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.

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24 Comments on “Big Day Coming”

  1. Mike L Says:

    Green is done… I suspect Huet will be done today too. Following that will be Laich, and once that’s done they can go to Fedorov and show him what they can offer vs. what he wants. Hopefully they’ll come to a middle ground. I read somewhere Fedorov wants $4M, but I don’t see that happening in North America (in Russia maybe). We’ll see what happens to get him to stay (I promised Ted I’d buy a Fedorov jersey if the Caps resigned him…)

  2. Tom in FL Says:

    My estimate on Green had been $5M and he got $5.25M. That puts the Caps at $45M. If Huet gets $5.5M and Laich gets $2.5M, you have $3.7M left for Morrisonn, Fehr, Gordon and Alzner. Sorry, Federov.

  3. Mike L Says:

    Tom, Alzner is already signed in the number you have, and teams can go over the cap now just so long as they are at the Cap on opening night.

    Things will get done.

  4. Tom in FL Says:

    Mike: Alzner is not included, but Pothier is:

  5. Mike L Says:

    Ah, I thought you were going with what the Caps have actually done (Alzner is signed for 2008-09 already at about 900K.)

    Hope you saw the link in Tarik’s blog about Pothier. It’s really sad, but it may be that he’ll never play again…he’s definitely not going to be ready for training camp in September…

  6. Dan, Jr. Says:

    $21 mil is about $3 mil more than I think he’s worth for a four year period. However, he will be RFA at the end of that contract, and he may have gotten an offer sheet for $5.25 mil per year anyway.

    There’s a rumor going around that Olie Kolzig is close to signing as a backup goalie at Tampa Bay. I’d rather see him go out west, but good for him

  7. Tom in FL Says:

    Mike: Alzner is signed for 2008-09, but since he wasn’t signed last season he isn’t in the cap figure until opening night. It all really doesn’t matter, since you need to be under $56.7M opening night and that is all there is to it. He doesn’t even count in the 10% over that you can be until opening night, but again 56.7 is 56.7.

    With Olesz signing for 3.125 and Perry at 5.3, I am thinking there will be a real market for Brooks Laich in the low 3s, just under the break point for when an RFA costs you a 1st and a 3rd rather than just a 2nd.

    If the Caps can’t keep Huet, Ty Conklin is an interesting choice. Dan Eliis re-upped in Nashville, two years $3.5M total, and the market value for Conklin should be 10-20% below that. Theodore is also a possible choice, but more costly.

    Did not see that blog. Do you have a link?

  8. Jeremy Says:

    TSN is reporting the Caps have signed Jose Theodore. Wow, can’t believe that. I honestly think this is the first bad move GM GM has made in a year. Theodore hasn’t been good in about 8 years.

  9. bears..bears..bears..wooooo Says:

    How do you justify Theodore over Huet???? If this was the case why not just let Olie ride out the string and go with what you had before Huet? I agree with Jeremy one of the worst moves GM GM has made in over a year. Considering the goalies in the system are at least two years away is this a band aid move until they are ready? Caps are gonna have to score 5 or 6 a night to win if the D-fence has a off night.

  10. Anthony Says:

    Honestly, this had better be so we can get Fedorov. Otherwise I’m likely to join the ranks of the pissed.

  11. Mike L Says:

    Admittedly, I would have liked to have kept Huet too, but Theodore isn’t bad considering. Last season his GAA was 2.44 (playing on a team with so-so backliners most of the time). His save percentage was .910, which is very good. Huet here in DC was better than that, and he is a good goaltender. Theodore has some great credentials in that he has won a Vezina and the Hart Trophy (both in 2002).

    The Caps are not in the same boat as some teams (Atlanta, St. Louis, New Jersey, NY Rangers) where they need the goalie to steal 5-10 wins for them. On this team, the goalie’s job is to not lose games.

  12. Dan, Jr. Says:

    I would have rather seen them make a trade for Manny Legace or David Abischer. Theo was fine in the 2007-2008 regular season, but not terribly great in the playoffs. He’s very inconsistant from year to year. Hope the change of scenery gets him back to form.

  13. Tom in FL Says:

    We need to hear more. Assuming both perform like last year, Huet at .920 and Theodore at .910 means the Caps will allow one extra goal every 3-4 games. That will add about 25 goals allowed over the course of the season, and will mean maybe five additional losses. That’s not insignificant. Unless Huet wanted $6M a year, or unless Caps management is certain Varlamov will be ready when the two years in Theodore’s contract is up, it’s hard to understand. If this gets you Federov, though, you might well get back those five losses. I am not going to judge GM harshly at this point.

  14. Anthony Says:

    Huet is going to chicago

  15. bill ball Says:

    Who knows about Theodore. He was obviously a distant second in the goalie sweepstakes, but it seems it was Huet’s choice to walk. GMGM I assume did what he could. Green was paid for potential, and not the 2/3 of last season in which he played well. The NHL could destroy itself paying guys for potential, but that seems to be the way the wind is blowing.

    Per the goalie situation, I think it was karma for benching Olie last season, but I’ll miss Huet just the same. Despite being the second best goalie available, how Theodore will perform behind our “up and coming” defense and which Theodore will show up will be on everyone’s minds until October. In the least.

