Saturday, October 27, 2007

Has Lowe Already Changed How Teams Handle Their RFAs?

TSN.ca reports this afternoon that the Washington Capitals have signed summer '08 RFA Alexander Semin to a 2 year contract extension. Please note that this picture was shamelessly taken without permission from their own article.

My first reaction as I read the news was "good for Washington - they're going to need to keep guys like this around AO if they want to be any good". However, as you pay a little bit more attention to the details, Semin's contract appears to be out of whack.

First off, Alexander is just 23. It's going to be a few years until he's eligible for unrestricted free agency and he is playing on a team that may just have one of the few true franchise players in its ranks and yet he signed for just 2 more years. Coming off of Dustin Brown's 6 year extension this doesn't exactly reek of commitment to Semin's organization.

Before I get into how K-Lowe may have affected this signing, there is one more caveat regarding Alexander Semin that already suggests a lack of commitment to the Capitals. Semin was picked 13th overall in the 2002 draft and has played in just 2 full NHL seasons. The lockout obviously factored into this but so did Semin's seeming preference to stay in Russia immediately following his draft and again once the lockout was over. It's hard to think he wouldn't have made Washington's bare bones roster in 05/06 so I am simply going to suppose that $ played a factor.

When it really comes down to it, $ are exactly why I think Lowe's RFA attempts played a part in Semin's contract. 2 years at $4.2M and $5.0M is a little bit steep for someone with such a limited track record in the NHL. His best season was less than a point per game and his only other season was <0.5PPG. Clearly Washington isn't paying for potential here either, in that the majority of contracts handed out to players of Semin's age and experience level have been long term ones where the team appears to overpay in the short run for potential development over the course of the contract.

So if Semin isn't making sweeping statements of commitment to the franchise, if he's going for short term and big $, and if Washington is still going along for the ride, something is clearly up. When Semin has played just 3 games so far this season due to injury and has just one assist to show for it, the Capitals should have been in a position of power or at least patience. Why not wait until Alex is back on skates and see if he is still producing at his career level? You're already clearly paying him for that level of point production, why not give circumstances the opportunity to play out and lower Semin's bargaining power?

Either:

1) I have severely underestimated Semin's star potential in the NHL,

2) Washington's GM is a fool who folded too soon and threw too much $ over too short a term for an injured player who might not cover the bet even if healthy,

or

3) Semin's past tendency to flee to Russia, clear desire for $, and preference of a short term contract are indicators he would have been perfectly content to sign an offer sheet. The numbers (both dollars and term) on his contract are more indicative of what a UFA in his shoes would make in the old NHL than an RFA, he's got two picture perfect precedents to point to (say that one 5 times fast, and he's got a history of bolting for the highest bidder.

So which is it? My thoughts are a little each from #2 and #3. I am insinuating an awful lot about Semin's commitment level and suggesting that Lowe opened the door for him to lean on the Capitals harder than he would have been able to in the past. I am also saying that signing an injured player to primo $ over short term when you've got a couple of months to watch his stock fall is a poor play regardless of your bargaining position.

11 Comments:

Blogger Vic Ferrari said...

It would be hard to argue with that. And whether it was Lowe or someone else, that cherry was going to be popped before long.

It's such a volatile little market though. Just 30 GMs, many of them acting with unique motivations, the "market" changes year to year.

I mean at first defencemen seemed to be a relative bargain, then John Ferguson Jr. signs up three guys for a combined $16+ million, none of whom even play in the top pairing some nights, and the price of Dmen goes through the roof.

Flash forward to this summer and the D stock has fallen a bunch, in spite of overall inflation. I mean I like most of the moves STL has made, but I think they probably wish they had waited a year on the Brewer and McKee deals, don't you? And how much more would Stuart have garnered if he hit the free agent market a year earlier. I'd bet that he wouldn't be playing for a developing team, and on a one year deal at $3.5M. And I bet that Markov wishes he'd taken a longer term deal with a lesser team last summer, at least if he cares about the cash, and surely the vast majority of players do, lest they be fools.

This summer Gomez and Briere went for crazy money and term, and the Blake contract was just flat out insane. Couldn't give away the runts in 03/04, undervalued then I think, and the game has changed a hell of a lot less than most people imagine.

It will be interesting to see where this all goes, though I'm thinking it will never be heading in one direction for long. Not at any point.

10/27/2007 5:44 pm  
Blogger RiversQ said...

Couldn't give away the runts in 03/04, undervalued then I think, and the game has changed a hell of a lot less than most people imagine.

So true. It's still hockey for fucksakes. The big guys aren't skating around like they're carrying pianos. (I'm looking at you, Penner)

10/28/2007 1:10 am  
Blogger RiversQ said...

