The first week of NHL free agency was met with a cautious, slow response by GMs this year. Ongoing CBA negotiations between the NHL and the NHLPA, coupled with the bated breath of those following the Zach Parise and Ryan Suter signings, led to a “wait and see” approach from many franchises to start the UFA period. Still, moves were made. And with people probably willing to write an article about Rick Nash sneezing at this point, the coming weeks are sure to be filled with even more anxiety for hockey fans around the league as GMs make their choices and announce signings.
First things first: Zach Parise and Ryan Suter are off the market, meaning most GMs are going to get work done this week. In celebration of this roadblock being removed from the road of free agency, I’ve compiled a Five on Five: two lists of five that go head to head. This is going to be a weekly feature on BoT from here on out, so keep an eye out for it.
This Week’s Five On Five:
Five Signings The Sharks Should Be Worried About
Five UFA Signings The Sharks Could Make In Response
Before Free Agency began, I made a list of some moves I thought Sharks General Manager Doug Wilson and the Sharks should make to begin free agency with. And, for the most part, I was wrong: The only move I correctly predicted was Wilson letting Torrey Mitchell walk. Sue me. I’m just a measely first-time sports blogger! Todd’s already holding me after practice to skate laps around the rink. WHAT MORE DO YOU WANT FROM ME?
Anyways, now that the first week is gone and done with, I thought I’d evaluate the moves made by some of our
friendly neighboring teams. More importantly, we’ll also take a look at moves the Sharks can make to combat these moves.
…And, they’re off!
Five Signings The Sharks Should Be Worried About
#5. Brad Staubitz Signs with the Anaheim Ducks (2 years, $1.275 million)
Sharks fans will remember Brad Staubitz from his two-year tenure with the team from 2008-2010. After going through the NHL Draft unsigned, Staubitz signed a three-year entry level deal with the Sharks in September of 2005. He would make his NHL debut with the Sharks in 2008, and continued to produce solid fourth-line minutes with the team over the next two seasons. He was traded to the Minnesota Wild in 2010, and after a brief stint in the AHL, he was claimed off of re-entry waivers by the Montreal Canadiens earlier this year.
Enough history. Staubitz is a mean, gritty guy. While his skating skills were lacking, his ability to law down the law on the ice as an enforcer is nothing to shake a fist at. If you shake fists at this guy, this happens.
With the San Jose Sharks and Anaheim Ducks rivalry already at a boiling point, expect even more bumps and bruises this upcoming season. At 6’1” and 224 lbs, Staubitz injects another dose of venom into the already hostile relationship between the Sharks and Ducks. While many eagerly look forward to watching these two teams play, the Sharks’ lack of enforcers on the ice for this coming season is an area of concern. While Ryan Clowe is known to drop the gloves occasionally, the team simply cannot rely on his grit to carry them through a season. The Adam Burish signing definitely helps, but is it enough?
#4. David Moss Signs with the Phoenix Coyotes (2 years, $4.2 million)
Despite a career plagued with injuries, David Moss has had a remarkable tenure in the National Hockey League. A once promising offensive force for the Calgary Flames, Moss has found success in the past few seasons as a second (and occasionally third) line winger. His transition into defensive play should draw comparisons to Torrey Mitchell, with the strong-willed, possession style of play he utilizes on the ice.
Many had pegged Wilson to make a play for Moss, but following Martin Havlat’s injury-plagued inaugural season with the Sharks, he probably wasn’t willing to have yet another high-risk player on the team. However, Moss’ signing with Phoenix should raise several concerns for Sharks fans. Dave Tippett may have him start on the third or fourth line (perhaps in lieu of Daymond Langkow or Marc-Antoine Pouliot, both UFAs). But with Shane Doan looking more and more out of the picture for next season, Tippett may find Moss’ services suit the team better in the second line. It all depends on what Coyotes GM Don Maloney does during the offseason, and whether or not the team can finally put an end to their ongoing ownership issues. But that’s a whole ‘nother article.
#3. Mikael Samuelsson Signs with the Detroit Red Wings (2 years, $6 million)
After winning the cup with the Detroit Red Wings in 2008, Mikael Samuelsson landed in Vancouver, where he went from “jerk who wins the Cup” to “jerk who almost wins the Cup then whines about it”. I practically threw a parade in October once I learned he was being traded out of the Western Conference to the Florida Panthers.
However, in an apparent effort to relive his glory days, Samuelsson and Detroit came to terms a few days ago on
two years of regret a two year contract), including a no-trade clause. Hooray.
