Heatley Finds A Home

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H/T to ivano27 for the image

[Sunday Editor's Note]: As most of you know I'm currently in Minnesota and dealing with spotty internet time, which led to a rushed piece yesterday. You'll find correction of grammatical mistakes, different wording in areas I wasn't happy with, as well as an expansion of ideas today (i.e. some new sections). Think of it as a second edition to a novel- the hardcore fans will probably pick it up, while the casual fans (or those who didn't like the first edition) probably will refrain.

TCY covered a lot of good points on the trade here- essentially DW has given up relatively little talent in comparison to what he got back (and shedding some of the bigger salaries on the team in the process). On Thornton's wing Heatley is a potential 60 goal scorer, with Big Joe himself poised to crack 100 points next season. Hell, he may even end up shattering that mark. It may be a little premature to call it now, but it's not out of the question to expect that San Jose will have two guys that will be front-runners for the Rocket Richard and Art Ross. In and of itself, that's unbelievable.

Since it's a given the on-ice team will probably be better than they were last season, let's take a look at the future of the franchise, some concerns about Heatley,  as well as some line combinations for next season. Granted this may not be the most exciting topic of conversation on a day like today (OMG playoffs!!!!1!), but it's an important note to make- San Jose is going to have some big cap decisions next offseason with DW essentially rolling the dice and going all in. It's not a bad strategy, and certainly one that can be justified considering the lack of postseason success since the lockout, but it does come with consequences*.

*On a side note- I have been pretty consistent with my non Heatley stance because of this, but holy hell am I pumped for October. San Jose just may be the first back to back Presidents Trophy winners since the Detroit Red Wings.

First off, San Jose has now 58.16% of their salary cap space committed to five players- Heatley, Thornton, Boyle, Marleau, and Nabokov. In the long term that's not going to be an issue considering Nabokov and Marleau are hitting free agency next season, but expecting both of these guys to re-sign in 2010 is a long shot- Dan Boyle, Joe Thornton, and Dany Heatley will account for 37.6% of the team's salary. The general consensus around here has been to let Nabokov walk considering his age, declining play, and expected contract, and I'm definitely on board with that. He will be 35 and likely looking at a 3-4 year deal- a non starter for me, and most likely Doug Wilson as well (more on that below). The question going forward into the next decade is going to be goaltending- not an issue this season considering Nabokov is in a contract year and that generally means an above average performance, but after that there isn't a clear cut heir to the throne. Thomas Greiss will have to prove he is able to win games in a backup role this season*, or another prospect (Sexsmith, Karlsson, Stalock) will have to excel this year and make a bid for a starting role next season. There's not going to be a lot of money around next year to afford a premier goaltender in his prime.

*I would like to see Greiss get more starts down the stretch this year compared to Boucher for this reason. Nabby dealt with some lower body injuries during pockets of last season, and his increasing age makes him more susceptible to that. I wouldn't mind somewhere in the GS range of 58-24 between the pipes. It's a damn near lock San Jose makes the playoffs, and testing out the pipeline can only improve Wilson's decision making in the future.

As for pending UFA's/RFA's, here's the current list set to hit the market in 2010. Keep in mind that the cap is predicted to drop next season, with most estimates pegging it around the 2 million dollar range. However, we will be working with the numbers under the expectation it will remain $56.8 M due to the uncertainty of the predictions. That being said, if it does follow the general consensus and take a fall, you're going to see a lot of hand wringing one year from now.

2010 Free Agency

Player/Team Salary Status Pos.
San Jose Sharks $36.33 - -
- - - -
Joe Pavelski $1.63 RFA F
Devin Setoguchi $1.24 RFA F
Patrick Marleau
$6.30 UFA F
Jody Shelley $.725 UFA F
Jed Ortmeyer $.550 UFA F
Brad Staubitz $.500 RFA F
Rob Blake $4.00 UFA D
Derek Joslin
$.516 RFA D
Evgeni Nabokov
$5.37 UFA G
Scott Nichol $.750 UFA F

 

What Wilson will be working with next offseason is approximately $21.36 in cap space, with 11 players needing to come under contract- eight forwards, two defenseman, and one goaltender. Some notes:

