9. Those Canucks signings
Just in case you thought that maybe the Canucks were only doing the thing of signing not-great players to big contracts because they wanted to stay competitive for the Sedins, well, July 1 refutes that pretty effectively.
The money they gave out to Jay Beagle and Antoine Roussel were so far beyond bad — four years each at $3 million AAV — as to defy explanation. For all the credit this team gets for drafting well under Jim Benning, their NHL talent evaluation is quite frankly embarrassing. Yeah young guys need veteran leadership to learn how to play in the NHL and the Canucks have a lot of young guys, but you don’t need to give Jay Beagle “CONOR SHEARY” money and four years to find veterans who can help with that.
These guys just aren’t effective NHLers and for a rebuilding team to torch a roster spot on them for a year or even two, well, you gotta pay somebody with the cap going up this much. But for four years? It doesn’t begin to make sense.
This team is now married to two guys, who are past their primes and only getting older, while they’re supposed to be rebuilding. The idea that they’ll take roster spots and important roles from guys who need to develop is hardly farfetched.
This is everything wrong with the Canucks regime in a nutshell, and there’s no way it’s getting fixed any time soon.
8. Pursuing Slava Voynov
The idea that anyone would want a player like Voynov is understandable on the surface. When last he was in the NHL, he was a high-end second-pairing guy and there are a lot of teams that would love to have someone like that. Hell, for the right price there isn’t a team in the league he wouldn’t fit on.
In actual practice, of course, one must consider the moral implications of why Voynov is available in the first place, and what that means in a “Hockey Is For Everyone” league with a Statement of Principles that has been, from what I understand, endorsed by the pope.
If the league allows him to come back — it shouldn’t, regardless of his legal status — any team that debases itself to try to sign him, of which there will be several, should be ashamed of itself. The facts of his case are not up for dispute and the pictures are gruesome reminders of what Voynov thinks is acceptable, based on the fact that there were multiple reported incidents.
So for every guy who can’t keep a job because he likes going to museums or perhaps makes his postgame interviews a little too much about himself, let’s always remember that this guy is a convicted domestic abuser and NHL teams are sadly all too willing to take “If You Can Play, You Can Play” to its logical extreme.
7. That Jack Johnson contract
I didn’t think I would have to do this but I’ve seen multiple people defending it and I have to go off now. You did this. Not me.
The idea that Johnson is in any way a fit for this team is laughable, and few would even try to force an argument on whether he was good in Columbus, especially in the past two seasons. He ended last year as a healthy scratch and for good reason.
The pro-Johnson-to-Pittsburgh argument goes something like this: Jim Rutherford drafted him and Sergei Gonchar has turned poor defensemen into good ones. Let’s take out the trash on both of them.
Who cares that Jim Rutherford drafted Johnson 15 years ago or whatever? Like honestly, what does that matter? He liked a guy who exhibited a lot of promise at the University of Michigan, traded the kid only because he wouldn’t sign in Carolina, and then got hundreds of games’ worth of data that he couldn’t be a difference-maker at the NHL level. If Rutherford’s teams had controlled Johnson’s rights the whole time and given him this contract despite all the evidence in the world that he’s not good in the NHL, well, wouldn’t we say, “What’s Rutherford thinking?”
But OK, this is a reclamation project. Those work out sometimes. I don’t know why you’d want to try that reclamation project over a five-year period. Especially given that this is a guy who will be 32 years old for half of this coming season. It’s not a gamble, then. This is Rutherford signing up to pay a guy who flatly sucks $3.25 million until he’s 37 years old. If we think Johnson stinks in his age-31 year, what does he look like when he’s 35? Okay great, he has two more years on the books after that, or at least lingers for years as a buyout cap hit.
Now let’s talk about the idea that Sergei Gonchar has turned other bad defensemen into good defensemen, which has been pointed out more often than the Rutherford Connection but is somehow even dumber. Let’s look at it this way: Who are the defensemen Gonchar “made good?” Definitely you would say Justin Schultz. Maybe you would also say, like, Jamie Oleksiak.
