NHL general managers meet Wednesday in Toronto to discuss the state of their sport and, in between the usual lamentations, talk trades. The NHL's trade deadline day is on April 3, and there will be no shortage of desperate GMs looking to move contracts. Or, in the case of contenders, add parts for the playoffs.
One part not in play as of late Monday evening is Corey Perry of Anaheim. With a possible Stanley Cup contender this year, the Ducks had no option but to give Perry a similar eight-year deal to the one awarded Ryan Getzlaf earlier this month. And that noise you hear is the Toronto Maple Leafs, with plenty of cap space, grinding their teeth at losing a chance at Perry.
Any frisson of optimism GMs had about holding the budget line in the new CBA was already nuked by the contract awarded to Phoenix's defenceman Oliver Ekman-Larsson last week. The 21-year-old is just two full years in on an entry-level deal, but he received six more years at $33-million. That's guaranteed money, folks. That followed the rich contract won earlier by Colorado youngster Ryan O'Reilly (two years at a $5-million annual cap hit).
In short, there are no bargoons out there for talent as teams lock up everyone with a pulse. The inevitable result of the spending is repenting in misery over contracts that are virtually immovable in today's market where clubs will be forced down to a $64.3 million salary cap next fall.
The following players have real value as players but a price tag that would scare off even Georges St. Pierre. Call them the sin in haste, repent at leisure contracts.
Brian Campbell, Florida ($7.1-million cap hit till 2016)
There are many teams who covet the slick defenceman now rotting on the Florida Panthers' beach. With passing D men for the power play the scarcest commodity to uncover in the NHL, Campbell could make a team a Cup contender. But who wants this salary anchor? Only the brave will venture here. Besides, GM Dale Tallon needs Campbell's contract to reach the salary floor.
Jay Bouwmeester, Calgary ($6.63-million cap hit till 2014)
The man who has never played in the postseason in either the NHL or CHL has played better this year. He is a minute muncher. But for a defenceman to carry that salary he has to be a power play producer. In Calgary, at least, JayBo has fizzled on the scoring side.
Mike Green, Washington ($6.08-million till 2015)
His 2009 Norris Trophy nomination days are almost forgotten in the midst of his injury woes and the Caps' general implosion. At his best a true No. 1 D man, it's hard to say how much Green can give the Caps or another team. But he'll sink your bottom line.
Mike Cammalleri, Calgary ($6-million till 2014)
Cammalleri can still snipe, but with $7 million owing next year, you'll have to need scoring a lot to take a plunge on this 9-goal scorer. Calgary would love to be rid of the bulky contract they acquired from Montreal, but don't look for them to give Cammy away, either.
Alex Ovechkin, Washington ($9.58-million till Kingdom Come)
The Great 8 has rallied lately after a terrible start, but when you're paid as the best player in the NHL you have to play like the best player in the NHL. With the cap dropping next year, the Caps will own this contract forever.
Dany Heatley, Minnesota ($7.5-million till 2014)
Once a player who dominated, Heatley is now a modest contributor in Minny. The Wild have looked much improved lately, but you can bet Chuck Fletcher would listen to someone willing to absorb the rest of this contract.
Ilya Bryzgalov, Philadelphia ($5.67-million till 2020)
Not the answer to the Flyers' problems, he might be the least tradable goalie in all of organized hockey. That includes Roberto Luongo.
Shawn Horcoff, Edmonton ($5.5-million till 2015)
A triumph of enthusiasm over experience, Horcoff's deal was a result of his showing in Edmonton's one-off run to the Cup final in 2006. The only saving grace here is that only $7 million remains to be paid over the next two full seasons, making him interesting only to salary floor operators (see Briere, Daniel).
Tyler Myers, Buffalo ($5.5-million till 2019)
No one is calling Myers a lost cause, but he's Case A for giving players elite contracts coming out of entry level. Making this contract harder to move will be Buffalo's desire to defend his selection as a first-rounder.
Vincent Lecavalier, Tampa Bay ($7.73-million till 2020)
Lecavalier is currently on the injured reserve, but his contract keeps ticking in the head of Tampa Bay owner Jeff Vinik. Lecavalier has no desire to leave Tampa, and it's debatable that another team would offer much for Vinny's declining skills. A textbook to owners and GMs (like the Ducks with Getzlaf/ Perry) on taking a deep breath before signing even the most attractive franchise guy.
A first NHL game is a thing of wonder. And so it was in 1963 at the Montreal Forum when a seven-year-old ended up face-to-face with HNIC host Frank Selke Jr. after an easy Canadiens' win over Detroit. Selke leaned over to the little boy and asked, "who's your favourite team?", fully expecting to hear "the Habs."
But the little boy was a Gordie Howe fan and said, "I like Detroit." At which Selke smiled and told the assembled folks, "Well, we can't have everything in life."
Let it be said that no greater love hath any man for hockey than starting the Oakland Golden Seals franchise. Hockey executive, broadcaster, programmer, Special Olympics booster, father and grandfather, Frank Selke Jr. passed away Monday at age 83.
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