I was going to make a thread about this, but I think this is a major reason why keeping Gagner this year is a mistake.

That kid is going to get an offer sheet in three years or the Oilers will extend him with similar money.

So the Oilers will be stuck paying big money for a guy that won't be able to really earn it.

If they waited a year or two to play him, then they'd get way more value out of the first contract and he'd be 22-23 when he's expected to earn his $5MM+/yr salary.

10/28/2007 1:15 am  
Blogger Vic Ferrari said...

Yeah, good point on Gagner. 10 games is enough to qualify him for one professional season.

In any case he will be a group II RFA when his contract expires, and the Oilers won't be able to take him to arbitration until he has four professional seasons under his belt. There is always a window where a player is open to RFA offer sheets, and the club cannot take him to arbitration, that is the summer after the player's first contract expires.

Even looking at Cogliano's Michigan teammate T.J. Hensick. He put much better counting stats than Cogliano at Michigan last season (69 points to 50), and better numbers than Cogs did in his freshman and sophomore years, in spite of being six months younger than Cogliano for that comparison.

He's also a small player, slightly smaller even, 10 pounds lighter and 1 inch shorter than Cogliano.

I'm not sure how his training camp went, but he was leading the NHL in preseason scoring after a few games iirc.

If he were an Oiler he would be in the lineup for sure. I can't imagine that he could miss.

So whether it's the right thing to do or not, from a hockey or business POV, it would be a PR nightmare for the Oilers to send down either Cogliano or Gagner. They're trying to sell hope, they can't send it to London and Springfield.

10/28/2007 11:19 am  
Blogger RiversQ said...

Yeah, that's what I was getting at and forgot to mention - Vanek type offer sheet has no defense outside of an extension before the third season of the rookie deal ends. That's what Gagner will be lloking at IMO.

As far as the PR goes, one has to wonder if it would be that bad if the Oilers were coaching to win games. Strategy-wise they're down 1-0 before the game starts. If this team was .500 and Gagner was getting invisible as he is right now, I think it would be an easier call.

There is a third option after all. Play him every 2nd or 3rd game as matchups dictate and send him to the WJC's before eventually sending him back.

Ah, it's a tough situation. The point remains though, the new RFA environment still makes this a bad way to extract maximum value out of Sam Gagner.

10/28/2007 11:42 am  
Blogger Big T said...

There has been a great deal of confusion on this matter, from mainstream media especially, but remember it's not 10 games that burn the year, it's 41. 10 games just means they can't send him back to London.

Not that I think the Oilers will actually do it, but so long as they sit Gagner for at least 42 games (or he only plays 40 games - same thing) they won't burn a year off of his contract. Of course, if they could I'm sure they'd send him to Springfield but his age makes him inelligable for this unfortunately.

I have every reason to believe they will play him more than this of course, but there's still hope that he won't burn up a contract year... especially if he goes to the WJC's.


T

10/29/2007 12:05 pm  
Blogger Vik said...

Let him go to the WJC's and assume that he'll get injured for a good amount of time (he is on the Oilers after all) and we don't burn a year.

10/29/2007 2:01 pm  
Blogger Vic Ferrari said...

Big T:

That's a red herring, T. Read articles 10, 11, 12 of the CBA. It is explicit.

From 12.1 of the CBA: A player aged 18 or 19 earns a year of professional experience by playing ten (10) or more NHL games in a given season.

This is echoed elsewhere in the CBA as well.

Note that in this case the age of the player refers to the age at December 31st of the year they signed their first SPC (Standard Player Contract).

10/29/2007 3:46 pm  
Blogger Vic Ferrari said...

T:

Also, the requirement for Group II UFA status is measure with accrued seasons, not years of professional experience. And the definition of an 'accrued season' is 40 games on the active roster (not necessarily, in fact not likely, games played).

So yeah, they have to stick around on the roster (playing or not) for 40 games to count themselves a year nearer GII UFA status. That would seem to matter very little now for offensive players, given the skyrocketing salaries of young RFAs like Vanek, Semin, Penner, Parise, etc. And, of course, the arbitration comparables they create.

As Riversq as saying, it's all about getting the most out of the first three years of a player now. NOT the first seven.

10/29/2007 4:08 pm  
Blogger Big T said...

Well shit boys, I'm way out to lunch. My bad. I'll make sure I do my homework next time.


T

10/29/2007 4:21 pm  
Blogger Showerhead said...

So if there are several young offensive players scattered throughout the league... and RFAs are pillaged where possible... who gets the goods? Surely, somebody's got to pay for the talent, even if they pay too much?

10/30/2007 12:16 am  

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