Thoughts during the dog days
Happy Friday, BSB crew. It is officially the dog days of summer. The Draft and free agency have come and gone, and surprisingly, we haven’t seen much movement out of our (beloved?) Rangers since the end of June. We have seen a few contract updates and the major RFA’s are still yet to sign, but as we inch closer to the return of hockey, I have some scattered thoughts while there isn’t much happening in Rangerstown…
1. I’ll be honest that I never expected to see this little activity on the trade market thus far. Sure, we had the Dougie Hamilton heist and a few minor trades here and there, but still nothing on the Erik Karlsson front. None of the Rangers RFA’s have been moved. It’s…odd. I suppose the Rangers never had to deal any of their RFA’s; they do need to ice a team, after all. They can look and see what the landscape looks like at the deadline and assess from there. I think all the re-build stuff got us a little worked up into a frenzy over all the changes that haven’t really materialized yet.
2. Instead, the Rangers have just more or less gone about their business, signing reasonable and rational deals with their RFA’s. I don’t love qualifying Rob O’Gara, since he is pretty terrible, but I suppose you can stash him in Hartford for depth purposes. The Namestnikov and Vesey contracts were both fine. That’s been more or less the offseason so far: fine.
3. Is that Marc-Andre Fleury extension brutal or what? Woof. I get that the guy has been the face of the franchise thus far, but he is coming up on his 34th birthday and has a concussion history. So, let’s definitely make sure we pay him $7m per year until he is 37.
4. The John Tavares contract with Toronto got me thinking about a fundamental problem with player compensation in the NHL. Is there really a way for a player to make market value in their best years without becoming a cap clogging albatross? I believe the answer is a resounding “NO”. Regardless of how you feel about player compensation, the salary cap, etc., I think this reality is fundamentally bad for the game. Organizations should not want their best players to be vilified by virtue of their compensation and/or cap hit (even if the org is resentful of how much it cost to keep him), because universal adoration of franchise players breeds truckloads of merchandising dollars. Think about how much money the Yankees have made off of Derek Jeter merchandise over the years? He obviously made a ton of money, but there were never a bunch of talking radio heads yelling about how much cap space Jeter was eating up.
5. Player compensations models are more or less the same in every sport. Small market teams who can’t afford mega contracts need years of team control to have competitive windows and players are paid like indentured servants (relatively speaking, of course) during this time. It is not until the player achieved sufficient tenure in the league before he is able to be compensated accordingly. The problem is there are usually only a few (if that) years left in the player’s career that warrant the new-found compensation. This inevitably leads to the player being marked an underperforming asset for making the money they deserved years earlier. It’s a broken system. The salary cap only makes this worse.
6. As I was thinking about this, it evolved (or devolved?) into realizing that pretty much every institutional structure the NHL has in place sucks. Really think about it for a minute. Salary cap calculation model: sucks. Divisional alignment: sucks. Playoff format: sucks. Free agency rights: complicated and sucks. Draft lottery weighting format: sucks. National Broadcasts, both scheduling and product quality: sucks. League’s position on Olympic participation: sucks. The sick thing is I could go on and on and on. My point here is that the NHL is a horribly run league and that sucks for all of us. Before you ask, the answer is yes, I can come up with better alternatives to everything the league currently does.
7. Anyway, back to the Rangers. I agree with Dave on Brady Skjei’s long-term value. I think the risk is too low to pass on locking up a stabilizing presence on what will ultimately be a very young blueline when all the higher-ceiling prospects arrive. The team will need someone to eat minutes and play a consistent transition game. Especially at a price in the mid-$4m’s without any years with a “3” in front of them. I’m on board.
8. With the whispers of Jim Dolan potentially looking to sell the team (although he has denied this is the case), it does raise the question about the devil you know versus the devil you don’t. I haven’t quite processed how I feel about the possibility of a sale, but I am curious to see what you all think.
That’s it for me this week. Hopefully things get a bit more interesting as we inch closer to the season, but as always, keep it locked to BSB for all the analysis and discussion as we look toward opening night.