"I'll be alright without you, there'll be someone else, I keep telling myself"
With the San Jose Sharks wrestling with the horrors of competing in the salary cap age, today we're taking a page out of Wilson's playbook in order to analyze the players who are most likely to be dealt before next season. Salary cap ramifications. Upside. Skill level. Performance vs. pay.
Here's the list of usual suspects (with salary cap hit in parentheses):
Jonathan Cheechoo (3.0), Patrick Marleau (6.3), Milan Michalek (4.3), Christian Ehrhoff (3.1), Brad Lukowich (1.57), Douglas Murray (2.5), Evgeni Nabokov (5.38)
Related Pieces: Fuzzy Math... maybe? (July 2nd, 2009). Free Agency Cheat Sheet (June 29th, 2009). Sharks 2009-2010 Lineup (June 29th, 2009). Looking Forward (March 5th, 2009).
Jump city for the fireworks.
|2008 - Jonathan Cheechoo||66||12||17||29||-3||59||5||1||4||0||152||7.9|
Synopsis: Regulated to a third line role, Cheechoo had trouble contributing offensively all season long. His shaky skating ability, injury problems, and reliance on other players to create scoring opportunities for him played a large role in his declining goal totals since the season he won the Rocket Richard.
Contract: $3.00 M cap hit for the next two seasons, UFA afterwards.
Role Next Season: Likely on the third line once again, unless a top six winger is moved. The depth chart has him behind Clowe and Setoguchi on the right side, but if Michalek is traded Clowe could theoretically move over to the left wing and open up a spot for Cheechoo on the second line. Pairing him with Thornton once again on the top line (and bumping Setoguchi down to line two) would probably be a better option (considering Clowe-Pavelski-Cheech lacks any ability to stretch the defense), although it was met with minimal success during the times it occurred in 2008-2009.
Reasons For Moving: Purely economical- with the salary cap situation in San Jose, payroll needs to be shed. A three million dollar per year contract on the third line severely limits the amount of improvements Wilson will be able to make via trades.
Replacement: Jamie McGinn.
Plank's Verdict: Yes. Barring a major shakeup involving Marleau and Michalek, Cheechoo should be on the way out.
|2008 - Patrick Marleau||76||38||33||71||16||18||11||5||10||1||251||15.1|
Synopsis: Reinvigorated after a dismal 07-08 season due to complications with then head coach Ron Wilson and constant trade rumors, Marleau posted a gaudy 38 goals to lead the team in 08-09. Marleau led all forwards in shorthanded time last season, as well as playing on the wing with Joe Thornton and Devin Setoguchi.
Contract: $6.3 M cap hit for one more season, UFA afterwards.
Role Next Season: First line winger, penalty kill, power play.
Reasons For Moving: Criticisms of his lack of vocal leadership intensified after yet another San Jose playoff failure in 2009, and Marleau has become the face of a franchise struggling to get over the playoff hump. It is likely Marleau would get a decent return, and moving him before the deadline next season would ensure Wilson does not lose him for nothing in next year's free agent market.
Replacement: Would have to come outside of the organization via trade. Michalek could be bumped up to the first line, but it still would leave a hole on the second line.
Plank's Verdict: No. Patrick Marleau is the definition of a premier two-way player, and moving him would open up a hole on the first line and penalty kill. It is likely a trade involving Marleau would not yield a comparable return. Also, and this is pure speculation on my part, Patty may take a hometown discount in future contract negotiations due to his desire to stay in San Jose.
|2008 - Milan Michalek||77||23||34||57||11||52||6||0||6||1||179||12.8|
Synopsis: Milan Michalek put up good offensive numbers on San Jose's second line, and developed into a solid defensive player to boot. Michalek was able to stretch the defense on an otherwise pedestrian skating second line. The playoffs were disappointing however, as Michalek only notched one goal in six games against Anaheim (the entire line's output was 2 G, 2 A, and a -10).
Contract: $4.3 M for the next five seasons, UFA afterwards. Although his contract is steeper than some would like, it is comparable to a number of 25 goal left wingers- Ryan Malone (4.5), Ryan Smyth (6.25), Jason Blake (4.0), and Ray Whitney (3.55).
Role Next Season: Top six winger, penalty kill, power play.
