Monday, December 17, 2007

Opt Out Henrik

Yesterday our old friend Larry Brooks made a pretty convincing case for Henrik Lundqvist to opt out of New York. Larry seems to think that Lundqvist is worth around $9 million per season and who are we to argue with Larry Brooks?

So let's say that Henrik demands some $9 million+ in salary when he becomes an RFA on July 1st. Henrik would be smarter to take that kind of cash from a team other than the New York Rangers.

Why?

Well it's simple as Larry points out for us:
The cap is likely to increase by between seven and eight percent next season, to about $54.07M per club. But because of bonuses earned this season by Brendan Shanahan, Dan Girardi and Marc Staal, the Blueshirts likely will have about $2.5M less than that to spend.

As of now, the Rangers have approximately $19.74M committed for 2008-09 to four centers (Gomez, Drury, Brandon Dubinsky, Blair Betts); four wingers (Petr Prucha, Ryan Callahan, Ryan Hollweg, Colton Orr); and one defenseman (Staal)....

If Lundqvist gets $7.5M, the Rangers will have approximately $25M remaining with which to fill those seven slots. This, too: Glen Sather had better be prepared to pay Avery a bottom price of $4.2M per in order to keep him from going free next summer, and he'd better be willing to make that deal next month, too....

So let's say Avery gets his $4.2M. That will leave the Rangers with around $20M to spend.

So bottom line Henrik, by Larry's math, if you took $9 million from the Rangers the Rangers would have just $18.5 million left to spend on 12 players. Larry's $20 million figure comes from you taking a "hometown discount" of $7.5 million. But no matter how you cut it, the Rangers would turn into the Tampa Bay Lightning North with three players consuming over 40% of the salary cap.

You have to figure that unless he triggers his option year (not bloody likely), Jagr is gone. And while losing Jagr may turn out to be a net plus, it means the rest of the team has to be rebuilt because it was built right after the lockout around him. If Jagr comes back, there's no way they'll convince him to take a paycut that will decrease his cap number because his current cap number is already half of what he's currently making. (The Caps are subsidizing the other half of his salary.) That means there will be even less $$$$$ available to fill holes on the team should Jagr return.

Drury and Gomez are good players for certain, but they can't carry the entire team the way you do Henrik. Brendan Shanahan is old and can't lead a team either. It looks as if the Rangers have their hands tied and do you really want to be around that kind of team that is constantly in flux and tries to buy its way out of trouble? That didn't work before the salary cap and certainly won't work now.

Sure New York is the biggest media market in the U.S. and Madison Square Garden is one of the biggest NHL stages. But what kind of push from the league have you gotten by playing there in the first place? Yeah, you're on your way to your third Vezina Nomination but are you aware that a Rangers goaltender has only once won the Vezina Throphy since it was voted on by the NHL General Managers (that would be John Vanbiesbrouck in 1986) and twice in the entire history of the award (prior to 1982 it automatically went to the goaltender who allowed the fewest goals against in the regular season. In 1982 the Jennings Trophy was created for that and the Vezina was awarded by its current criteria)?

There's a team Henrik just a few hours south that has won two Vezina Trophies in it's history under the current criteria and has a former Vezina winner still playing for them. This team also boasts the best young goal scorer and the most exciting player in the game in it's lineup. It wouldn't be too much of a stretch to think that this team could use a goaltender of your talents starting next year and here's the best thing; you could sign there for $9 million over the summer and there would still be room for additional talent to be added to the roster. They have almost $14 million of cap space right now and an average roster age of under 27 compared to New York's 27.6. This team won't spend itself into a box should things not work out and with a goaltender as good as you; could very easily find itself making a deep playoff run next year and for many years into the future.

Throw in a couple of former teammates (including a fellow countrymen), some of the best young talent in the league (one of whom is another fellow Swede), and it being an international city in its own right, and you really have nothing to lose by leaving New York. The pressure to succeed here isn't as great as it is in New York and some players actually like that. Besides, while you're the toast of guys like Larry Brooks right now, it is only a matter of time before they turn on you. Ask A-Rod if you don't believe me.

I certainly think you could do worse.

Don't be worried about your status as an RFA, Larry told us just two weeks ago:

Memo to Brian Burke and all those who would howl at the thought of rival teams "poaching" another club's marquee player: Ovechkin does not belong to the Caps. Through no desire of his own, he merely is playing for Washington under a three-year, entry-level capped lease that will expire at the end of this season. He never chose to play in DC so much as he chose to play in the NHL rather than remain in Russia after the lockout.

The same thing applies to you too Henrik. You're only playing with the Rangers because they drafted you. There's nothing that says you cannot offer to sell your services to the highest bidder and quite frankly, you have to because the General Managers in the NHL are improperly colluding to keep the salaries for goaltenders such as yourself artificially low. We know this because Larry complains all the time about Martin Brodeur not holding the Genius Manager Lou Lamoriello over a barrel.

So once the ball drops in Times Square, put some earplugs in and ignore all the overtures from the Rangers front office. They'll try to get you to sign a contract for less than you're really worth. But once July 1st comes around, you'll be able to set your own price and will have teams falling all over themselves trying to get you under contract. You can create a much better situation for yourself by getting out of Gotham and becoming another young player on another young up and coming team just a few hours to the south.

For you Caps fans wondering, the Caps currently have almost $14 million cap space left for this season alone. Larry envisions another $4 million increase over the summer so that gives the Caps $18 million in cap space going into the upcoming offseason. If A.O.'s cap number goes to $10 million, that's a $6.166 million increase over his cap number. Olie Kolzig would obviously be forced into retirement in order to make room for Lundqvist and the starting goaltender's cap number would increase to $9 million from $5.45 million taking up an additional $3.55 million of cap space. You could unadvisedly throw $3 million at Mike "BEAM ME UP" Green increasing his cap number by $2.15 million.

Those three contracts would add $11.866 million to the Caps salary cap figure. This doesn't even chew up all of the cushion the Caps currently have AND leaves plenty of $$$$$ left over for the Caps to give modest pay raises to the other RFA's and UFA'S currently on the roster (none of whom ares in line for a major raise though I wouldn't give Green much over $2 million myself). A key figure in this is Jagr's contract coming off the books because his $4 million+ payment is factored into the team's current salary structure. So Ted would only be really adding about $8 million in new salary for next season under this scenario.

What about Michal Neuvirth and Simeon Varlamov you ask? As the old saying goes, "a bird in the hand is worth two in the bush" and IF the Caps get Lundqvist, that would be a perfect example of that. Remember Maxime Ouellet? The Caps could trade both to recoup the draft picks they would lose in compensation to the Rangers for taking Lunqvist or trade them to New York for Lundqvist straight up. Though I think they would be smart to hold onto one for the time being as an insurance policy.

I also know that Ted has said that they intend to stay close to the midpoint of the salary cap and salary floor. But if Larry Brooks can write things like this, so can I. Nothing like demonstrating absurdity by being absurd because this idea is certainly more doable than A.O. going to Broadway after this season. How the Rangers work that one out without blowing up their entire team is beyond me.

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