Wednesday, August 31, 2005

The Waiting Game


When the lockout ended, there were two assumptions made regarding the ideal situation for a player to be in:
1) It was best to be under contract already and take the 24% rollback because the free agents were going to get even less than that on the open market
2) A free agent's best course of action was to sign with a team ASAP to ensure they had a job

Of course, as we've come to see, the first has been proven to be completely false. Though the free agents maybe got less than what they would've three years ago in the same situation, you'd have a hard time convincing me it was a massive hit.

And now, we're starting to see that perhaps the second isn't all that true either.

If you believe published reports, the hottest free agent left is four time 40 goal scorer Peter Bondra, who, a month ago, wasn't on anyone's radar as far as hot properties. I don't recall too many fans saying "we have to get Peter Bondra on our team!"

After all, this is the same Peter Bondra who, after being traded to the Ottawa Senators close to 2004's trade deadline, was an absolute bust, scoring zero points in the seven playoff games the team had before being eliminated (again) by the Toronto Maple Leafs. Such a bust the team didn't exercise the option on his contract, even though when they first acquired him they said it was almost guaranteed they would. The same Peter Bondra who will be 38 by the time playoffs come around. The same Peter Bondra who has only played six games in the last year.

For some teams, these things don't matter, because he's all that's left. Whether feeling pressure from their fans to do something or being pressured internally due to the moves their rivals have made, many clubs have to do something, anything, before the season starts. That one last tinker that would, ideally, put them over the top.

By waiting everyone else out, Bondra's positioned himself to cash in. Not only with an excellent contract, but by having his choice of teams. Unlike a month ago, he can now see who, on paper anyway, have the bests chances of contending this season. I imagine for someone pushing 40, finally winning a Cup is his primary concern.

Sometimes patience is a virtue that comes in handy.

8 Comments:

At 3:05 PM, Blogger just'cuz said...

Though the free agents maybe got less than what they would've three years ago in the same situation, you'd have a hard time convincing me it was a massive hit.
Forsberg, Modano, Stillman, CuJo, Lindros and Roberts are exceptions to prove the rule, I guess.

 
At 6:19 PM, Blogger CMcMurtry said...

Forsberg took less to go to a winner. Though it was a drastic hit from his previous salary, I think Modano's contract was about right. He took less money for more years. Roberts at $2.25 is about right as well considering he's 38.

Lindros took a lot less money to go to Toronto. His dad even said he had many other offers that were much higher.

I have no explanation for Cory Stillman other than GMs think his numbers were a result of playing in the Tampa Bay system.

 
At 12:23 AM, Anonymous David said...

Certainly players took a hit. Under the old system Niedermayer would have gotten several million more, Forsberg would have re-signed in Colorado for about the same $10 million salary. It's the mid-level guys who didn't take a huge hit. For example, guys like Kovalev, Satan, Aucoin, etc. I couldn't see getting substantially more than they are getting now. Also, guys who signed for less a year or two ago to stay with their own team have taken an unecessary hit. Guys like Brodeur and Alfredsson really deserve much more than they are getting.

The big winners (or smallest losers) are guys like Holik who got bought out for massive sums of money and then were still able to sign a new big contract. I think in the end Holik isn't really losing much money from what he would have made from his 5 year $45 million contract.

Fringe players also come out quite well as the minimum salary has more than doubled to $450,000 and will rise over the term of the CBA.

 
At 7:38 AM, Blogger miser said...

Clearly as GMs have less options, players like Bondra can eke out a little more or pick amongst more teams. As for the money, Bondra was expected to yield $3.5 million over two years. It is now more likely that he will get a one year deal at about $1.4 - $1.5 million.
As for your assessment of Bondra with the Sens, stats wise you are right. But as many of the players will tell you, he was great in the room and hurt in the last week of the season. Also, the Sens not taking his option had more to do with getting him for less money than not wanting him.
Lastly, while most players at the end of their career look to play for a contender, when I had the opportunity to speak with Peter, two things were clear: his passion for hockey and love for hisfamily. Make no mistake though, he puts his family above all else. In anything other than the sports world, he would be revered for his integrity.

 
At 7:39 AM, Blogger miser said...

Clearly as GMs have less options, players like Bondra can eke out a little more or pick amongst more teams. As for the money, Bondra was expected to yield $3.5 million over two years. It is now more likely that he will get a one year deal at about $1.4 - $1.5 million.
As for your assessment of Bondra with the Sens, stats wise you are right. But as many of the players will tell you, he was great in the room and hurt in the last week of the season. Also, the Sens not taking his option had more to do with getting him for less money than not wanting him.
Lastly, while most players at the end of their career look to play for a contender, when I had the opportunity to speak with Peter, two things were clear: his passion for hockey and love for hisfamily. Make no mistake though, he puts his family above all else. In anything other than the sports world, he would be revered for his integrity.

 
At 7:40 AM, Blogger miser said...

Chris,
sorry for the double post ... my server is just waking up and hasn't had its coffee this morning.
Miser

 
At 12:22 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Patience will also have proven to be a virtue for the GMs who stayed out of the free agent feeding frenzy. All the "experts" say that Buffalo and Washington will blow chunks this year, but they both have good young talent and plenty of cap room.

When many teams discover that their free agents were busts and are in "cap jail" next summer, the clubs that left themselves with flexibility will be sitting pretty.

 
At 6:17 PM, Blogger Jackson said...

One thing to note about Bondra in Ottawa is that he played RW in Washington (for something like 14 seasons) and Ottawa, being as deep as it is on RW, had him skate on the left side, which probably contributed to his "bust" status. So I wouldn't be surprised one bit if you see him score a whole bunch goals (esp. PP) again this year.

 

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