Saturday, June 30, 2012

Canada Day, Free Agent Frenzy

Happy Canada Day Eve, CBJ fans. I know you all have your maple leaf flags ready to go and your kokanee/molson/labatt on ice and ready to go. At the drop of a hat, I'm sure you could all recite the first prime minister, the date of confederation and the square mileage of the greatest hockey nation on the earth.

In Canada, July 1 is a special day that most people spend in exactly the same way as Americans, just with a different flag. Backyard barbecues, days off work, boating/swimming and fireworks at night. Only most Canadian men are checking their iPhones or Blackberries the entire day to try and get the scoop on free agent signings.

July 1 used to be a veritable bonanza of talent, with some of the best players in the NHL signing ridiculous contracts before they shoot off to their summer cottages for a month in the sun. These past few years, it's gotten a bit spotty. Brad Richards was the last big UFA and the media devoured his decision. This year's crop isn't anything to write home about. We're all holding our breath in hopes that Howson can patch together a team competitive enough to make the playoffs, but we have to realize that management is dipping their arms into a virtual bargain bin and other teams' management will be, too. It results in a market that favors the free agent players strongly and will probably force any GM to overpay by a large margin this offseason. So it would definitely be a smart move to stay away from the free agent frenzy.

However, when you look up and down the CBJ lineup, you will see glaring holes at goaltender and in the top-6 forward group. We have a Vinny Prospal who seemed to age rapidly toward the end of last season. Cam Atkinson will need to be forgiven a few hiccups that will likely happen given his inexperience. Johansen has the talent but hasn't proven enough to be able to depend on him for a full season. I love Dorse, but he is definitely not a top 6 guy. Assuming Nash is gone, Brassard and Umberger are the only guys you can count on to give top-6 play this season. This is a group that needs some serious bolstering. And the only ways we can get there are through a) trade- be it trading away Nash or some of our defensive depth. b) development- if by pure luck one of our springfield eggs have hatched into a top-6 or one of our draft picks shows up ready to go. (Chapuuuuuut?) c) we bite the bullet and overpay for some mediocre top-6 forward.

Assuming that GMSH tries option c) I think a few names warrant consideration. There's a pretty comprehensive list over at The Union Blue for you to browse, if you're so inclined.

One of the names I picked out was PA Parenteau. He's a late-blooming winger who has spent the vast majority of his career in the minors (including a stint in Cincy) and took on a spot with the Islanders' top 6 the past two seasons. He's a very physical puck battler and has decent passing skills. He was used on the PP over in Long Island, but not with great success. His numbers at 5-on-5 stand out more. His doubters might point to the fact that he played a lot of time with Tavares and Moulson and there wasn't a ton of competition for those top-6 spots on the Island. I would tend to agree. Last season, here are his stats:

REGULAR SEASON80184967-889602167  10.8

He is putting up more points than Rick Nash.

Parenteau made 1.25 Mil last year. He's due for a raise. He's not going to be counted on for offense the same way that Nash will be and it would be reasonable to expect a dip in his numbers if he's not playing with Tavares and Moulson. I'd put him at about 3-4 million per year, over two to three years if I'm Howson. I don't think he's worth risking a longer term contract than that. Bottom line, I'd say we're desperate for help and his addition would be an upgrade, but be wary of overpaying. This guy could be the next Jason Blake.

And Holy Fuck, look at that flow. Swayze never had anything on this guy.

Another intriguing name on the board is Peter Mueller. He's a 24 year old former 8th overall pick with concussion issues. Originally he was projected as a potential #1 center with great hands and some inconsistent defensive tendencies. Mueller bounced around for a bit and couldn't ever quite shake the concussion bug, but when healthy he was able to show flashes of skill. Here are his stats from last year.

REGULAR SEASON327916-3810182  8.5

So basically what I'm trying to say is he'd be a nice replacement for Kristian Huselius. It seems like he probably wants the security of a longer term agreement, which I'd max out at 3 years. Howson might have an edge with Mueller (and Parenteau, for that matter) in negotiating because he is one of the GMs who can virtually guarantee top-6 minutes for these players. Mueller seems like he would have plenty of reasons to take either a 3-4 year incentive laden deal or a 1-2 year deal at the same price he's been charging Colorado the last two years, $2 million per season.

Were we just discussing flow?  
Mueller is a guy who needs a shot at some ice time in the NHL on a team's top-6. Howson needs to take a few risks, and this might be one that won't cost a ton.

Anyway, take a look at the Union Blue's free agent primer and see what you think. Are there better options who could fit nicely into the lineup?

Have a happy and safe Canada Day and remember to not boat or drive (or blog) drunk.

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