Now, I know the Sharks aren't really in the "sign UFA's now" mode. The cap situation is crappy and blah, blah, blah.
Make the jump for a look at current UFA Taylor Pyatt, and how he could help the Sharks in 2009-2010.
Moves will be made that will help get San Jose's cap situation into focus. If you've missed us talking about this before, the Sharks are over the cap. Wow. Shocking, I know. I'm not going over it again. For the purposes of this article, though, let's assume the Sharks lineup currently looks like this:
Marleau - Thornton - Setoguchi
Michalek - Pavelski - Clowe
McGinn - Mitchell - Cheechoo
Ortmeyer - Nichol - Shelley
Boyle - Huskins
Blake - Vlasic
Murray - Ehrhoff
Most of these players are already on the roster. Of the players listed above, only Staubitz and Mitchell are yet to be signed. Assuming they ink for their appropriate 10% raises, they will account for $1.308MM against the cap. That puts the Sharks' aggregate cap hit at approximately $59.7MM, or about $2.19MM over the cap.
So, as we've said before, Cheechoo is probably on his way out. The $3MM savings would give the Sharks around $800K to sign or bring up a player from the minors. Frazer McLaren's name has been tossed around, mostly because he's cheap. Even a player such as Logan Couture ($1.24MM cap hit) would be too expensive to fall into the roster.
That is, unless you do a little finagling. If Lukowich (bless his heart) was moved (either to Worcester, like McLaren, or another team) and replaced with Nick Petrecki (in addition to moving Cheechoo), you'd have $1.6MM with which to sign a player to fill the void at forward. If you went with Derek Joslin instead of Petrecki as the 7th defenseman, that's $1.9MM in cap space. Space which could be used to extend an offer to Taylor Pyatt.
Taylor Pyatt is an interesting player. The 27 year old UFA has played seven years in the NHL; after playing four combined seasons in Long Island and Buffalo, he's played the last three with Vancouver. Coming into the offseason, James Mirtle ranked Pyatt 43rd amongst available UFA's.
From a pure offensive perspective, Pyatt doesn't have the capability to put up the points that Cheechoo can. Cheechoo could definitely score more goals on a line with Joe Thornton than Taylor Pyatt ever could. Problem is, even with Pollak's line combo announcement, Cheechoo probably won't be getting many first line minutes. Even, still, Cheechoo has been a big "if" the last two seasons. As you know, the "if" has turned into... well... nothing. Because of this, he'll likely be plopped right back into third line duty. In that type of role, who would you rather have... Pyatt or Cheechoo?
Pyatt is a bigger body (a 6'4" 230 lb monster). Pyatt is a better skater. Pyatt is a better defensive player. Although Cheechoo was once great, he's not the player he was, and we all know that. Maybe he could recapture some of his former glory on the first line, but that's unlikely. At this point, the Sharks are just trying to fit Cheechoo's $3MM cap hit somewhere into the lineup. On the third line, Cheechoo is a liability. Pyatt is a much more reasonable option.
Fans can expect anywhere from 25-35 points from Pyatt on the third line. Since Cheechoo scored only 29, that's not much of a downgrade. However, it's when you look at Pyatt's defensive prowess that you see how much of an upgrade he really is.
It's glaringly apparent that the team lacks defensive players when you can honestly say that losing Grier, Moen, and Goc hurts the team. We won't miss Grier's empty net adventures, Goc's underachieving, or Moen's disappearing act, but their time spent on the PK won't be easy to replace. Granted, Nichol was brought in to help on the PK, but as I said in previous threads, he was one of the worst PK players in the NHL last year when it came to GAON-GAOFF. Even if you keep Nichol on the PK, that leaves the team with only five dependable penalty killers: Marleau, Pavelski, Michalek, Mitchell, and Nichol. Assuming Marleau stays with the team, it would probably be best to limit his kill minutes next year in order to keep him fresh over the course of the season and into the playoffs. That's where Pyatt comes in.
In terms of GAON-GAOFF, Pyatt's -2.88 is best among the UFA forwards crop. Not only that, but Pyatt was able to do this while playing 2.25 minutes per game on the penalty kill... an impressive total. In signing Pyatt, the Sharks would receive a top pairing PK forward who could help lessen Marleau's time on the kill while playing solid minutes. Me likey.
All in all, I don't see how Pyatt isn't an upgrade over Cheechoo. The question remains though, how much will he cost? Although I had him around $2MM to start the offseason, his value has dropped considerably as the offseason progressed. Many teams have already completed filling out their roster, and Pyatt either smells bad or slept with someone's sister, because he's still unsigned. Don't read into that too much though... other UFA's are also feeling the effects of the economic downturn.
So what is Pyatt worth? At this point, I'd assume he'd be happy to receive an offer with a team that's competing for the Stanley Cup, even if he's not getting the raise he probably thinks he deserves. If the Sharks can drum up the cap room in the way I suggested above, the $1.6MM-$1.9MM should be plenty to lure Taylor Pyatt to San Jose. And for the poster who said I was "irresponsible" with the cap, the Pyatt offer would be for 1 year, and wouldn't affect the team come 2010.
I'm all for the move, and it's one that makes the Sharks better without the drastic (losing Marleau) roster changes that many have feared could happen. It helps solve almost of the issues that we wanted addressed this offseason; it brings in a lower line player who's under 30 with some grit and scoring pop. He can also play the PK, and he's defensively responsible. Bada bing, bada boom.