09 season. So, a new standard has been set in regards to how much money star players will make against the salary cap. Next summer, when Steven Stamkos can start negotiating his extension with the Tampa Bay Lightning, we can expect his cap hit to land around this number. Perhaps even more, considering he’ll have a higher salary cap to negotiate under. Read more

Where can Martin Brodeur sign? Here are five destinations

Matt Larkin
MartinBrodeur

Well, Marty, this is awkward.

The winningest goaltender of all-time’s foray into free agency isn’t the sexy bidding war he hoped it would be. As the market for goaltenders gets increasingly arid and Martin Brodeur’s list of potential destinations dwindles, it feels icky to see him flapping in the breeze. It reminds me of the scene in Jerry Maguire when a frazzled, freshly fired Jerry asks the entire office, “Who’s coming with me?” and listens to the pins drop.

Then again, Dorothy Boyd eventually crosses the line for Jerry. And there has to be a team out there willing to employ Brodeur. Here are five that make sense for Marty.

Read more