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The Chip ‘n’ Chase: So many bad contracts, coaches on the hot seat, the NHL in Vegas? and more!

Dec 18, 2013, 2:21 PM EDT

DavidClarkson Getty Images

Every Wednesday, we publish a little back-and-forth we have via email. We call it the Chip ‘n’ Chase. Yes, it’s a terrible name. Enjoy.

Jason Brough: Hey buddy, so I was just looking back at the list of free agents who signed big, long-term deals with new teams over the summer. Not many success stories, to say the least. David Clarkson and Stephen Weiss are off to terrible starts. Ryane Clowe has barely played. I guess Vincent Lecavalier‘s been OK. And while I’ll concede that Valtteri Filppula and Mike Ribeiro have been decent, let’s just say I worry for the Florida Panthers when I hear their new owner saying stuff like, “We intend on being in the free-agent market in a significant way. We’re here to build a winner. … We want to patiently win now.” Vinnie Viola may have an awesome name, but I’m not positive his “patiently win now” strategy is a good one. Or even theoretically possible.

Mike Halford: I worry about this approach, too. Remember when Terry Pegula tried it in Buffalo? If you don’t, watch this video of a landfill on fire; it’s basically the same thing. Giving a general manager gobs of cash to “fix” things in free agency is like putting down your credit card at the bar — once the fun is over, all you’re left with are receipts and regret (“$27 million for Ville Leino? I did that?”) In a lot of cases, the real value in free agency is in the flawed, cheap guys that are still hanging around after the more attractive players have been signed. There’s another bar analogy I could use for this, but I won’t.

source: APJB: I just pictured Mason Raymond sitting alone on a bar stool. He looked so sad and lonely when the lights came on. Nathan Gerbe and Mike Santorelli were there too, singing a duet on karaoke. I’m not comfortable with this analogy anymore. But I will say that all three of those guys have been solid bargain pick-ups. Gerbe and Santorelli actually signed two-way deals; that’s how little leverage they had in negotiations. Of course, the problem with going after the “flawed” guys is you can totally strike out on them, and then you look like a terrible GM. Like what was Jim Rutherford thinking with Mike Komisarek? And did Mike Gillis miss the memo that Zach Hamill was a bust? You win some, you lose some. But at least with the bargain guys, your losses aren’t crippling. Here’s a question: of all the teams in the NHL, which one do you think has the worst collection of contracts?

MH: I think the obvious response is “Philadelphia,” or “the Flyers,” or “whatever team Paul Holmgren’s in charge of.” But after some serious number-crunching…yeah, it’s still the Flyers. Put it this way — there’s a spirited debate to be had over who has the worst contract in Philly. Is it six-goal man Scott Hartnell, who’s earning $4.75 million per season until 2019? Is it Niklas Grossmann, who somehow got $14 million after playing just 22 games for the Flyers? Can’t imagine anybody in Philly’s happy that Luke Schenn, who’s been a healthy scratch this season, is making $3.6 million this year… and next year… and the year after that. Oh, and we haven’t even broached the old-man Mark Streit deal yet. Or the Ilya Bryzgalov buyout. Or the…

JB: You could have a good career as a PHT commenter with that rant against Holmgren. It’s not a particularly well-paying career, but it does have dental, oddly enough. I think a lot of people would answer the Flyers to that question, but let’s be honest, they’re not the only franchise with multiple bad contracts. I’m looking at New Jersey and seeing quite a few under-performers. Ditto for Washington. You already mentioned the Sabres, though at least they have their two compliance buyouts left. Which brings us to the Leafs, who don’t have any compliance buyouts left and, in my opinion, rival the Flyers in terms of bad contracts. I already mentioned Clarkson, a 29-year-old forward with 99 career NHL goals, which doesn’t seem to mesh with that $36.75 million contract. I wouldn’t have given Tyler Bozak the money he got either. And nobody’s been willing to take John-Michael Liles off their hands. The Leafs are a bad team. They have three regulation wins in their last 21 games. Read that again. That’s awful. At this rate, I’m not sure if Randy Carlyle lasts the season.

