So I've been busy as heck with work and having Vancouver out of the playoffs has reduced my time commitment to hockey this past week. I've started to tune back in a bit and realized that it's gone into rumour and speculation season again. Having had a week off I can look at things with a bit of new perspective.
First off I think this year's draft and FA start will be interesting for all the reasons we don't think about. Huh? Yeah it's not about how much players will sign for and who gets traded it's about where they go. I see 8 teams being able to make significant salary impacts on players and their own cap, in no particular order: Kings, Flyers, Penguins, Islanders, Jackets, Blues, Panthers and Caps. An outside chance is Edmonton and Nashville too.
Other teams may try but I see these 8 from where they are now in cap space not what it may be at start of season. There are a fair amount of coveted players this year, Drury, Briere, Smyth, Blake, Bertuzzi to name a few. As I look at UFA's I have concern over what will come first for them, salary, winning, or location and if any of those three criteria can be combined?
What I'm getting at is this-of those 8 teams I consider 3 of them desirable franchises for a player and if they are the only teams bidding what is a star UFA to do? Take the money and run or something else. I believe this off season will show the beginning of a trend-whether players opt to play for cash or something else. That something else could be a chance at winning...a great city, arena or community.
Players are now going to have to make decisions on more than the highest bidder of two good teams because those teams may now be three bad teams. Can a star UFA in mid their 20's be part of a rebuild or want to? There are now so many variables for players and GM's to consider. Imagine being Ed Jovanovksi and signing a 5 year deal in Phoenix to have the whole team and managemnt gutted one year in? He has basically put himself in a position where he locked himself into a franchise that most likely will not be contending for anything by the time he hits his final years in the league. I think there are more than a few players who have told their agents-"don't do a Jovo to me".
I'm going to enjoy the draft and UFA season, it's always fun to speculate about who, where and for how much. This year I will look a lot closer as I think players have begun to realize they may not want to be locked into a bad spot for a long time. It doesn't help them either as a bad environment is not fun anywhere regardless of how much you make. If I was a betting man I'd put some money on the return of the 2 and 3 year deals...they give players and coaches much more freedom when a relationship just wasn't meant to be and that's a mistake players and managers can no longer afford to make.