Big Day Coming
“Let’s be undecided, let’s take our time
And sooner or later, we will know our mind
We’ll be on the outside, we won’t care
Cause we’re together, that’s somewhere
And there’s a big day coming, about a mile away
There’s a big day coming, I can hardly wait”
— From “Big Day Coming” by Yo La Tengo
Canada Day also happens to be the opening of the free agent shopping season in the NHL. While the rest of the world sleeps tonight, 30 NHL GMs and hockey ops staffs are putting the finishing touches on their plans to assemble the best hockey team possible for 2008-09. But not every team can have Marian Hossa or Brian Campbell. And the teams that miss out will have to scramble and settle for Plan B. And Plan B might be palatable, but will it be enough to win the Cup?
Here in Washington, the start of the free agent shopping/hunting season has a bit of a different paint job on it than it has had in recent years. The Caps spent the first two summers after the lockout dabbling in the market, but smartly preferring to rely mostly on younger players. Last summer, Washington sprang into action and inked defenseman Tom Poti and forwards Viktor Kozlov and Michael Nylander in the first two days of action.
This summer, the idea is to keep together the team that came from nowhere to win the Southeast Division. That means doing their level best to re-sign goaltender Cristobal Huet, who went 11-2 during his 13 starts as a Capital. That means keeping Mike Green from the clutches of preying GMs (Do GMs have large talons?) who would fiendishly poach him for their own. That means trying to find a palatable middle ground with veteran center Sergei Fedorov, who seemed to drink from the fountain of youth in his two months in a Washington sweater last spring. That means getting signatures from Shaone Morrisonn, Brooks Laich, Boyd Gordon and Eric Fehr with a minimum of drama.
Getting all that done successfully would be quite a feat. And would likely bumper the Capitals up pretty tightly against the 2008-09 salary cap of $56.7 million. Which may mean the only shopping the Caps do this summer would be window shopping.
But we’ll see. (My kids say “We’ll see means no.” I’m old enough to know it doesn’t always.) Trades seem to be a bit more in fashion these days, and the Caps certainly have piled up some attractive assets over the last few years. I’ve said for the last few years that teams need to find ways to get back to making hockey trades if they’re seriously serious about improving their teams, and the best time to make hockey trades is when hockey is not being played.
I think most Caps fans would be happy with Huet and Green in the fold, but again, we’ll see. There’s a Big Day Coming, about a mile away.