MH: Totally agree about Carlyle; his job has to be on the line. And remember, Dave Nonis didn’t hire him. He was a Brian Burke guy. But you know what’s so typical? Both Carlyle and Jack Capuano are feeling major heat just months after getting consideration for the Jack Adams. I’ve actually been thinking more about a coach who received exactly zero Jack Adams votes last year: Claude Noel. Have you listened to this guy after the Jets lose? Might be the most critical coach in the league, and he delivers his message with the subtlety of a shovel to the face. After Tuesday’s loss in Buffalo, he accused the Jets of just showing up to play, then said “[and] we’re not good enough to play that way.” Other great moments in morale-boosting include Noel saying “it’s not like we’re world-beaters,” calling the Jets’ power-play “demoralizing,” and — here’s my favorite — lamenting the fact he doesn’t have “enough players to sit everybody.” Then there’s his relationship with Evander Kane. Put it this way — if you’re a kid and Noel and Kane are your parents, um, wouldn’t it be totally awesome to have two Christmases every year?

source:  JB: From all I’ve read, Jets GM Kevin Cheveldayoff is loathe to fire Noel. And really, at this point, the team is all but out of the playoff race. Might be best to wait until the summer if it’s going to happen. If I had to guess, Kane will be traded eventually. Might be very soon, might be a bit later. But he clearly has an issue with the organization, and I doubt the Jets are head-over-heels in love with him, talented as he may be. But there I go again, making a big deal out of some dumb picture he took in Vegas. Typical media, always trying to stir it up. So while I’m at it, I think Dustin Byfuglien could get traded too. But that’s mostly because the Jets have Jacob Trouba now. Kid’s only 19 and he’s playing 20 minutes a game. Not too shabby.

MH: You mentioned Kane in Vegas, so I gotta ask — what do you think of all this talk of the NHL expanding to Sin City? Repeat: NHL IN VEGAS. This idea is so money Kane could make 100 money phones out of it. I also enjoy that the Maloofs have been floated as potential owners. Can you even imagine? Let’s ask the Google machine what it thinks about that:

source:
source:
source:
source:

I think the last one is my favorite.

JB: I really don’t care who owns the team. The Maloofs? Jerry Bruckheimer? Carrot Top? Sure, whatever. I just need it to happen. I can’t imagine the players would have a problem with a few road trips there either. I wonder where the visiting teams would stay. The Bellagio? Another big casino? I could see that being an issue. “He can’t play. He’s got an upper-body injury.” “Could you be more specific, coach?” “Blackjack elbow, day to day. Any other questions?”

MH: “Why are you wearing a leisure suit?”


  1. thecheeman - Dec 18, 2013 at 2:32 PM

    Beaut

  2. nunan - Dec 18, 2013 at 2:33 PM

    PLEASE no team in Vegas. If the NHL wants to continue to add legitimacy, stop expanding and just work on the product itself. If anything, there are one or two teams that should be moved or shut down all together. Quality over quantity. You can’t add a team to a market that has no central fan base. Vegas is all tourism…never mind the hot weather, which clearly isn’t a great market (see Phoenix, Florida, Atlanta, etc). It doesn’t work well. Move a team to Quebec or Seattle, but NOT Vegas. Scary..

    • imleftcoast - Dec 18, 2013 at 5:30 PM

      I think the NHL is Vegas is a good idea, but the Maloofs are losers. The Google searches don’t lie. The last one is the for Orange County wives or some other crap E! show. The NHL succeeds because the product is so good, and despite the ineptitude of owner in a number of cities (Long Island, Philly etc).

      • nunan - Dec 18, 2013 at 5:50 PM

        The Isles aren’t succeeding. And it’s still not good to have mediocre ownership in mediocre (if that) markets. It’s not a winning formula, even if those teams ‘survive’. There are better options out there. Las Vegas doesn’t have any pro team for a reason. Why would the NHL, before every other sport, be the first to enter that market? They’d be the last league I would expect to enter. Quebec should be the next city. Would love to see Florida move.

  3. dirt2013 - Dec 18, 2013 at 2:39 PM

    There are enough warm weather hockey teams.Let’s talk Portland or Seattle or does that make too much sense? Don’t think there is a big enough city in western Canada for another team.

    • flyerspsu - Dec 19, 2013 at 5:57 PM

      portland, seatle, wisconsin are all much better options

  4. narfmoo12 - Dec 18, 2013 at 2:41 PM

    The Grossmann contract is actually a good deal, considering he consistently draws the opponent’s top line and kills penalties. Would I prefer him to be a 2nd pair guy? Of course, but that means the Flyers would need to find a Weber/Subban type player this offseason.

