Habs Sign Plekanec & Darche – Salary Cap 101- Ilya Kovalchuk goes to? Cornwall Ontario – June 23, 2010

Cornwall ON – The hockey world is busy.  In this cap world the NHL has become the biggest Rotisserie Hockey League in the Universe and that makes for some fun.   For long time Roti owners “Cap Space” is a way of life and of course the value of players comes down to bang for the buck.

You need to get the most out of the least for long term survival.   Scott Gomez for example is a heck of a hockey player.  Scott Gomez at $7M….well if you have a lot of cap space and it’s situational.

Today the Sharks announced that they are ending their 10 year relationship with Evgeni Nabokov.   Not because he had such a bad year, but if you read between the lines it’s about Cap space.   Chicago won the cup with a lower priced goalie,and Detroit’s been using the low priced goalie system for awhile now.

There’s a glut of goalie’s available of good quality so you’re going to see some good bargains and deals out there too.   Top teams need to find cap space for studs.    Sure one of the reasons that the Habs gave Halak away was cap space as they knew in arbitration he’s going to get a big fat salary, and Carey Price is still not ready for arbitration, but they also know they can pick up a good alternative for under$2M.

In other hockey news Scotty Niedermyer ended his career, again.  Boston went wild and gave up a top 4 D in Dennis Wideman, a 3rd, and the number 15 pick in the draft and grabbed Nathan Horton from the Panthers, along with fill player Greg Campbell) ending a lot of net chatter as to who was going to get the forward.

Matt Cooke resigned with Pittsburgh as well as Matt Darche in Montreal, which brings me back to the cap.

Did the Habs do better with he Darche deal or the Plekanec one?  I write from from a very interesting spot.  I created one of the first Rotisserie style Hockey leagues and worked as a video statistician for the Habs.  As a matter of fact much of my system still isn’t used in the NHL.  When I left the Habs to go to Los Angeles in the film business I kept most of my dedicated system with me.

Tomas Plekanec is a good NHL player.   He has pluses.   My system essentially used the thesis that hockey is a game of templates.  Play by play you lay your offensive and defensive template down and random opportunities come into play.

For instance we discovered in 96 that Adam Graves took over 65% of  his attempted shots from essentially a single spot.  If you could communicate that to your team you could impact his effectiveness.

Using players in the best combination and situation always gets the best results.   Sometimes a players stats look much better and even worse based on their usage.   Mr. Plekanec had a career year playing mostly with a hot Mike Cammallieri who templated well with him.   In the play offs though Tomas offensive numbers went poof.  Why?

Well things changed.  Everything generally changes in the play offs and that’s why way back in 96 I shared that the strongest team designs was to build a strong, bigger core team that inflicted a lot of punishment on the opposition and had amazing special teams.    Get a 2 minute penalty?  If you have a super stud or two on the PK you can actually turn that into goal scoring time as most PP units are weak defensively.  Same for your PP.  You need players to draw penalties so that you can use your PP to suck the life out of opponents.

Some teams get that more than others.    Montreal this past season didn’t draw enough penalties because they spent way too much time in their own zone.   That’s another thing.  Spending more time in Zone 3 than Zone 1 always leads to more Stanley Cups.

You need to spend time in the kill zone to attract those penalties that keep you in the kill zone.

Getting back to Mr. Plekanec and the Habs if you’re going to keep Scott Gomez I’m not sure if he’s the best number 1, 1A, or 2 Centre for your team template.  Of course  if you’re Pierre Gauthier and don’t feel confident that you get a comparable Centre then you take the safe way out and pay Tomas, but in the long term you may not be helping your team.

For instance if you could sign Saku Koivu as old as he is you’d probably get comparable numbers and results for about half the salary which would allow you to focus some cap space elsewhere.

The Habs biggest need right now is a number one goalie.  I’m not convinced that Carey Price is the guy in Montreal.  He may be the guy in another city, but he just doesn’t seem to have HABS in his eyes.

Next Montreal needs a big power forward to round out either one of the two top lines.   Travis Moen isn’t the solution.  You need someone to create some net havoc and bump and grind ala Dustin Byfuglien.   They don’t have to be a 30 goal scorer, but simply be able to complement the Gomez/Gionta pairing or Plekanec/Cammallieri one.  A Colby Armstrong I think would look good in Montreal right about now…

Montreal’s defensive corp has a lot of question marks too.    I suggested trading Markov two years ago at the peak of his value.   He’s in a contract year coming off of very serious knee surgery which impacts his trade value and long term value to Montreal as well.  His injury means that you really can’t trade Roman Hamrlik who I really like, but not as much at his current salary.

In this situation though it may work out and perhaps Roman wants to stay in Montreal at a lesser salary afterwards?   PK Subban will need veteran support.

Gorges and Gill are fine and perhaps Ryan O’byrne will be able to fill Gill’s shoes by the time Gill is done.  Spacek should also be good for another year, but the Habs D Corps is in an odd transition and needs to be stablized.  Right now it’s not that strong defensively or offensively.   They’re one good D man away from really being effective.

Final note on the cap.   Ilya Kovalchuk.   He’s the hot buzz guy out there.  Almost everyone wants him and the salary starting point I’m hearing is $8M.

I don’t care if your name is Ovechkin, the greatest player in the game today, $8M in today’s salary cap is dangerous waters.   You need a full team to win the Stanley cup and that’s not easy to do when you focus that high an amount on one player.

And agents can do a disservice to their clients when they reach for those glory dollars.   The bragging rights in the short term can impact the players long time earning power (see Scott Gomez) as the expectations and needs of a contract that size are rarely realized.   Is Ilay at $8M plus really worth more to a team that two $4M players?

What do you think Hockey Fans?  You can post your comments below.

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