Five Things To Take Away From NHL Free Agency (Up To This Point)
Unless you are an avid baseball fan or have a lot of stock invested into where Dwight Howard plays basketball next year, this is a very dark time for sports fans. The marathon that we like to call the MLB regular season is only halfway through, and we are still quite a ways away from the NFL season starting up. And I don’t know about you, but I’m ecstatic that we can finally put the “Dwight Howard to Brooklyn” talks away for at least another season. For the few dedicated hockey fans though, the free-agency period always has a few interesting storylines, and this year is no exception. Here are five things to take away from this year’s offseason of moves:
1. The NHL is VERY lucky that Ryan Suter and Zach Parise both signed with the Minnesota Wild. (Unless you’re the Detroit Red Wings)
Doing their best Miami Heat impression, arguably the two best free agents in this year’s class picked to sign with the same team. Both Parise and Suter decided to take their talents to Minneapolis by signing identical 13 year contracts both worth $98 million a piece. But this story is just as much about who they didn’t sign with, as who they did sign with. Both players are young, talented, and have plenty of game left in their careers, and were courted by some of the biggest markets in the league. Most notably, the Detroit Red Wings. The Red Wings have been the model of success in the NHL for the past decade, and are consistently at the top of the league in points at the end of the regular season. With the departure of Nicklas Lidstrom and the duo of Henrik Zetterberg and Pavel Datsyuk aging, the Red Wings needed an influx of young talent to remain the dominant team that most hockey fans love to hate. Instead, Parise opted to play in his hometown of Minneapolis and Suter followed suit. The Wild missed the playoffs by 14 points last season and finished 12th out of 15teams in the Western Conference. Now with the addition of these two stars the Wild now become a 5th or 6th seed in the playoffs at best. If they had signed with the Red Wings, Detroit would have immediately been a Stanley Cup favorite. I’ll take them in Minnesota any day.
2. Shane Doan REALLY wants to stay a Phoenix Coyote.
Shane Doan has spent his entire career playing for the Phoenix Coyote franchise. The captain of the ‘Yotes has led the team through ownership problems the past two years, and miraculously the team was able to make it all the way to the Western Conference Finals before they were steamrolled by the Los Angeles Kings. Doan is now a free agent. Even though he’s entering the last few years of his career, he still is highly sought after by over a dozen teams around the league. But does Doan want to bail ship on a struggling Phoenix franchise and make a pretty penny in a more stable franchise? Nope. Doan originally gave the Phoenix/Glendale area a deadline of July 10 to figure out ownership or he would start considering offers from other franchises. When July 10 rolled around he extended the offer another week, hoping that he can finish the rest of his career with what has become his team over the last decade. It will be interesting to see where he ends up playing when July 17 comes around, and if the Coyotes haven’t solved their ownership crisis.
3. Alexander Semin REALLY wants to play in America.
Alexander Semin is a gifted goal scorer who has a rifle of a shot and can make plays in the offensive zone. That’s why the Russian shooter has received a deal from teams in the Russian league (KHL) worth $30 million over 3 years. Semin not only gets to make almost $4 million dollars more than he did with the Capitals, but he also would play in his homeland of Russia. But he has yet to sign the contract. Semin knows he won’t be offered anything close to that kind of money in North America, but here we are, and he’s still waiting for an offer. NHL teams are skeptical of his work ethic and his dedication to the team. This phenomenon is widely known as the “Russian Factor” and Semin is a perfect example. Semin and Doan are the two best players left on the market and no teams have given Semin a legitimate offer yet. The team who has shown the most interest in Semin: The Pittsburgh Penguins. That’s exactly what the Eastern Conference does NOT want to see; Semin and fellow Russian Evgeni Malkin causing havoc on one line, Sidney Crosby tearing apart the defense on the next.
4. Roberto Luongo can’t handle the heat in Vancouver.
Roberto Luongo has had an up and down tenure in Vancouver, and it looks like the goaltender has had enough. The Canucks have been looking for trade destinations for the All-Star goaltender, but because of Luongo’s no trade clause, they can only shop him to teams that the goalie approves of. The pressure of playing in a Canadian city seems to have gotten to Luongo and he wants out of Canada and wants to return to the states. His first choice of teams is the Florida Panthers, which is as far as you can get from a pressure cooker environment. After failing to win a Stanley Cup in Vancouver, Luongo’s tenure will likely be looked down upon by most fans around the NHL.
5. The NHL continues its long history of enormously long contracts.
Sidney Crosby has missed the better part of the last two seasons due to concussion-like symptoms. How do the Penguins reward him: with a 12-year contract, (yes, 12 years) worth approximately $104.4 million. That means Sid the Kid will be playing in Pittsburgh until he’s “Sid the AARP Member”. Suter and Parise one-upped Sid the Kid and signed 13-year contracts. But neither of these compare to Ilya Kovalchuk’s 15-year deal he inked in 2010. NHL franchises have found a way around the salary cap by offering these mega deals that spread player salaries across enormously long contracts. Crosby can start getting comfy in Pittsburgh knowing he won’t go anywhere until 2024. Think 12 years is a long contract? On his 18th birthday, Wayne Gretzky signed a 21-year deal with the Edmonton Oilers back in 1979.
There are still plenty of storylines to unfold this offseason including the trade market for Rick Nash and Bobby Ryan. Doan and Semin will be making their decisions soon, but until then we hockey fans are stuck checking out Olivia Munn at the ESPYs and replaying the playoffs on NHL Network.