  5. sjsharks66 - Dec 18, 2013 at 2:47 PM

    I agree that Grossmann’s contract is the best of the bad contracts in Philly. He is actually a good d man.

    Anyways, love these articles. You guys have me laughing out loud in public.

  6. drewsylvania - Dec 18, 2013 at 2:48 PM

    Most long contracts end up being albatrosses at the end. But some of them were bad ideas the moment they were signed. Like Clarkson’s.

    • endusersolutions2013 - Dec 18, 2013 at 3:47 PM

      So far, Hossa has been a GREAT long term pickup for the Blackhawks, who may well come to regret the LONG length.

      One problem is after a couple other teams did long front-end loaded contracts into a players 40’s and were not sanctioned, others joined in.

      But the rules were changed in the current CBA (why the old were not grandfathered in is against the spirit of the US constitution – no ex post facto laws, and I realize the NHL is only 23/30ths USA)

      And he’s a nice exception (key part of two SC’s, in on the hunt again and contributing well).

  7. 950003cups - Dec 18, 2013 at 3:04 PM

    If I’m Clarkson, I ask for a trade back to NJ. Let the Leafs absorb $1.5 Mil in cap and salary back, since they are responsible for that blunder, and let NJ pay him the balance. He’ll be happier and the Leafs can get out of it for $1.5 million per instead of $5.25 million.

    Toronto can have the rights to Kovalchuk if he returns in the next 4 years.

    • 7mantel - Dec 18, 2013 at 3:17 PM

      You must really miss Clarkson,second time if my memory serves me well,that you posted how the Devil could get him back .

      • 950003cups - Dec 18, 2013 at 3:26 PM

        I’m not shy at all about it. I am very much missing what he brought to the table in NJ. In Toronto he’s a completely different player. Brings nothing but grit. Not the good kind of grit. The kind that gets you suspended.

      • 7mantel - Dec 18, 2013 at 3:34 PM

        @950003cups ;know how you feel I feel the same about Prust leaving the Rangers !

      • 950003cups - Dec 18, 2013 at 4:19 PM

        Actually, Prust is still doing well. Clarkson is not having the same luck as him. But yeah, they were very similar, except that Clarkson put up a few more goals.

  8. sens101 - Dec 18, 2013 at 3:29 PM

    how is the clarke macarthur signing not mentioned as one of the best bairgans thus far. He has been more than anyone in ottawa could have expected thus far. I would be lying if i said I thought that deal was this good in the summer time.

  9. devilsarethebest - Dec 18, 2013 at 3:49 PM

    People will bash some of our contracts, and while some of the do suck, absolutely not all.
    Zajac- 5.75 for 8 years. Top 5 defensive player in the NHL and will put up 50-60 points. Overpaid? Yes, but not by much
    Clowe- 4.85 for 5 years. Yes his injury history in terrible but we can’t judge his performance yet
    Volchenkov- 4.25 for 3 years. Man, I hate this deal. He outright sucks.
    But Andy Greene, Patrick Elias, Jaromir Jagr and hey, even the Brunner deal hasn’t been too bad. And let’s not forget the Cory Schneider trade.

    • 950003cups - Dec 18, 2013 at 4:22 PM

      A-Train has been making improvements. I’m telling ya, Gelinas may have turned out to be the missing link. He eats up minutes, good on the boards (needs some work), protects the puck well, decent outlet pass, very big body, and a shot that has goalies eyeing him the whole time. Since he’s arrived everyone on D has stepped up their game.

  10. polegojim - Dec 18, 2013 at 3:52 PM

    As I’ve been saying for some time now… BIG salaries with little-to-no accountability to earn it.

    When will professional sports learn that you don’t always get what you pay for… when you’re paying BEFORE the job is done.

    There’s a balance between ‘strike inducing’ pay for play (as some have spewed forth)… and assuring you get even remotely what you paid for…

    This has nothing to do with ruining TV ratings or NHL viewing public either… anyone who says it does is NUTS… We won’t watch less hockey if Damien Brunner makes 750k instead of 2 mil, right???
    NO – when the guy’s a healthy scratch… he’s not even playing… and I’m pretty sure NJ fans were ALL still watching.

