Archive for July, 2012

Shea Weber Signs Offer Sheet

Posted: July 19, 2012 in Uncategorized

The hockey world was sent into a frenzy late Wednesday night when news broke that Nashville Predators’ D Shea Weber had agreed to a 14 year, $110 million offer sheet with the Philadelphia Flyers. As a restricted free agent, Weber was free to sign with whomever he wanted. However, Nashville GM Dave Poile will have one week to match the Flyers’ offer and keep the runner-up for the Norris Trophy in Predators’ gold for the rest of his career.

The move came as a shock to many. Nashville has been adamant all offseason that they would match any offer Weber received from teams. Had he not received any offers, Weber would have become an unrestricted free agent next July. There were reports late Wednesday from TSN’s Darren Dreger that the Flyers and Predators were discussing a trade that would have sent Weber’s rights to Philadelphia. But, numerous deadlines went by without a deal being consummated, and Flyers’ GM Paul Holmgren ultimately decided an offer sheet was the better option.

It has been reported that the Flyers structured the deal in a way that Nashville might have trouble matching. The Predators have a ton of cap space, but their ownership is not known for spending to the cap ceiling. As a small-market franchise, Nashville might not be able to afford the $26 million in signing bonuses that the Flyers structured into the deal. Under the current CBA rules, the Predators would need to pay Weber two lump-sum amounts of $13 million over the next 365 days if they match the deal. Whether or not Nashville feels comfortable spending that kind of money towards one player in one calendar year remains to be seen.

Should Nashville refuse to match the deal, Weber will become a member of the Flyers exactly a week from today. If they choose to match, he will remain a Predator and absorb the exact contract he signed with Philadelphia. Meanwhile, the Flyers will be forced to compensate Nashville with four first round draft choices. The Predators will also not be able to trade Weber until next year in this scenario.

Through all of this, only one thing is for sure. One of the premier free agents heading into next summer will now be off the market. Whether he remains in Nashville or takes his talents to Philadelphia remains to be seen.

 

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The Zach Parise Saga

Posted: July 2, 2012 in Uncategorized

(I apologize for no photo. I’m on the Acela Express train and their internet speed reminds me of my old dial-up on Windows 3.1)

July 1st has come and gone. The top NHL UFA, New Jersey Devils’ RW Zach Parise, has just announced that he is unsure of where he will sign and will return home to Minnesota tonight to discuss the situation with his fianc√©. In the past, the top free agents usually signed in the first few days of July. This is for a few reasons:

– The top UFA will set the market for the free agents that are beneath them in ranking. Once the top guys are off the market, the value of those just below them will rise (examples include Matt Carle and Alexander Semin from this free agent class).

– They get a lot of money thrown at them. Usually, a player first reaching UFA status will look for the biggest contract to set himself up for life. This often includes long-term contracts that can stretch out 15+ years.

– Exorbitant amount of interest in the player leads at least 10 teams to offer contracts, which means the player will likely find one he likes early.

Now, there are always exemptions to norms. Two years ago, the Devils re-signed Ilya Kovalchuk, who was a first time UFA. But, the saga was drawn on (and on, and on following the ruling that the Devils were circumventing the salary cap by agreeing to a 17-year, $102 million deal) until July 19th. Will Parise take a similarly sluggish route?

The facts remain that signing the U.S. olympian will likely cost at least $90 million over 10 or more seasons. Reports continue to flow in suggesting that Parise and Nashville Predators’ UFA Defenseman Ryan Suter will sign deals that will include signing bonuses of $24 million over the next calendar year. Obviously, the financial ramifications of signing such a contract removed many teams from consideration even before the first of July came. After a day-and-a-half of deliberation, it appears as though the process has been narrowed down to six teams. Here is a breakdown of each team’s prospects of signing Parise, beginning with the most-likely to the least-likely:

1. Pittsburgh Penguins

Sidney Crosby and Parise played (and were friends) together at Shattuck-St. Mary’s as amateurs prior to Parise attending the University of North Dakota. It is also no secret that the Penguins are looking to make a splash after freeing up some salary space at the draft by dealing Jordan Staal and Zbynek Michalek. Reports out of Pittsburgh suggest that the Penguins have offered Parise a 12 year, $96 million contract.

Parise would like to win his first Stanley Cup, and playing with Crosby and Malkin in Pittsburgh would certainly present an opportunity ¬†for this to happen. But, is Parise willing to stab his former organization in the back by signing with a division rival? Many believe that the former Fighting Sioux star will take less to sign with the 2009 Stanley Cup champions. We’ll find out soon if that is the case.

2. Minnesota Wild

The Wild, normally not an aggressive club in free agency, have reportedly offered Parise an astounding, 13-year, $106 million contract. This would seem strange if it weren’t for the positives that the Wild represent. Zach is from Minnesota. His family lives in Minnesota. His father, JP Parise, coached in the Minnesota North Stars organization when Zach was born. Oh, and of course, the Wild have offered Parise over $100 million to “take his talents to the Twin-Cities.”

