We are both in this post! We made it!
According to all the information leaked about the NHL’s proposal last night, the revised salary cap would be at about $58M. If there’s room to negotiate, that number will eventually become higher, but the Canucks have the third highest amount of money committed, salary cap-wise, to players for the allegedy 2012-2013 hockey season, and will need to slash some of that to be able to play.
I thought it would be fun to look at Canuck contracts and locate the worst ones and the best ones. Which contracts, for instance, are the product of careful thinking by a strong management team that adheres to the principles laid out by Michael Lewis in Moneyball, and which were the reckless products of greed that helped inflate player salaries and nearly guaranteed that the season won’t start at its scheduled time?
Fifth worst: Andrew Alberts, Year 2 of a 2-year, $2.45M deal
Andrew Alberts isn’t particularly expensive, but he is particularly terrible. The Canucks have managed to get a lot of good players out of Florida over the years, but not their Southeast Division brethren. Derek Joslin was this summer’s Worst Acquisition Ever(™) and three years ago at the trading deadline it was Andrew Alberts.
Alberts manages god-awful Corsi rates against competition that Keith Ballard laughs at. You know which forwards Alberts saw the most of this season? Jamie McGinn, Darrell Powe and Kyle Brodziak. Alberts is worth the change on your nightstand, and not to play hockey at the NHL-level.
Fifth best: David Booth, Year 4 of a 6-year, $25M deal
The amount of grief in this market over the play of David Booth is amusing, as Booth is a hockey player who is good at offence, good at defence, and cost controlled for three more seasons. I would hope that he plays more than 62 games next season, but his seasons have been cut short by illegal hits from Mike Richards and now Kevin Porter.
Booth won’t produce like a first-line player, but why should he? He is being paid like a second-line player, and he produces a little bit better than the average second line player. Booth is indicative of a management team that likes to have several above average players on the lineup rather than attempt to dominate with superstars, and Booth may be that guy for a little bit longer.
Fourth worst – Chris Tanev, Year 3 of his 3-year ELC
The issue here being that it isn’t any longer. The Canucks have had all off-season to extend Young Tanev to a modestly priced deal long-term but it has yet to happen. This frustrates me.
Fourth best – Chris Higgins, Year 2 of a 2-year, $3.8M deal
Christopher Higgins is arguably Vancouver’s best two-way forward. He has an ace scoring chance differential, but dedicated readers already know that.
The other excellent thing about Higgins is how little he costs, both in actual dollars, cap hit and what the Canucks gave up to get him from Florida: Evan Oberg and a 3rd round selection in next June’s draft. Higgins scored 18 times in 71 games last season and was probably the equivalent of a 25-goal scorer on defence.
Third worst – Manny Malhotra, Year 3 of a 3-year, $7.5M deal
Manny Malhotra is an unfortunate case, as the eye injury in the first year of his deal cost him a chunk of his usefulness last season. I like to be easier on Malhotra than most, particularly since he led the league being on the ice for 348 defensive zone face-off wins last season, but his recovery appears to have affected his ability to move the puck forward after a face-off.
In 2012, the Canucks allowed 33.6 shots per 60 minutes with Malhotra on the ice, up from 30.2 a year ago. And while it’s true Malhotra started a probably NHL record 86.6% of his shifts in the defensive zone, he wasn’t doing so against top competition. $2.5M is a lot to pay for a fourth-line centreman, and he’ll need an incredible bounce-back year to be worth his deal.
Third best – Henrik Sedin, Year 4 of a 5-year, $30.5M deal
Henrik Sedin’s durability may prove to be the single most valuable talent the Canucks possess in a single player. Only two players, Sedin and Jay Bouwmeester, played every single game between the 2005 and 2012 lockouts. Never mind the offensive performance, Vancouver has milked every penny out of Henrik because since he has never missed a game, the team has never needed to pay the costs of having somebody replace him in the lineup.
He was a first line centre for every year of this contract, that should be expiring just as the Sedins stop playing like point-a-game players. Coming off a down year, the twins have a lot to prove next season.
Second worst – Keith Ballard, Year 4 of a 6-year, $25.2M deal
The Keith Ballard trade and situation was instantly regrettable and can be filed into the team’s blooper reel. The Canucks spent a lot of money on defence in the summer of 2010, adding not only Dan Hamhuis but also Ballard, a player who was very strong in Florida and Phoenix but never adapted to a tougher market in Vancouver.
Now he’s timid whenever he touches the puck, works under the weight of a coach who doesn’t trust him, and his two poor seasons in Vancouver may have hurt his trade value to the extent that the Canucks would be lucky to recoup half of what they lost when they initially acquired him.
If the salary cap drops to start next season, I have to think that Ballard would be one of the first to go.
Second best – Kevin Bieksa, Year 2 of a 5-year, $23M deal
If teams structured their contracts like the Vancouver Canucks did, there may not be a lockout. Bieksa’s deal at the start of last summer was the first sign of a “covenant” between the Canucks and their players, Bieksa’s deal slightly bigger than Dan Hamhuis’, indicative of Bieksa’s role on the team but the importance of Hamhuis on that first pairing as well.
Having two modestly-paid defencemen aided the Canucks in signing Jason Garrison for a price well-below market value as well.
Worst – Roberto Luongo, Year 3 of a 12-year, $64M deal
This is why ownership should never involve themselves in contract situations. Three of the longest, more ridiculous deals in the NHL, Luongo’s, Ilya Bryzgalov’s and Rick DiPietro’s, were heavily influenced by owners who misunderstand the randomness of the goaltender position.
Mike Gillis, and the General of Canucks Army Thom Drance, seem to think that Luongo can still fetch something valuable on the trade market, but I’m less optimistic for them. His contract became an issue the second after Game Seven of the 2011 Stanley Cup Final. Cory Schneider is now locked in, making a wage suitable for a modestly-paid starting goaltender, so the pressure is still on the Canucks to deal the embattled, underrated, overpaid Luongo.
Best – Alex Burrows, Year 4 of a 4-year, $8M deal
Burrows was not quite an established first line player when he signed this bargain contract. Breaking into the league as the little player that could, Burrows has neither taken a shift off in his career nor not been massively underpaid compared to his peers.
Put it in perspective: Burrows has made approximately $7.65M in his NHL career, which is a little more than what most first-line wingers make in a single season. The only problem is that Burrows’ $2M cap hit only has a year left on the deal. He loves Vancouver, so if history is an indicator, he may take a little off the top to once again play with the Sedins.