    1) Players who perform have nothing to worry about… and there will be PLENTY of performers to avoid the ‘ridiculously posted’ mass exodus to the KHL folks…
    2) Players who become legitimately injured can be protected.
    3) Players who go ‘flop flop flop’… like a nail ridden Michelin… get paid that they deserve.

    THAT will be motivation to put up… or shut up and sit down.

    • 950003cups - Dec 18, 2013 at 4:33 PM

      You missed the whole business aspect of the game.

      Its called “Supply and Demand” If there were 20 Malkin’s and Crosby’s across teh league, owners would most definitely offer much less to have them on their teams.

      Would we still watch if Ovechkin got paid $50,000 a year? HELL YES! But would you be more inclined to attend a game or watch on TV if he were on your team? HELL YES!

      So then comes the bidding wars. That’s what FA is all about.

      The players feel that they get screwed until they are 27 years old. Which is 7 years of hockey. Then they go for the final pay for the remainder of their careers if possible. The owners respond with “we developed you for 5 years” and so on……….

    • davebabychreturns - Dec 18, 2013 at 5:02 PM

      This is madness. Can’t even be bothered going through and pointing out how reality refutes what you’re proposing here but I’ll just say that if you go look up the meaning of the word collusion you’ll have a pretty good idea of why none of this will ever happen.

      “Gee, why don’t the owners just all agree to pay the players a fraction of what they do now with no guarantee of term or security in case of injury?”

      LOL

    • polegojim - Dec 18, 2013 at 5:50 PM

      @95003… you totally missed it… Ovechkin would get paid. He delivers… SEE???
      @davebaby… we agree completely.. I’m actually quite sure you can’t

      You both suffer from ‘globalism of statements’ and ‘lack of intuitive creativity’…

      All or nothing….
      Black or white…
      Hot or cold…
      You see nothing in between… LOTS can be done in between… and to be SURE league stars and even the middle performers are paid to stay and entertain. I’m talking about weeding out the slugs who fill up a salary cap and deliver nothing towards the teams success… That’s called FLOPPING and/or trading up.

      C’mon Man… put your big boy pants on.

  11. endusersolutions2013 - Dec 18, 2013 at 4:10 PM

    I posted most of this on the earlier thread, but since they brought up Las Vegas again, here’s a refined version (not arrogant about my stuff, and in this case, I did material research 1st). If you already read, please just ignore.

    When folks talk about expansion, they need to think about league conference and division balancing.

    The prior article talked about 33 cities, which is crazy. Things are already a mess with uneven conferences, now a division with 1 extra team? And of course nothing about the talent pool being able to handle a 10% expansion and still have a quality product. Organized hockey across the USA has been expanding, with more USA born players in the NHL and minors year by year.

    Quebec City and Markham may well be able to support a team, and those are best left as an alternative host to a failing EC team for the foreseeable future. Nothing personal canooks, just a reality about the existing league imbalance. Or you put one expansion team there while re-locating a failing EC team to NW USA, while adding a 2nd expansion team there.

    4 US western metros have been discussed. Of these, Seattle is 15th in US Metro area size. Portland is 24th, KC is 30th, Vegas is 31st. Portland is also growing faster.
    Economically, KC is lower in per-capita economic strength. In terms of economic growth, among US metro areas, Seattle is 20th, Portland 29th, KC 66th, LV is 99th.

    Putting teams in Seattle and Portland also creates natural rivalries and thus increased attendance at mutual games between those two and Vancouver. And this can come from expansion and/or EC team re-location.

    Bottom line, from the perspectives of fan base and economic growth, along with conference and division balancing, the only well thought through approach is when expanding and/or relocating, the NHL needs to go into Seattle and Portland – then wait a long time, as the next logical NHL size is 36 teams (4 or 6 divisions)

    • desertfan - Dec 19, 2013 at 4:30 AM

      Well put!!

      Seattle and Portland does it all.

      Balance and TV and money , rivalries etc.

      Move Florida to QC and then wait.

  12. thedavesiknowiknow - Dec 18, 2013 at 4:30 PM

    It’s funny to watch some teams “make it rain” when free agency opens now. There were a few years (after the previous lockout) where there were several significant names on the market. Now, there might be a guy or two (who is/are inevitably going to get severely overpaid), but other than that NHL gm’s are just driving up the price of depth players by participating in free agency.

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