  • It's safe to assume Pavelski and Setoguchi will account for at least $7.5 M in salary between the two. On the open market they would probably get more, but I'm projecting low and hoping that Wilson is able to keep them under contract because of their RFA status and a desire to stay in San Jose. There's no guarantee here however, and that number could obviously increase depending on a variety of things.
  • I had planned on writing a piece earlier this summer that was scrapped after the barrage of Marleau rumors, but what's the likelihood of DW channeling his inner Ken Holland and signing Patty to a long-term Johan Franzen type deal? If you want to keep him and field a competitive bottom line/pairings, that might be the way to go. If you extend him into the seven year range you're looking at roughly $4.0 M a year. That would go a long way, and if he continues or improves on his totals from last season (not hard to expect if he plays with Heatley/Thornton), I think you see Wilson consider doing so. IAmJoe of Sacrifice The Body left a comment explaining that it would probably take a 10-11 year deal in order to get him at the four million mark, also citing concerns about Patty's desire to stay in San Jose with everything that has occurred this offseason. We touched upon it here, and it's safe to say that Marleau may be feeling a bit disenfranchised after this offseason. For this exercise we'll put him around $6.0 M considering that is near market value.
  • As of now, San Jose has $7.86 M in cap space with five forwards, two defenseman, and one goaltender needing to be re-signed. The rest of the players left on the list above (besides Rob Blake who I'll touch upon briefly) probably won't command much more than their current salaries- their replacements will likely be in the same boat if DW decides to allow them to walk.
  • Rob Blake's age is decreasing, and it's no guarantee that he plays again next season- I'm not going to delve full bore into this until March or so (much like we did last year) in order to see how things shake out. The backend is going to be a question mark along with goaltending the next two seasons, but the kicker is that those are the two areas where San Jose is rich in the prospect pool. San Jose has always been known for their goaltending system, and the blueline also has some talent waiting in the wings (Petrecki, Demers, Moore). That's a facet of the deal that should be applauded- Wilson gained a high profile winger to "hide" the lack of depth in the forward prospect pool, while leaving the crease and blueline untouched. It gives him a lot of opportunity to explore multiple call up avenues in case a couple of these guys fail to pan out.

In summation, the deal at face value is wonderful- you drop two of the worst contracts on the team (Michalek* and Cheechoo) as well as a draft pick in order to pick up the pure goal scoring forward San Jose needed at the beginning of this offseason. There are some issues with the depth of the third and fourth lines, as well as the blueline, but that's a card DW was willing to play.

*Let me qualify that a bit- as I mentioned earlier, Michalek's contract wasn't God awful- he's in good company with players his age post lockout, and I think that is roughly market value for a guy who is going to score 25 goals a year. But in the context of San Jose's salary structure, yes he was one of the worst contracts on the team.

There's always a risk running a top heavy salary structured team (ironically, see the 06-07 Senators and their subsequent fall from grace). Is our team better on paper than it was last year? Yes, I think it is, especially the top two forward lines. But if the cap drops two million dollars next season and the vaunted goaltender pipeline of San Jose doesn't immediately produce (i.e. next year) a guy who can start sixty games a season, it's going to be a long and hard road winning hockey games.

*******

Anyways, since the future is a year away and I can't wait for October to finally roll around, let's take a look at the current lineup for San Jose as I see it. Contrary to popular opinion I'm actually spreading out our scoring touch a bit here and placing Marleau on the second line- Heatley and Big Joe will provide enough pucks in the net between them, and I've never been a big fan of having three same side shots (left handed in this case) on the same line.

Heatley-Thornton-Setoguchi

Marleau-Pavelski-Clowe

McGinn-Mitchell-(training camp winner)

Shelley-Nichol-(training camp winner)

An issue with this might be Setoguchi's and Pavelski's upcoming contract negotiation's- pairing them with Marleau and Thornton respectively is bound to increase their totals and concurrently their pay raises. I don't care about that however, and I doubt McLellan does either. His job is to win hockey games, and my job is to get drunk and watch him do so. We've both got pretty sweet jobs.

Regardless of where this ends up (Clowe on the first line? Marleau? Oh my God the possibilities!) the top two lines are going to be flat out amazing. After that though you get into a situation where there's not too much depth. Mitchell is struggling with tendinitis, and although David Pollak of Working The Corners stressed, "No, don’t start any rumors about Mitchell," the fact that he took so long to come back last season and won't begin training camp with the rest of the veterans is a little concerning. His game is reliant on speed, and lower body injuries aren't doing him any help in that department. If he goes down you probably call up Couture, but Logan hasn't played a full season in the AHL- can he handle the rigors of the NHL right out of the gate? My point is that the Sharks are pretty top heavy in the scoring department, and that was a prevailing issue on the team during the postseason last year (and, as we saw all throughout the postseason, teams need scoring depth in order to make a long run). McGinn should provide some offense (and his career numbers indicate he may be poised for a 15-20 goal year), but if the injury bug hits like it did last season (especially with the big three*) the well may run a little dry- I don't think the blueline is going to be producing as much with Ehrhoff gone.

