Goalie contracts a bad case of the overpaids

January 29, 2012

The first all-star game since 2006 to feature neither Crosby nor Ovechkin might have been the coming out party of John Tavares, as an NHL star.  After following the path of many great players, being selected first overall by the Islanders after a storied Junior career, and finishing second in rookie scoring his first year like Crosby, Tavares seemed destined for team-lifting greatness.  Unfortunately for Tavares and the NHL, the Islanders cannot be lifted.  There is no John Tavares era.  Instead on Long Island it is the era of Rick DiPietro’s contract.

Those NHL fans chuckling at the Isles misfortunes may want to check their own team’s roster, as somehow the disastrous error seems the beginning of an idiotic trend in big-league hockey, one which threatens the near-future of several otherwise competitive teams.  There are 5 goalies who currently have NHL contracts for over 6 million dollars per year, and three more who are effectively also making over 6 because they have years under contract in which they will obviously not be playing, although they are on the books for less than 6 per year.  DiPietro is one of those latter three, and while he has had the most disappointing career of all these highly paid goalies, his contract does not have the most money left on it; not by a long shot.

If the Flyers continue to be forced towards using Bobrovsky as their regular starting netminder, then Ilya Bryzgalov will become the most expensive backup goalie in hockey history, and he is owed 5.66 million each year for eight more seasons after this one.  Bryzgalov may bounce back; many players have had a tough initial half-season for a new team and facing more pressure.  If he doesn’t bounce back quite dramatically, however, Philly will have to go with Bobrovsky, as he has not only been much better, but the younger Russian was also better last year than Bryzgalov has been this year, by almost as wide a margin, and this is supposed to be a contending year in Philadelphia.  Players like Jagr may not be easy to keep around if they suffer a first round playoff exit. 

While his season resembles his disappointing ’08-’09 campaign, he’s facing 3 and a half less shots per game, which seems fairly representative of the situation in front of him.  Bryzgalov turns 32 during the offseason.  If he doesn’t turn it around, he will not be tradeable, and the Flyers will immediately become also-rans in the Eastern Conference for the indefinite future.  The problem is that even if Bobrovsky solves the goaltending situation for them, they won’t have the necessary cap room to keep him and pay the rest of the team.  New rules, such as the salary floor will bleed such would-be contenders of their depth, and vets like Jagr, seeing the writing on the wall, will take their services to teams with the flexibility to adapt and win.

All too famililar for a guy guaranteed 5.66 million in 2019.

Cam Ward’s contract burdens his team in a different way, because Ward’s performance has not been the problem.  The problem is that the rest of the team is a disaster, but they can’t do much about it because as one of the Hurricanes’ only valuable assets, Ward’s contract makes him almost as undesirable as Bryzgalov.  The same situation could be evolving in Vancouver as well, but with the added complication of the Sedin twins twin contracts.  A sort of mix of the two seems to be unfolding in Minnesota, where Harding could easily be given the starting gig at this point, but the situation there is less dire for Backstrom’s contract having only one more season after this one, and because Backstrom is still good.

There has been a clear split in the philosophy of NHL teams when it comes to goaltending in the past several seasons.  As the financial regulations have been tightened, teams are splitting into either ‘cap-circumvention’ or ‘spend it on D and role the dice’ camps.  Those who doubt the effectiveness of the latter approach should address their concerns to Chris Osgood’s Stanley Cup rings. 


re: Presentation

November 27, 2011

Ten Bonus Points to Dorrell Wright

The Birdman is served his thanksgiving turkey.

Apparently Dorrell Wright is a Christian.  A real, practicing Christian.  At least practicing in the sense that he mentions God when explaining his motivation for saving a Thanksgiving celebration for his community’s elderly and less fortunate.  Also practicing in the sense that he’s got to get ready for the season awwwwwwwwyyyyyeaaahhh!  Wright’s contract paid him 3.8 million last season, but it was his first year of a new, relatively lucrative contract.  While locked-out, fiscally imprudent players scrambled to cover their expenses without their expected paychecks, Wright not only stepped up, but showed up, stayed, and said all of the right things.  He diplomatically implied regrets from those on the other side of the lockout, suggesting that others wanted to step up.  But they didn’t.

'They question my birth certificate too, buddy.'

Perhaps Dorrell Wright should represent Albert Pujols.  Apparently, being a good Christian is part of the fraud that has made the career of Dan Lozano, Pujols current agent, whom he left top agent Scott Boras for.  In the deal made by Lozano when big Albert jumped to him, Pujols become the 30th highest paid player in the game, despite being an all-star in all 4 of his seasons and having been the 2nd runner-up for the NL MVP.  During the contract’s duration he would be MVP 3 times; as the 30th, 34th and 26th highest paid player for each of those years. Boras would have gotten more, and would probably get more this time around too. Dorrell Wright may not; but at least Albert would have a Christian in his corner.