The Wild are an intriguing team in this entire saga. A few hours ago, I might have told you that Parise was bound to remain in red and green next season as a Minnesota Wild and not as a New Jersey Devil (yes, their original colors were christmas themed). Of course, this new realization that Parise is returning home this evening to discuss things with his family throws a kink into this argument. On one hand, perhaps this is just a smoke-screen for a grand unveiling tomorrow of Parise as a Wild. Or, he is really there to discuss with his family whether or not they would be okay with him moving on to Pennsylvania or remaining in New Jersey. Regardless, the Parise saga goes on and Minnesota remains a strong contender for the winger’s rights.

3. New Jersey Devils

Yes, after all of this drama, Parise could return to the only team he has ever known. The Devils were busy retaining their current goaltenders on Monday, signing both Martin Brodeur and Johan Hedberg to two-year contract extensions. Following his extension agreement, Brodeur phoned Parise to attempt to convince him to return to Newark for another shot at the cup after they fell two victories short this spring.

There are a couple of obstacles standing in the way of Parise staying in “Hades” and remaining a Devil. First, New Jersey is operating under a budget. They cannot spend to the cap (about $73 million) due to problems with their arena lease. With Kovalchuk already eating up a large portion of their salary, it remains unlikely that New Jersey will be able to provide much of a raise from Parise’s 1 year, $6 million contract that he played under this past season. Another problem is that New Jersey does not present the same championship potential that other options do. Sure, they made the finals this year. But, Brodeur is not getting any older, and their financial handcuffs will prevent them from providing Parise with much of a supporting cast short of the talent that they currently have on their roster.

Will loyalty mean more than money to Parise? If so, then New Jersey can still certainly resign the 17th-overall pick in the 2003 draft.

4. Philadelphia Flyers

The Flyers have been very active in throwing their money around through the first two days of free agency. Reports by Tim Panaccio of CSN-Philadelphia and Darren Dreger of TSN suggest that the Flyers have offered $100+ million contracts to both Parise and Suter in hopes of luring one of the premier UFA to The City of Brotherly Love. In fact, Panaccio reported late Sunday that the Flyers’ offer to Parise was the highest of anyone. The offer was later reported to be in the range of 12-years, $106 million. This would make Parise one of the highest paid players in the NHL and immediately cement the Flyers as frontrunners in the Eastern Conference. Zach would also be able to keep his New Jersey home and commute to Philadelphia as many current Flyers already do. For anyone who has ever tried to sell a house (especially in this market), this is no small positive.

However, the Flyers remain fourth on my list for a couple of reasons in spite of their monetary offering and proximity to Zach’s home. First, signing with Philadelphia would immediately cement Parise as “persona non grata” in New Jersey. There is no bigger rivalry than Flyers-Devils. Yes, I consider Flyers-Devils to be more of a rivalry than Flyers-Penguins. Second, he has no loyalties to the Flyers. Parise has connections to each of the three teams above in one way or another. For the Flyers, his best connection is that his father, JP, played with Bobby Clarke in the 1972 Summit Series. Not exactly a reason to throw caution to the wind and sign a 12-year contract with a new team.

Still, the Flyers present an excruciatingly tempting offer to the 2010 olympian. They offer a diehard hockey-town packed with fans who would sacrifice their lives for a title. It is a city of angels AND of devils. And, they would not have it any other way. Philadelphia is a city that above all else will shed blood, sweat, and tears for their players and their teams. For these reasons alone, Zach Parise would be wise to seriously consider signing with the Flyers. Should he succeed in bringing a championship to Philadelphia, he will forever be remembered as a hero to every single fan. Yes, Philadelphia can offer something that Pittsburgh, Minnesota, and New Jersey cannot offer: Immortality.

5. Chicago Blackhawks

This one came as a surprise. After all, the Blackhawks biggest weaknesses remain in their own zone, where a leaky defense and shoddy goaltending resulted in a second consecutive first-round exit last season. But, the Blackhawks got involved in this sweepstakes this afternoon and it remains possible that the reason why Parise did not announce today is because he got cold-feet after Chicago showed their interest this morning.

A top-six consisting of Parise, Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane, Marian Hossa, Patrick Sharp, and Dave Bolland is an awfully intimidating prospect for Central Division foes of the Blackhawks. Chicago has the talent and financial flexibility to make a run at Parise, who is a good friend of Toews (they both attended UND, albeit not at the same time). Not to mention the fact that Chicago is a prime destination and one of America’s most prestigious cities. The Blackhawks represent a formidable landing-spot for Parise.

But, their deficiencies on defense and in net are too massive for them to ignore whilst they spend all their money on a luxury forward like Parise. If the Blackhawks go into another season with Corey Crawford and Ray Emery toeing the crease, no amount of offensive firepower will be enough to get them over the hump and back to the Stanley Cup Finals.

6. Detroit Red Wings

At this time yesterday, it seemed as though Detroit was a top-three destination for the talented winger. However, it has become evident that they are more confident in their chances of landing Suter than Parise. Early Monday afternoon, it was even reported on Twitter that the Red Wings were no longer on Parise’s short-list and that their offer to the All-Star was not comparable to the others that he received. Still, Detroit remains a top-market and a premier destination for free agents. So, until Parise signs elsewhere or says he is not interested, they will remain on this list.

This Minneapolis-born superstar will head home tonight and (hopefully) make his decision tomorrow. If Parise chooses to continue to drag this media-led charade on, he could end up resembling another superstar who drew the ire of fans for the way he chose to partake in unrestricted free agency two-years ago, Miami Heat villain LeBron James.