Reasons For Moving: As is the company line this offseason, salary complications fuel the rumors surrounding Michalek. He has the potential to garner a very high return and while a $4.3 M contract may be close to market value, keeping him on the books has the potential to limit next offseason's ability to re-sign Setoguchi, Pavelski, Marleau, and Nabokov.
Replacement: Would likely have to come outside of organization via trade.
Plank's Verdict: No. Although the description of Michalek is usually, "what he could do" compared to "what he has done", Michalek is still in some pretty good company with players his age post-lockout. The fact that he's only 24 has me salivating for a season where he truly breaks out.
|2008 - Christian Ehrhoff||77||8||34||42||-12||63||5||0||2||0||165||4.8|
Synopsis: Nicknamed "Error-hoff" for his defensive breakdowns and frustrating hockey sense, Ehrhoff is nonetheless a dynamic offensive presence on the San Jose's blueline. Possessing a skating prowess that can surpass even Dan Boyle at times, Ehrhoff also has a nasty slap shot that is effective when he is able to get it on net.
Contract: $3.1 M cap hit for the next two seasons, UFA afterwards.
Role Next Season: Power play, bottom pairing defenseman.
Reasons For Moving: Looking at the backend, Ehrhoff's ability as a puck moving defenseman has been replaced by Kent Huskins, making Ehrhoff expendable. The blueline currently is in a bit of a logjam in terms of salary- moving Vlasic would be asinine, and Murray (who we will touch upon later) would leave San Jose with a D corps lacking a physical presence. Puck moving defenseman are all the rage around the NHL currently, and the return via trade would likely be noteworthy. He's very affordable for the services he brings to the table.
Replacement: Kent Huskins.
Plank's Verdict: Yes. McLellan's system is fueled by shots from the point, and while Ehrhoff brings a lot to the table in this regard, moving Vlasic or Murray would open up a hole on the defensive end of the ice.
|2008 - Brad Lukowich||58||0||8||8||5||12||0||0||0||0||43||0.0|
Synopsis: Heralded at the beginning of the year for his excellent play with Dan Boyle, Lukowich's play towards the end of the year went south. Bad reads were commonplace, and his skating ability made it difficult to amend those mistakes.
Contract: $1.56 M cap hit for one more season, UFA afterwards.
Role Next Season: Paired with either Boyle or a healthy scratch.
Reasons For Moving: As with Ehrhoff, the reasons for moving Luko can be attributed to both his play and logjam on the backend. With Kent Huskins re-signing, having a $1.5 M healthy scratch on the blueline restricts a lot of improvements Wilson would be able to make.
Replacement: Mike Moore, Derek Joslin, Free Agency, or trade. Luko's replacement would likely be scratched most nights, which makes it likely Moore and Joslin would not be the solutions.
Plank's Verdict: Yes. On a team struggling to find cap room, tying up $1.56 M in Lukowich makes no sense.
|2008 - Douglas Murray||75||0||7||7||6||38||0||0||0||0||56||0.0|
Synopsis: Known for his big hits and rugged defensive play, Murray provided much of San Jose's physical output during 2008-2009. Positionally sound for the majority of his ice time, Murray is the definition of a stay at home defenseman. However, he has been known to jump up into the play for a big hit at times, which caused issues due to his middling skating ability. During the playoffs, he was the best defenseman on the ice not named Dan Boyle.
Contract: $2.5 M cap hit for the next four seasons, UFA afterwards.
Role Next Season: Penalty kill, bottom pairing defenseman.
Reasons For Moving: Economical, and possibly to "sweeten the pot" for a team that is close to making a deal. The return for Murray alone would be minimal.
Replacement: Would have to be a physical presence on the backend. Most likely via trade.
Plank's Verdict: No. Murray provides a needed physical presence on the team, and without him Rob Blake would be the only blueliner on the current roster who would fill that role.
|2008 - Evgeni Nabokov||62||3686||41||12||8||0||150||2.44||1663||1513||.910||7|
Synopsis: Evgeni Nabokov had a respectable year in net for San Jose, backstopping the team to a Presidents' Trophy. The playoffs were a whole different matter however, as Nabokov posted a .890 SV% in a first round loss.