Good News/ Bad news Pt. 2: How Caron Butler saved the big leagues. (assists: M. Recchi, T. Thomas) 6:14

June 23, 2011

Big league team owners are people too.  They are wealthy people, who have business empires to run and pensions to fund, but people none the less.  They are also competitive, although they are not necessarily sportsmen.  Therefore, they are prone to making the decision to take their ball and go home, if they feel slighted.  And that is how Caron Butler saved the big leagues.  Still not clear?

The good news is that the numbers are in, and people love their pro sports on tv!  Wait; is that good news?  The ratings for the NBA finals are up.  Way up.  The same for the NHL.  The numbers can be sliced and diced any which way, but it is good for both the NHL and NBA that two larger markets long absent from the finals had teams competing in the last game (though some more than others), and compelling storylines abound in both cases, keeping the teams on front pages, putting ‘Burrows’ and ‘Barea’ on lips that had never known them before.  At the expiration of the collective bargaining agreements of both leagues, the pie to be divvied up is growing, so perhaps both sides in both negotiations will be in a mood more conducive to deals than they would otherwise be.  Each sport also has had a potentially disturbing trend rising, both having ramifications on the relationship between salary-cap and financial regulations in general, and the ability of teams to compete.

In the NHL, contracts with bizarre lengths of duration have been proliferating, and Roberto Luongo’s is a prime example.  The slap on the wrists of the New Jersey Devils for this goes part of the way towards addressing this silly trend, but the total collapse under pressure of a trio of stars, one of whom possesses this team-finance-strangling deals, will do even more.  It will hold forth the Boston model of building patiently through the draft and US College signings and annually fleecing the Toronto Maple Leafs, rather than just throwing the most money at the biggest names.  In the NBA, a trio of players tried to decide the trophy by collaborating.  They failed, and now the clock is on Chris Bosh’s knees and ankles.  If they had won, it would not only have signaled the possible beginning of a dynasty, but also virtually guaranteed the construction of at least one or two more ‘superfriends’ teams, all in ‘major markets’ where the promise of the most sponsorship money is found.  Remembering that the Knicks and Lakers, the Mavs and Bulls were already not going to be the ‘hard line’ teams in the CBA negotiation, teams like Utah and Portland would be faced with an easier decision to cancel games if they felt their chances of winning the title had been foreclosed on already.  This may seem unrealistically petty, until you consider that the average playoff series nets each team several million in revenue, while most of their costs remain fixed.  NBA teams that don’t get out of the first round must have unusual circumstances to turn a profit each year.

Why does it matter that the Heat lost?  Because the NBA’s middle markets were on the brink of joining the smallest markets in an epic fit of whining, as they became all too painfully aware that their chances of winning it all had been reduced to nil for the foreseeable future.  But the Heat didn’t win, and as his team won Caron Butler in a suite was the most cut-too fan of all.  He’s also a two-time all star, younger than a couple of the lynchpins, and relatively capable of defending Dwayne Wade or LeBron James.  More so than say Jason Terry, or Dirk.

So there Caron Butler will be, next year, for 82 games, the third or fourth leader on the defending champions: preserver of labour peace.  Instead of heading into the offseason and labour negotiations filled with bitterness and acrimony, NBA and NHL ‘communities’ will move forward with more positive questions in mind:  Can Dallas repeat with a healthy Butler?  How many games does Rask start in net for Boston next year?  Is Mark Recchi a hall of famer?  We love the big leagues.


December 21, 2010

As I look over the analysis of the trades made by the Orlando Magic the other day, I see one begged question which has yet to be addressed.  This is a lexical question, and an answer for it has implications for all others of a kind.  The question is: Are the Phoenix Suns trading for Vince Carter, or the contract of Vince Carter?  ‘The contract of Vince Carter,’ as a noun phrase, has different connotations than ‘Vince Carter’ does.  The phenomenon of someone becoming their contract in a salary-cap system is well established.  What is the criteria though?  Where is the line?

The criteria would likely be one of two things.  One possibility is that he becomes his contract, for diction purposes, when he becomes his contract for trade purposes, and that this happens when the value of the contract details outweigh the value of the player.  The other possibility is that he becomes his contract, for diction purposes, when people associate the value of his contract sufficiently with him to mention it that way.

I would contend that by either criterion ‘the contract of Vince Carter’ is now the appropriate choice, but it could be argued that Steve Kerr believes Carter will again score over 20 a game with Nash hooking him up, and that that means he does not meet the first criteria.  As a linguistic argument, this is possible.  As a basketball argument, however, it is clearly nonsense.  However negative your opinion of Kerr, there is simply no way that he somehow failed to notice that Vince was losing minutes on a floundering team, and that he is averaging fewer points than the half season in Toronto in which he wasn’t trying.