*The big three is seriously too funny. I remember DW implying back in 2007 that he wanted to model the organization off of Ottawa, and he actually did it, bringing in an ex-Sen to boot. If Patty plays on the top line we're going to have to come up with something better than the Pizza line, no matter how well it fits.

Speaking of the blueline, it will be interesting to see what the camp competition eventually spits out. I would prefer if Petrecki was able to see a full year of AHL competition because of the fact it puts off a big contract and allows him to get some seasoning, but if he's the clear cut front runner I'm all for giving him the sixth slot. I've said it before, but anyone who resembles Robyn Regehr is a great thing for San Jose.

There also remains a very important note to make- San Jose might not be salary cap compliant by the time the trade deadline comes around. The Sharks are still without a healthy scratch forward (a spot that will filled at training camp), which will put them near or at the ceiling. Here's an explanation of this situation from a previous piece:

 

1) What's the significance of a salary bonus in terms of a player's cap number? Is there a site that provides the relevant bonus information for a specific player?

The cap hit that you find on CapGeek is the maximum amount that player could take up under the cap. Bonuses are included. However, if a player fails to reach every bonus by the end of the season, only his base salary will count against the cap. This means that a team is able to exceed the cap by the combined total of all their players bonuses. The risk in doing so is that if the players do hit those bonuses (sending the team over the cap in the process), a large cap charge will be levied for the 2010-2011 season.

As for a site that provides the specifics of a player's performance bonuses (specifically entry level players), I have yet to find one.

Example: Jamie McGinn's base salary is $681,666. His contract specifies that $315,000 in performance bonuses are available to him this season. For the purpose of this exercise, let's assume $105,000 will be paid out for the following- scoring 20+ goals, playing 60+ games, and notching 30+ assists. At the end of the season he has 22 goals, 67 GP, and 24 assists. McGinn will therefore be worth $891,666 under the salary cap (base salary + hitting two performance bonuses).

-"Salary Cap Questions: The Story of The Summer, September 1st

Jamie McGinn, Devin Setoguchi, Rob Blake, and Nick Petrecki all have salary cap bonuses included in their contracts. James Mirtle notified me via email that entry level bonuses (McGinn, Setoguchi, Petrecki) are fairly easy to hit, making it all but a certainty that they will do so if they make the team. Your guess at the likelihood of Blake hitting his bonus is as good as mine considering the details of which are not public.

What does this mean? It's likely that San Jose will be forced to either a) leave McGinn and/or Petrecki in the minors during the majority of the season (a route I doubt management would take with McGinn) b) hope that the aforementioned players don't hit their bonuses (which, as mentioned before, is unlikely with entry-level players) or c) be forced into making another trade, with that trade likely coming at the deadline. If this occurs, there are two routes Wilson can take- a salary dump (Huskins, Murray) or a high profile player (Marleau, Clowe) that will get you back something decent in return. The fact of the matter is that San Jose will have to take back less net salary in a deal, and this will likely result in a downgrade at that specific position. His bargaining position will essentially be the same as it was when he moved Ehrhoff and Lukowich earlier this season.

DW is walking a tight rope here, and the hope is that it pays off.

As an aside, I'm very surprised at the lack of concern concerning Dany Heatley both in a salary cap and character standpoint. There is no doubt in my mind the Sharks received a world class goal scorer that should make them much better on the offensive side of the ice, but where is the concern about his defensive play? His multiple trade requests over the last five years? A $7.5 M cap hit? The impending salary cap issues, issues that will likely crop up this season? The subsequent lack of roster depth? These were all relevant to the vast majority of readers during the last three months, and suddenly, in one fell Doug Wilson swoop, they dissipate? If anything it is closer to home now, sleeping in our living room. Just because he is a San Jose Shark does not mean they are going away.

I make this trade every day of the week. It doesn't mean it comes without some major questions, as well as a bit of cautious optimism. Tempered enthusiasm is how I would describe my feelings, and I just don't see that now.

I did a week ago.

*******

Final take- the Heatley deal was, at face value, stellar. You shed some big salary and gain a potential 60 goal scorer. It makes San Jose top heavy in terms of salary structure, but that's an issue that is going to be highlighted down the road- this season you're going to see one helluva team take the ice. The future in net will hinge on strides made this season at the AHL level (or with Greiss). The bottom lines may be a problem in the scoring department, but the top two will be the class of the league- their efficiency will be the driving point to success. Power play production should be around the 25% range all season long, and probably the best in the NHL. Penalty kill lost a little bit of bite with Michalek on his way out, but Nichol, Mitchell, and another training camp competition winner should be able to make up for it.

Stanley Cup or bust bitches. Stanley Cup or bust.

 

Go Sharks.

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