One of these things is not like the other

Jonathan Willis
August 24 2008 02:14PM

There are quite a few guys who signed big-time deals this off-season; most of the contracts were welcomed by each team’s respective fans, much like the Sheldon Souray contract was widely viewed as a good one by Oilers fans.

Here are Souray’s goals and point totals for the three seasons up to his UFA year:

2006–07: 26G, 64 PTS 2005–06: 12G, 39 PTS 2003–04: 15G, 35 PTS

Looking at those numbers , which level of production seems like an aberrration? If you answered 2006–07, contact Wanye, who will give you a signed cardboard box that he stole from a homeless guy this summer (trust me, he’s got lots of them).

So which free agents got signed on career years? It’s interesting to look at some of the names signed and try to figure out the reasoning of the general managers involved.

Radim Vrbata—3yrs/$9M

2007–08: 27G, 56 PTS 2006–07: 14G, 41 PTS 2005–06: 15G, 39 PTS

Now, this isn’t a gross overpayment. In fact, given what unrestricted free agents coming off 27-goal seasons generally sign for, it’s a bargain. That said, will Tampa Bay get value out of Vrbata? Not likely. Maybe he doesn’t fall all the way back to the 15-goal, 40-point level, but it seems likely that he will. Then Tampa Bay will be paying him $3 million a year to get outscored by guys like Robert Nilsson; it isn’t a smart long-term decision.

Jose Theodore—2yrs/$9M

2007–08: 28-21-3, 2.44 GAA, .910SV% 2006–07: 13-15-1, 3.26 GAA, .891SV% 2005–06: 18-17-6, 3.40 GAA, .882SV%

Washington needed a goaltender, but they should have spent the extra million a season and re-signed Cristobal Huet, a legitimate goaltender with a strong track record. Theodore only resurrected his career last season, and while he may be for real, I sure wouldn’t want to wager $9 million dollars on it.

Brian Campbell—8yrs/$56.8M

2007–08: 8G, 62 PTS 2006–07: 6G, 48 PTS 2005–06: 12G, 44 PTS

I think that Chicago will eventually come to rue this contract, although they did get a good player; they just signed him for too much and too long. Campbell is unlikely to hit 60 points a season, but he is a good bet for 45-50. Is that worth $7.1M/annum?

Niklas Hagman—4yrs/$12M

2007–08: 27G, 41 PTS 2006–07: 17G, 29 PTS 2005–06: 8G, 21 PTS

Sometimes players have legitimate breakout years. Usually, however, those kinds of players are relatively young. Hagman has been a full-time NHLer since 2001–02, and has cracked the thirty point mark exactly once—this year when he scored 27 goals. He’s a quality player, but not offensively, and $3 million per long-term is an asinine signing.

Mark Streit—5yrs/$20.5M

2007–08: 13G, 62 PTS 2006–07: 10G, 36 PTS 2005–06: 2G, 11 PTS

A 31-year old veteran of the Swiss league, Streit appeared to have a breakout season last year as the triggerman on a phenomenal Canadiens powerplay. Who does that remind me of? If you said Sheldon Souray, Wanye will include the old newspapers that the homeless guys were using as lining for their cardboard boxes. Streit is a one-dimensional player who is almost exclusively a liability off the powerplay. I’d imagine that he stays around the 40-point mark for his time with the Islanders, and that is not good enough for $4 million a year longterm.

Signing guys coming off of career-best seasons isn’t the only mistake a general manager can make. A shocking number of teams decided to bet money on players coming off career-worst seasons, a strategy that might seem like a good way to pick up an under-valued asset on the cheap. Here’s the problem, though: the GM’s were generally paying these guys full price. Here are some head scratchers, along with last seasons numbers:

Michael Ryder—3yrs/$12M

I identified Ryder as one of the best potential bargains available. That idea went up in smoke as Boston offered the 30-point scoring/occasional healthy scratch a truck-load of money over three years. Even if Ryder were coming off a good season, that kind of money wouldn’t be a great bargain.

Mike Commodore—5yrs/$18.75M

Coming off his worst plus-minus since 2001–02 and a 50 per cent drop in points from 2006–07, Mike Commodore somehow managed to land a long-term, $3.75M/yr contract. Even though physical defensemen were getting signed at a premium (see Brooks Orpik), this isn’t a deal that makes much sense.

Wade Redden—6yrs/$39M

For my money, this was the worst signing out of free agency. Redden has been in a slump for the last two years, and despite being only 31 years old, he’s suffered a variety of injuries since the lockout and time may be catching up to him. In any case, Redden’s chief virtues are his offensive ability and his hockey sense, both of which looked shaky last season. He still recorded 40 points, but he isn’t a number one defenceman at this stage in the game.

Rob Blake—1yr/$5M

It’s been an ugly decline over the last couple of seasons for the one-time Norris Trophy winner. Now 38 years old, Blake has posted consecutive seasons of less than 35 points and has a combined -45 plus-minus rating over that span. Why the Sharks felt he was worth $5 million when he a) doesn’t bring much offence anymore and b) is a defensive liability is beyond me. He was playing for an awful Los Angeles team, yes, but he still had the worst +/- of any defenceman. The only positives to this deal are that he may rebound with a lesser load, and it’s only for one year.