The Penguins got both of them when they were, what, 25ish years old? Still in the primes of their careers. Schultz, I think you could argue, was even on the upswing. And more to the point, I think it’s reasonable to argue that the Penguins didn’t necessarily do anything to make Schultz better besides put him in a position to succeed. He was overwhelmed in Edmonton because the Oilers, in their infinite wisdom, thought he was a top-pairing defenseman despite all evidence to the contrary. It’s very not-weird, I think, that when the Penguins stopped putting him out there against top competition, he suddenly looked like a competent second-pair power play specialist!
Plus, y’know, do you think maybe playing behind Crosby and Malkin and now Brassard makes defensemen like Schultz and Oleksiak who previously didn’t play for the Penguins look better than playing behind guys from their other, worse teams? It’s not impossible.
The deal sucks and is going to look continually worse in March, two Novembers from now, February 2020, the fourth year of the contract, and beyond. Any rationalization to the contrary is galaxy-brain nonsense.
I’m not joking when I say the Penguins would probably be better off flushing $3.25 million down the toilet every Oct. 1 and telling the league to count it against their cap number.
6. Those Islanders transactions
How do you make up for losing your franchise center? By signing one of the Leafs’ problems away, trading for another even bigger one, adding a Flyers’ problem (they’re in the same division now), and then getting the 13th-best forward from last year’s Penguins (also in the same division).
Are we sure he’s not still on the Leafs’ payroll?
5. Not using an agent
Drew Doughty didn’t use an agent in negotiating his big contract and, in doing so, saved himself like $2.5 million in agent’s fees (3 percent of the deal’s value).
But because of the way Doughty structured the deal, he’s not only not-buyout-proof, but he gives the Kings a hell of a lot of incentive to buy him out the second he turns out to no longer be effective.
In the end, the math works out such Doughty, in an effort to save himself $2.5 million, he might end up costing himself like six times that amount.
4. Trading Karlsson
I’m really just hoping this happens sooner than later. Like, just do it already. Everyone knows it’s going to happen. Everyone knows you’re gonna get an embarrassing return for him. Let’s go already.
3. James Neal?
Had someone ask me what’s in it for James Neal to sign with Calgary and not Vegas. It’s an interesting question.
From what I can tell, the Flames only offered an extra $750,000 per year in AAV, which is more than wiped out by the provincial income tax. So the answer, I guess, is that he thinks the Flames have a better chance to be competitive in the next five years, or maybe Calgary promised him a better role (i.e. with Monahan and Gaudreau, who could probably use a legit finisher). It’s not because the Flames buyout-proofed his contract, because every cent is paid in straight salary.
I’m not sure Neal is going to like what he finds in terms of either Vegas or Calgary being in contention for anything within the next five years, but hey, it’s a bunch of money.
2. St. Louis
I wrote WWL before the Ryan O’Reilly trade, so here’s a quick take on that:
The Blues now have some very promising center depth between Schenn (who should stay the No. 1), O’Reilly, and Bozak. Like I’ve always said, if Bozak is your No. 3, you’re in good shape.
I’m not sure it puts them in the same neighborhood as Winnipeg and Nashville even in that division, but they just became a much tougher out in the postseason. Which, hey, they didn’t even make it last year. So that’s something.
I love when John Tortorella starts dropping F-bombs about the Penguins. He’s gonna tell Brandon Dubinsky to use a guillotine on Sidney Crosby next season.
(Not ranked this week: Helping the Leafs.
I made a joke in WWL this week about the Leafs being able to find a buyer for Matt Martin is the most incredible thing in the world to me. As many as a dozen teams were in on him to one extent or another. Why in the world should that be true? It’s still 2018, right?)
(All statistics via Corsica unless otherwise noted.)