Hatred for Samuelsson aside, I’m a little worried about this signing. Since his debut into the league with the New York Rangers in 2001, Samuelsson’s aggressive, forechecking-filled style of play has a tendency of freezing defenders and choking up the slot. He is perhaps most well-known for his trademark “shoot the puck into traffic, let someone catch my rebound and jam it in” play (as evidenced here). That play is sure to make it into Detroit’s playbook. Red Wings Head Coach Mike Babcock will be sure to utilize Samuelsson’s into Detroit’s already physical style of play.
#2. Every Move the Dallas Stars Made
Jaromir Jagr (1 Year, $3.3 million)
Ray Whitney (2 Years, $9 million)
Aaron Rome (3 Years, $4.5 million)
Okay, so this is kind of cheating. But the Dallas Stars made some pretty significant moves in the first week of free agency, and have a much more improved, well-rounded team after these signings.
First off, Jaromir Jagr. Where in the blue hell did this come from? Stars GM Joe Nieuwendyk is either one of the greatest pitch-givers in the league, or is holding Jagr’s family hostage somewhere in the Texas panhandle and will only give hints each time Jagr scores a goal.
$3.3 million is a bit high for the forty-year-old winger, but given his renaissance play with the Philadelphia Flyers last season, he certainly earned it.
Speaking of overpaying for older players, Ray Whitney’s contract certainly came as a shocker. Many were hoping the forty-year-old left winger would return to San Jose and finish out his career in teal as a potential replacement for Colin White, but at a $4.5 million cap hit, there was absolutely no way Wilson or the Sharks would be interested in his services for that kind of dough. There’s no doubting Whitney’s talent, but why Dallas would constitute that kind of a pay raise at his age is beyond me. Maybe they’re hoping to harvest his body for Loui Eriksson.
Commentary aside, Whitney brings a stifling presence to the Dallas’ defensive line, and should give Brent Burns and company plenty to keep busy with come next season on the Sharks’ defense.
The youngest of Dallas’ signings, Aaron Rome took home a much-deserved pay raise (up from $750,000 with Vancouver last season) with the Stars. Dallas may be overpaying for Rome, but look for him to take a much larger role on the Stars this season. And with $20 million in cap space to work with, Dallas may just be getting started.
#1. P.A. Parenteau Signs with the Colorado Avalanche (4 years, $16 million)
As I detailed last week, I was hoping the Sharks would make a push for signing New York Islanders winger P.A. Parenteau. His point totals, coupled with his passing abilities, would have made a potentially stellar pairing with Sharks second-winger Logan Couture, and give him the playmaker he needs to further his already blossoming career. However, one of my main concerns was the price tag, and it turns out Parenteau was certainly well aware of his market value. As beautiful as the idea of Couture and Parenteau playing together sounds, a $4 million cap hit is a bit steep for the young winger (I had initially pegged him around $3 million). With the Parenteau signing, The Colorado Avalanche add another depth player to their already stacked group of forwards (including former Shark Jamie McGinn). Although many point to the Avalanche’s glaring lack of defensemen, Colorado GM Greg Sherman has $20 million in cap space to work with this offseason. While the market may be a bit sparse for defensemen following the Ryan Suter signing, Sherman may look to trade a forward or two during the upcoming season to tighten up his blue line.
While these signings are obviously an area of concern for the San Jose Sharks and Sharks management, the sky certainly isn’t falling (that’s just the cap ceiling). Last week, GMs were divided in their stance on the market. Most (including Doug Wilson) stood back and watched the Parise/Suter sweepstakes unfold, keeping a close eye on smaller signings, and formulating hypothetical signings and strategies in their respective offices. Some GMs, on the other hand, took a more proactive approach, choosing to take advantage of the cautious nature of the market and make big splashes while other GMs played the waiting game. While some teams (like Dallas) made significant improvements to their rosters, they did so at a high cost. Players like Ray Whitney more than likely used the passive nature of the market to their advantage during negotiations, and walked away with a good deal more than they were entitled. I’ll be honest- having to play against the likes of Jagr and Parenteau next season raises more than a few concerns. But looking at the effect their cap hits will have on their respective teams, fans should certainly feel much better with the current signings and well-rounded atmosphere of the Sharks.
Five UFA Signings the Sharks Could Make In Response
With the exception of Rick Nash.
#5. Kyle Wellwood
2011-12 Cap Hit: $700,000
Hey, this guy! Kyle Wellwood made a significant improvement to the San Jose’s third line when he was brought on midway through the Sharks 2010-11 campaign. However, due to cap space and his want to sign Handzus, Sharks GM Doug Wilson let Wellwood walk at the end of the year. With Handzus a potential trade target for the offseason (despite his no-movement clause), Wellwood may attract the attention of the Sharks’ front office. His services definitely won’t come cheap, though. With an explosive 47-point campaign (18G/29A) on a $700,000 contract last season with the Winnipeg Jets, Wellwood will certainly be looking for a raise. And the Jets will more than likely be willing to make a large offer to retain his services. While Wilson may bite at this idea, don’t anticipate him following through with it.