  16. Tom in FL Says:

    Reading the blog on the Post, it seems Huet might be the villain in all this. Apparently Huet asked for 3 yrs/$15M, and McPhee made the offer of same. Huet then decides to see what the market might bring anyway. I consider that bad faith negotiating. If the employee asks and the employer meets the demand, the employee is expected to accept the offer. Not use the offer to try and get a better one. Oh well. Good luck to Huet. McPhee did the best damage control he could, which was to get the #2 goalie. This might play out better in the long run, as here are your goalies:

    2008-09 Theodore, Johnny
    2009-10 Theodore, Varlamov
    2010-11 Varlamov, Neuvirth

    I believe the Caps could have afforded the $5.6M a year Huet will supposedly receive, but the 4th year was a deal buster. This also helps in two years when Backstrom is due for a big increase and the two goalies are making $1M each per year. Hopefully also this frees up enough cash for Federov.

    The real joke is Huet’s agent saying the deal hit a “few snags.” Yeah right. The only snag was you asked for something, the Caps offered what you wanted, and you got cold feet.

    Good luck in Chicago, or wherever.

  17. Jpriestjfk Says:

    I support GM on this one. Tarik is saying that Huet wanted to test the FA waters, and GM scooped up the next best goalie before being left with nothing. Theodore was great this year. Huets a better goalie, but what would we be left with? Would you rather have Emery?

  18. Scai Says:

    McPhee is a smart guy. The Huet camp was playing around with the Caps, not accepting the offer they’d asked for. Instead of waiting and hoping for Huet to come back to him GMGM acted proactively and made one of the first signings of the day, locking up the second best option in goal, all the while saving money and term. Just great management.

  19. notfadeaway Says:

    Not happy. Tom in FL, it’s not so much ‘sorry, Fedorov,’ as ‘sorry, Caps fans,’ that we likely won’t be seeing two of the key pieces to our SE title run.

    Well at least we didn’t lose Green.

    Re: Kolzig…

    If he signs anywhere as a backup it shoots a huge hole into his defense for acting like a child last season.

  20. notfadeaway Says:

    …and there it is. I’m no longer a Kolzig fan.

    He has signed onto another team with three goalies and will most certainly NOT be the starter.

    Why did he leave Washington again?

    I can’t wait to see OV tear him up… if he’s still on the Tampa roster when the two teams meet.

  21. Mike L. Says:

    Olie signed with Tampa and I would think right now he is the best goaltender they have. Smith is 26 years old and has never been a starter in the NHL, and Kari Ramo is only on the Bolts’ roster because he’s the second best goalie they have. Ramo needs to play full time as a starter… if he wins the job in Tampa, the Bolts will look to move Smith (and take a beating for most of the year, as Ramo isn’t really ready). It could be that Olie will win the starting job there. One thing Olie does like to see is a lot of shots, and boy is he gonna see that in Tampa.

  22. Mike L Says:

    One more thing and then I’ll shut up (I hear you all cheering…)

    If the Caps also sign Fedorov, this might be the first time in the expansion era that a team has three Hart Trophy winners on the roster at one time.

  23. Tom in FL Says:

    I’ve been reading all these posts on various blogs where people can’t BELIEVE that Hossa took $7.4M for one year to play for the Wings.

    If this were a game show, we’d hear the MC say, “OK, let’s do the math.”

    Take me for instance. Somebody, please, for my wife’s sake, take me……OK, nobody wants me. I understand. Anyway, I graduated from college in 1979 and have been steadily employed now for 29 years. I broke six figures a few years back and have made, total, between $2-2.5M in those years. Now add 12 more years until retirement (hopefully) and your grand total is roughly $4M for all those years.

    Let’s do the math – I am in like the top 5-10% in the world for salary. Can I complain? Yes, but St. Peter will surely hold it against me on Judgment Day (it’s called “Greed”) so I better not!

    Now, Hossa gets $7.4M for ONE YEAR when he’s already got plenty in the bank! Dudes! The Hossa family won’t be starving anytime soon! What Hossa did actually makes way more sense than Huet signing with the Blackhawks just to squeeze out a few more francs! Sacre bleu! I mean, how many francs does a mid-level goaltender need to have a comfortable life?

    My prediction: Hossa will never stand in line at the soup kitchen and I will never be stuck in line behind Hossa at the grocery while he cashes in his food stamps. (God, don’t you hate that – first you are paying for them and then you have to wait while the cashier ensures they have all the individual products.)

    This is why Detroit is winning. They have players like Chelios who will play for (relative) peanuts while the rest of us are eating peanuts. Not that I mind peanuts – the roasted and unsalted in the shell aren’t that bad for you.

    The bottom line is you gotta respect Hossa but then again when someone has $7.4M it’s pretty easy to make yourself respectable.

  24. Janet Says:

    $7.4 million for Hossa sounds right to me… star hockey salaries go! In the play offs I thought Hossa was more of an impact player than Sid or Evgeni. Sid had all those assists but Marian could find the net. Commentators were saying Sid was the Pens greatest player but for me it was Hossa! Sid can’t score and Evgeni seems moody and inconsistent. …and he kept turning over the puck!

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