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Jonathan Willis is Managing Editor of the Nation Network. He also currently writes for the Edmonton Journal's Cult of Hockey, Grantland, and Hockey Prospectus. His work has appeared at theScore, ESPN and Puck Daddy. He was previously founder and managing editor of Copper & Blue. Contact him at jonathan (dot) willis (at) live (dot) ca.
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#1 Dav
August 24 2008, 02:51PM
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I never cared much for the Souray signing and not having him for a full season hasn't helped either. He will certainly be under the microscope this year as Oil fans look to measure his performance against his contract.

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#2 milli
August 24 2008, 03:37PM
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If it hadn't been for the optics, I don't think Klo would have done that deal. But, I think he knew he had to send a message that A: we will spend money to be competitive and B: people will sign in Edmonton (FUCK PRONGER) can I say that here? I dunno, but I did. I cannot understand the Redden signing, by far thed worst.

Side note, do you guys have Oiler Nation gear, like shirts and hats? I'm gonna start selling some T-shirts mocking the lames and nucks....so let me know.

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#3 therealdeal
August 24 2008, 03:43PM
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It's really quite amazing the way GMs constantly make these blatant mistakes. This type of evaluation isn't rocket science.

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#4 Jonathan
August 24 2008, 03:53PM
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It’s really quite amazing the way GMs constantly make these blatant mistakes. This type of evaluation isn’t rocket science.

I imagine that some of them know that they're making a poor signing, but despite that feel they need to. Columbus, for example, consistently overpaid for players. I recall Doug MacLean talking about how they paid too much for Foote, but they needed him so badly they did it anyway.

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#5 Braden
August 24 2008, 04:08PM
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I stopped reading when I noticed you used Souray's stats from the "Old NHL" and then grouped them with seasons in the new NHL and then claimed aberrration?

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#6 Fiveandagame
August 24 2008, 04:20PM
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Jeff Finger anybody? Anybody? Souray is a good deal. There are very few 100pm guys who can also pot 15+ goals. With the Oilers coaching staff he'll be a fantastic d-man for us. Hell they got Igor Ulanov to look like an allstar and he couldn't skate

I say don't worry about the price of the player, worry about the play of the player. If he plays solid who cares what he got paid to live in Edmonton for the winter. ( I actually hear that some players were reluctant to sign in Edmonton, not because they had a problem with good ol' E-town but because of it's proximity to Calgary, 3 hours from Calgary is too close to Calgary. Why do you think all of those big names sign out east or southwest, or California, because they are the farthest from Calgary. Come on we've all smelt that funk coming up HWY 2)

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#7 milli
August 24 2008, 04:42PM
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( I actually hear that some players were reluctant to sign in Edmonton, not because they had a problem with good ol’ E-town but because of it’s proximity to Calgary, 3 hours from Calgary is too close to Calgary. Why do you think all of those big names sign out east or southwest, or California, because they are the farthest from Calgary. Come on we’ve all smelt that funk coming up HWY 2)

HAHAHAHA DUDE, YOU ROCK!!!!!

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#8 Jonathan
August 24 2008, 04:53PM
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Jeff Finger anybody? Anybody?

Well, I would have thrown him in, but he doesn't have enough of a track record to give him an established level of ability.

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#9 Fiveandagame
August 24 2008, 06:47PM
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"Well, I would have thrown him in, but he doesn’t have enough of a track record to give him an established level of ability."

I guess so. It's not like your blog was, "dumbest moves of the offseason" That would be a boring blog, it would basically be a recap of every move Toronto and Vancouver have done. Finger....I mean...come on Fletch...geeze....

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#10 Jonathan
August 24 2008, 06:53PM
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That would be a boring blog, it would basically be a recap of every move Toronto and Vancouver have done.

Hey, I liked that they picked up Bernier- that was a good decision.

But, yeah, you're bang on. Especially Toronto. Good grief.

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#11 Fiveandagame
August 24 2008, 07:39PM
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Bernier is a solid pick up. Bernier with the Swedish sisters is arguably the best second line in hockey (excluding the Oilers and Detroit of course) problem is Vancouver has no first line. Who is going to center their top line? Kesler? Who's Demitra going to play with? Mason Raymond and a center to be named later? What a joke. Even if they add a Sundin or even a Nylander or Gionta via trade they still are in tough.

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#12 Kent W.
August 25 2008, 09:18AM
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The other thing about Mark Streit is he was occasionally deployed as a forward, further inflating his stats.

Poor NYI. That looks like the worst roster in the league on paper right now.

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#13 Doogie2K
August 25 2008, 11:35PM
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I stopped reading when I noticed you used Souray’s stats from the “Old NHL” and then grouped them with seasons in the new NHL and then claimed aberrration?

You do remember what year the lockout was in, right?

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