07 July 2010
Believe it or not, that phrase has been used around the Avs parts as a bad thing. That somehow emulating the team that just won the Stanley Cup is not the position that the Avs want to be in because they had to trade away (for equal to or greater value) some of their young players (Byfuglien, Versteeg, Sopel) right after they won the cup. Many Avs fans are worried about this fate. Honestly winning the cup and then selling valuable, but replaceable, parts for more than they are worth without destroying the team sounds just fine to me.
Still, I am a little worried about the Avs becoming like the Blackhawks. The Bill Wirtz era Blackhawks. Mile High Hockey has cataloged how there are signs that the Avs have gone on the cheap lately. And lets face it, with the Avs lack of marketing, canceling of development camp, and generally fan-unfriendly attitude; the Avs are just home blackouts away from becoming the Bill Wirtz Blackhawks.
If the Avs don't think Kovi is the right fit for the team, that's ok with me. If I were a CEO of a company I'd have a hard time signing a guy to an $8.5M contract when I've had to let go of good employees because times are tough (As the Avs have had to do), So I can truly understand the philosophy of saving money on contracts, especially with such a young team, until that team matures a little more. And there are some potential free agents in the next few seasons (Alexander Semin anyone?) that probably can have at least a similar impact as Kovi.
But if that's the case then the Avs need to invest that money in other areas. Take 1/2 the $8M that you could have spent for Kovi, and put it into marketing this young team and getting the people excited for this team. At $50k a year the Avs could hire a marketing team of 20 and still have $3M to use on billboards, TV commercials, or fan-friendly activities, and still save $4M that they may have spent on Kovi. (In theory there would be a return on the $4M they spent on marketing/fan relations too).
Instead the Avs marketing this summer consists of statements like these by GM Greg Sherman:
Build from within. “The Avalanche organization is about winning, so certainly our expectations are that,” Sherman said on Thursday afternoon. “As we look to the future we feel very confident about the young group that we have and that we’re going to build around.”There's reasons to be excited about this team. There's some very good players on the roster, and they are young and likely to be Avs for a long time. The Avs have some exciting young talent in the system. After Bill Wirtz died and Rocky Wirtz took over, there were some significant changes made. The oft-cited and critically important piece of the Blackhawks turnaround was the hiring of long-time Cubs marketing guru John McDonough. This started giving the Blackhawks revenue streams (merchandise, TV, tickets) that they hadn't been used to.
The new Blackhawks found a way to get excited about their young players before they started accomplishing anything, and surrounded that young talent with savvy veterans like Martin Havlat. When those young talents matured and the time was right, they went out and got even more free agents. When this happened the city exploded with enthusiasm.
The old Blackhawks spent the minimum necessary, marketed very little, signed very few (if any) free agents, and relied heavily on young (but overvalued) talents like JP Dumont, Eric Daze, Tony Amonte, Alex Zhamnov, Steve Sullivan and Dean McAmmond. Not to be too dramatic, but right now the Avs more closely resemble the old Blackhawks, and are in more danger of becoming them.
After the jump: (Why wanting a dynasty and not a one-and done cup champion like people assume Chicago will be is a fantasy, and Why the Avs have the cap space, now and in the future, to sign a Kovi-like contract if they wanted to.)
Many Avs fans have cited not wanting a one-off Stanley cup winner, but wanting a dynasty. But that's wishful thinking. Over the last 10 seasons only two teams have won the cup more than once. New Jersey ('00, '03) and Detroit ('02, '08). No team has won the cup more than once since the lockout. Not signing free agents because you want a dynasty is like a record exec passing on signing The Killers because he wants to sign the next U2.
The main worry for many fans is that by signing an expensive free agent, or two, the Avs would be put in a position later on where they would have to get rid of some of their young players. Honestly I find this to be a ghost worry. The Avs have plenty of room to sign a big ticket free agent and keep their young core down the line. Here's a quick look at the salary cap situation:
So let's take a quick look at the salary cap situation, and why worrying about a Kovalchuk-like contract isn't the cap handcuff that people think it is.
Looking at Cap Geek the Avs currently have ~24.5M in cap space. The only Avs signed for 2+ years currently is Paul Stastny at $6.6M (and a few RFA rookies, like Shattenkirk and Guance). However almost all of the Avs relevent Free Agents will be restricted free agents, so there's a good bet that even though the Avs could turn over. I'm going to assume guys like Winnik, McLeod (1.0M), Koci(, Budaj(1.2M) make relatively the same amount since they are 4th liners and pretty much replaceable if they decide they want too much money. That means in 2 years the Avs have $10.3M tied up in Stastny and spare parts. It's really impossible to project, but let's start with guys who won't be getting raises. Let's pretend that Hejduk and Foote retire, Liles leaves via Free Agency (the Avs have a ton of cheap puck moving defensemen in the system) and Hannan takes a pay cut to $3M (since everyone pretty much agrees that he's a bit overpaid right now). I'm also going to assume that Quincey makes about what he just signed for ($3.1M).
Stastny + Spare parts ($10.3M)
Quincey + Hannan ($6.1M)
We'll assume every other player on the Avs deserves some sort of raise (unless they'll be rookies in which case they will be under their entry level contract). Here's a look at some estimates at what they'll get. I'm going to be conservative and give healthy raises here so that there's built in cushion (or margin in the Eng world):
Duchene: $7.5M, Stewart: $4M, Mueller: $3.5M, O'Reilly: $3.5M, Galiardi: $3M, Jones: $3M, Yip: $2.5M, Stoa: $2M, Porter: $1.5M
Cumiskey: $1.5M, Wilson: $1.5M, Shattenkirk*: 1.3M, Guance: $0.85M, Holo¢s: $1.5M
After all is said and done, with very healthy raises to every single Avs young player that could be due for one in the next 2 seasons, the Avs would still be $5.9M under the cap (not including the fact that the cap will likely rise). So the very worst case scenario to signing a guy to an $8-$8.5M cap hit is that the Avs would have to trade/get rid of exactly one of the above players, two years down the line. If the Avs don't want to add a Kovi-like contract it's not because they can't fit it in the cap, either now or in the future. Even with a large contract the Avs are in no danger of needing to sell off three spare parts for more than they're worth after winning the Stanley Cup, like the Blackhawks.