#4. Shane Doan, Phoenix Coyotes
2011-12 Cap Hit: $4.55 Million
It’s a stretch. With over 11 teams reportedly interested in the right winger’s services, Shane Doan is certainly going to play the market for the best possible team. He’s also gone on the record as saying he doesn’t want to leave Phoenix, meaning his fate may not be resolved until later in the summer, when the Coyotes have a clearer understanding of their ownership situation.
With teams such as LA and Detroit already interested, it makes perfect sense for Wilson to put an offer on the table. Shane Doan would make an impressive addition to the San Jose Sharks, but it remains to be seen what role he would play. It honestly comes down to what other moves Wilson decides to make this offseason. As the team stands right now, the Sharks don’t have room for Doan. But if Ryan Clowe is moved, Wilson may find Doan a suitable replacement. At $4.55 million, Wilson would certainly need to make some significant moves to get Doan under the cap, but it may be worth his while if he pulls the trigger for a shakeup in the top six.
#3. Peter Mueller, Colorado Avalanche
2011-12 Cap Hit: $2.5 million
Peter Mueller needs a fresh start, and the San Jose Sharks could be the team to give it to him. Besides, they kind of owe it to him.
After suffering a career changing concussion from a hit during a game by San Jose Sharks (and former Avs) defenseman Rob Blake, Peter Mueller struggled to get back into the lineup in Colorado. Still, his 36 points (16G/20A) in 47 games with the Avalanche is definitely worth noting. At 6’2” and 209 lbs, the winger/center could make a solid addition to the Sharks’ third line (and perhaps become a replacement for Ryane Clowe should Wilson decide to move him). As mentioned earlier, Wilson probably isn’t interested in taking any more chances on high-risk players. However, Mueller’s skillset definitely gives Wilson something to think about should no other option present itself.
#2. Jamie Langenbrunner, St. Louis Blues
2011-12 Cap Hit: $2.75 Million
Jamie Langenbrunner could bring a Jeremey Roenick-esque feel to the Sharks’ bottom six. At 36, Langenbrunner has a history of success surrounding his impressive career. With 638 points (237G/401A) in 1035 career NHL games, Langenbrunner has produced both during the regular season and the playoffs. His loyalty to his clubs should also be noted- Langenbrunner played seven seasons with the Dallas Stars and eight seasons with the New Jersey Devils, winning a Stanley Cup with both teams during each tenure (Dallas 1999, New Jersey 2003). His hard-skating and clutch performances during the playoffs have earned him a significant amount of respect from both fans and players alike throughout the league.
However, Langenbrunner’s $2.75 million contract may raise concern for Doug Wilson. Wilson typically doesn’t offer older players large contracts (Roenick was signed for $1.1 million), but with Langenbrunner’s talents and Wilson’s need for a veteran presence in the locker room, Langenbrunner may be a perfect fit for San Jose.
#1. Alexander Semin, Washington Capitals
2011-12 Cap Hit: $6.7 million
Over seven seasons with the Washington Capitals, Alexander Semin has amassed 408 points (197G/211A) over 469 career NHL games. At 28, he remains to produce numbers like that for at least another four or five years. Playing alongside the likes of Thornton, Pavelski, and Couture, those numbers could get even higher.
Plain and simple, the Sharks lack Russians. Semin could follow in the footsteps of Arturs Irbe, Alexander Korolyuk, Evgeni Nabokov, and other capable Russian players that have been on the Sharks in years past.
At $6.7 million, Semin makes a compelling alternative to Rick Nash. If the Sharks are willing to spend the cash, Semin could provide a strong presence on the Sharks’ top six. As mentioned earlier, this move heavily depends on what other moves Wilson decides to make this offseason. Ryane Clowe or Patrick Marleau would have to go to make room for Semin on the left wing. Semin’s contract would also be a hurdle in negotiations, as Semin is more than likely looking for a long-term deal (something Wilson doesn’t regularly hand out). And with Carolina, Pittsburgh, and Detroit already interested in his services, Wilson would need a compelling argument to make the young winger come out west. If terms could be met, however, Semin could bolster an already explosive offense while taking his talents even further playing on the Sharks.
Doug Wilson will have his hands full in the coming weeks. With Parise and Suter off the market, expect big moves to be made over the next two to three weeks. However, don’t be surprised if big name players like Rick Nash, Shane Doan, and Alexander Semin wait for the CBA negotiations to move a bit further ahead until they make their respective decisions.
The clock is ticking. And I’m it watching every second.
Blades of Teal ~ The Final Word On Sharks Hockey.