Just Say No
Just because one NHL team puts a player on waivers or buys out his contract and another NHL team has a need for a player (or even two) at that position, doesn’t mean that second NHL team should pounce on that player. I wish people understood this concept a little more.
I am in the middle of writing a recap of last weekend’s draft activities for this space, but I decided to take a break to address this other issue. On our weekly podcast and in several recent emails I was asked whether the Caps might have interest in some recently cut loose players, namely Phoenix defenseman Nick Boynton and St. Louis forward Dallas Drake. My response is this: God, I hope not.
Let’s take Boynton first. The Caps actually drafted him in the first round (ninth overall) in the 1997 NHL Entry Draft. He and Washington were never able to agree on contract terms, and he went back into the draft two years later. The Bruins chose him in the first round (21st overall) and he spent four full seasons there before he was dealt to the Coyotes for Paul Mara last summer.
Now let’s examine the facts. On June 28, 2006, the Phoenix Coyotes signed Nick Boynton to a three-year contract. Boynton now has two years left on a deal that will pay him $2.9 million for each of the next two seasons. Boynton’s first three seasons in the league came prior to the lockout of 2004-05. In those three seasons he averaged 80 games played, six goals and 24 points. He also averaged 101 PIM, a plus-14 and about 22:30 in ice time during those three campaigns.
Fast forward to 2005-06 and the “new” NHL. Boynton has now played two seasons in this environment, and he has averaged just 56 games played and 115 PIM. Set off any alarms for you? Why would a guy’s penalty minutes go up so sharply when his games played are going down so sharply? Could it be … mobility (or lack thereof)? Boynton’s offense has taken a hit, too. In 113 games since the lockout ended, Boynton has a total of seven goals and 23 points. Those are totals he used to put up in an 80-game stretch. He is also a minus-20 in those 113 games, and his ice time has dipped drastically, first to 20:39 in 2005-06 and then to a meager 16:48 in 2006-07.
That 16:48 placed him seventh (sixth among guys who played at least 50 games) among all Phoenix defensemen in 2006-07. How many of you armchair GMs out there has an urge to shell out $2.9 million for a third pair (being kind here, he had the seventh highest ice time total in Phoenix) defenseman? Here’s another question. How is it that Phoenix saw this guy as being worth almost $9 million for three years last June and less than a year later they’re cutting bait with him? One more. Is Nick Boynton giving you good value for your $2.9 million and is he likely to do so in 2007-08?
You can have him, I don’t want him.
Now to Drake. He’s spent 14 years in the league as a hard-nosed, grinding third-line type. He has played 944 regular season games, and the way he has played those games has probably exacted more of a toll on his body than that number would indicate. It’s also worth noting that he finished the 2006-07 season on IR because of a wrist injury, and wrist injuries on guys who were never noted for their hands to begin with are not something you’re looking to add to your arsenal.
Drake averaged 12:53 in ice time last season, making him No. 11 among St. Louis forwards. Do you want to bring in a guy who is 38 years old and pay him $1.1 million to a fourth line forward? I don’t. I think Dallas Drake is spent. Good guy, good career, done. Put him in the Mike Ricci file.
People, it is June 27. The Caps don’t have a game for another 100 days or so. I know there are needs here that need to be addressed, but this is not some fantasy league where you pick up another team’s scraps until something better comes along two weeks later. The Caps are doing things the right way, the patient way. The fans need to be patient, too.
Better players (and values) than Nick Boynton and Dallas Drake will become available in the days and weeks ahead and some of them will be wearing Washington sweaters come October. As my good friend Tarik El-Bashir would say, “Trust me.”