Contract: $5.375 M cap hit for one more season, UFA afterwards.
Role Next Season: Starting goaltender.
Reasons For Moving: Drawing a comparison between Nabokov and Kiprusoff is logical considering they played in San Jose under the late Warren Strelow, and man the pipes with the same mentality. Both netminders challenge shooters aggressively in front of their crease and rely heavily on their reflexes to keep pucks out of the net. As Kipper has shown over the last three seasons, an increasing age is detrimental to this style of play. Nabokov's problems with the five hole are most likely due to this.
Therefore, flipping Nabokov now would allow Doug Wilson to get something in return- it's uncertain whether or not he will be re-signed next offseason. His value in the market would be high considering he is in a contract year and finished top five in Vezina voting the last two seasons.
Replacement: Thomas Griess, which as we have noted before, is not an enticing possibility. If Nabokov is moved, Wilson should look to either free agency or trades to get a proven number one. Manny Fernandez would be a good choice, as long as the contract is in the $3.5 M/2 year range.
Plank's Verdict: No. Lots to consider, but at the end of the day a contract year, NTC, and lack of a proven NHL 60 game starter in the system make it too big of a risk to take.
Special thanks to LeVar Burton for helping out those who have trouble reading
Who's Out: Jonathan Cheechoo, Christian Ehrhoff, and Brad Lukowich
Salary Cap Space: $9.315 M
What San Jose Needs: Six forwards, two defenseman, one goaltender
Using the same thought process as before, Jamie McGinn and Thomas Greiss are called up. McGinn's cap hit sits at $.997 M, and Greiss' will be estimated to be $.800 M. Those transactions result in a team needing five forwards and two defenseman with $7.83 M in cap space remaining.
Scott Nichol (who is rumored to be on his way) and Torrey Mitchell are then brought on. With both players, injury history will be a factor in contract negotiations. Therefore, I am assuming Nichol will make the same as last season ($.750 M) and Torrey Mitchell will sign a one-year contract for roughly $.850 M*.
*Pure speculation, but I'm guessing that Torrey Mitchell goes the route of Ryane Clowe last offseason and inks a deal sometime in August. Also, and I mentioned this in Teas Fanpost, I'm a little concerned with the size down the middle on our bottom lines. There's only so much room for "motor" on checking lines, and convincing me that opposing defenseman will fear the forecheck with a 5'11 Mitchell and a 5'8 Nichol is a wild gambit at best. I'll be sure to have more at the culmination of DW's offseason, but if anyone thinks Ryan Vesce is going to be a good fit on the roster next season, get your mind straight. At least the lollipop guild they have in Montreal has some scoring touch- expecting Vesce to contribute in a checking line role with Nichol or Mitchell flat out makes me want to cry. I sincerely hope that's not in the master plan, because this blog would be shut down at high noon the next day. High fucking noon.
Anyways, Nichol and Mitchell puts us at $6.23 M with three forwards and two defenseman needing to be re-signed. The lineup currently looks like this:
If I'm DW, I realize I need a defensive defenseman on the blueline. Here's what I had to say about Derek Joslin earlier this season:
Derek Joslin: Probably the most unmemorable of the four (which was a good thing), Joslin played well enough with the big club for me to be content with him sticking around. That being said, it's just not going to happen. He was sent down yesterday, and it seems as if his time in San Jose will most likely be done for the remainder of this year (barring an injury to one of our seven defensemen). Semenov has gotten the green light for the duration of this bad boy- God save us all*.
* Honestly though, Semmy has looked respectable lately. Big ups to the big man.
I liked what Derek brought to the table- he was physical in the corners, made smart and conservative passes on the breakout, was rarely out of position, and could skate decently well- a solid player for our bottom pairings in years to come, with the potential to get top-four minutes on a fairly deep blueline.
Hockey's Future has this to say:
A sound overall game; he plays in all situations and is very composed. Good offensive instincts. A great one-timer. Skating stride is a weakness
He’s projected to be a middle pairing defender in the NHL.
Bringing up Joslin to play with Boyle is pretty risky considering both can be defined as guys who prefer the offensive side of the ice, and the fact that pairing is going to see 17+ minutes a night at even strength. From what I saw he's not ready for the workload at this point in his career, and having him serve as a healthy scratch makes no sense from an organizational standpoint. However, let's float the idea around and say he is brought up. If that's the case, I bump Murray up with Boyle, leave Vlasic and Blake together, and hope Joslin works with Huskins.
Another interesting possibility would be Mike Moore. He's known for his physical play, and although he didn't see any game time in San Jose this season, Moore did get called up during the year. If he's the answer here, I'm still moving Murray up to play with Boyle and sheltering Moore on the bottom pairing with Huskins.
Outside of the organization, it's hard to predict. Ehrhoff or Cheechoo would likely be the only players who would be able to bring back a serviceable NHL defenseman. As for the healthy scratch department, I'm not sure you're going to be able to find someone better than Alexei Semenov on the open market at that price tag. Here's what was said about him earlier this offseason, and I'm still not convinced that letting him walk was the right choice. We'll see what happens.
In terms of forwards, there are two guys out on the open market who would be a perfect fit for San Jose- Taylor Pyatt and Ben Guite. We mentioned these guys before free agency began, and lo and behold they're still available. Both forwards had a heavy dose of shorthanded time for their respective clubs last season, which is what we're looking for in order to disperse some shorthanded time with Goc and Grier heading to greener pastures. Pyatt plays on the left wing however, and would probably command more than Travis Moen (who didn't even receive an offer from Wilson*). Therefore, I doubt he's in the cards.
*I understand that three years at $4.5 may be too many greenbacks for what Moen brought to the table, but obviously he had enough value for DW to ship off two prospects for him. Lowball and he walks? Fine. Not extending an offer is just plain weird, and frankly a little concerning.
In the organization, Logan Couture always gets a kick out of the crowd, but I don't think bringing him up this soon is a good route to take. For one, he didn't play in Worcester last season. The professional game is much more physical, and although his statistics with the Ottawa 67's are phenomenal, seasoning in the AHL would do him well. Secondly, by delaying the amount of time until he cracks the big club, you avoid having to dole out a big contract earlier (while at the same time allowing him to improve his skills). Bobby Ryan is a great example of the benefits of this- there's no need to rush a young player when the big club is a playoff caliber team without him.
Jeremy Roenick has yet to announce whether or not he will be returning, and the delay in his decision makes me wonder if Wilson is keeping him at arms length during the proceedings. If Roenick is brought back on for one more year, it would be close to the minimum with him serving as a healthy scratch most nights.
Brad Staubitz played with the big club last season and could be slated into a fourth line role. I have to tell ya though, throwing him on a line with Nichol seems like a goddamn shorthanded fest. He's a good energy guy and all that, but we don't need a fourth line heading to the box all night. My hope is that he gets spot duty in San Jose like last season, beats the shit out of Tootoo a couple times, and then replaces Shelley in a year.
In terms of return, what I'm hoping DW can go out and get is the following: a) defensive defenseman b) forward who plays on the PK and c) draft picks and prospects. I'm trying to replenish the coffers after making multiple buy deals over the course of the last four seasons- the minor league system is thinning quicker than Lindsay Lohan. However, there are some issues with the game plan I've set up as we move forward.
Next offseason is going to be a doozy in terms of free agency- Rob Blake, Devin Setoguchi, Joe Pavelski, Patrick Marleau, and Evgeni Nabokov will be free agents. Coupled with the fact that the salary cap is rumored to be coming down, it poses some tough questions as to who will be retained.
Hypothetically, I assume Blake is retiring. Nabokov will likely be looking for a contract extension in the multi-year range at roughly the same clip he earned this season. Unless we win the Cup next year with him between the pipes, he is not in my plans going forward. Essentially I am taking one last shot with Nabby, letting him walk for nothing, and trusting that the vaunted goaltender pipeline San Jose has in place is able to walk the walk instead of just talking the talk.
I'm comfortable with doing this due to the fact that the team is still a Cup contender- despite the salary cap troubles, I've kept the core together which won a Presidents' Trophy. I may be making it harder to rebuild eventually by doing this, but it's a risk I'm willing to take considering the talent level at the top of the current roster. If this doesn't pan out by the time the deadline comes around, I consider moving some major pieces then.
Leave your thoughts or alternate game plans in the comments.