2010 NHL Free Agency: Is 2010 the 'Summer of the Pay Cut'?

Thumbnail image for ollijokinen3.jpgAfter years of NHL teams seemingly gorging themselves at the buffet table that is unrestricted free agency, it seems like the league is starting to exercise a little “portion control.” Jamie Fitzpatrick did a nice breakdown of the growing trend of players taking pay cuts for About.com.

20 Forwards Signed
– Based on average annual salary, nine get a raise over last season, eight take a pay cut, and one guy signs for the same money (two salaries not available).

Fitzpatrick notes that the biggest pay increases (so far) went to Manny Malhotra and Matthew Lombardi while Olli Jokinen will see the largest drop in pay. There are still plenty of free agent forwards – including guys who put up substantial goal totals such as Ilya Kovalchuk and Alex Frolov – so the overall summer might end up a touch more positive for forwards.

16 Defensemen Signed
– Eight players increase salary over 2009-10, while five take a chop, and one guy holds the line (one not available).

zmichalekhappy.jpgI’m surprised that a big chunk of defensemen took a pay cut, too, because I was thinking this might be the summer of defensemen cashing in. (More on that very subject later today.)

It turns out that Zbynek Michalek (166 percent increase) and Dan Hamhuis ($2.5 million per year to $4.5) will probably be the most excited to see their brand new pay checks in October. Fitzpatrick points out that Pavel Kubina will make $1.15 million less per year, but I think that’s more aboout the market correcting an inflated salary than him being “the biggest loser.”

8 Goaltenders Signed
– Three get a raise, four get a rollback, and one salary is unchanged.

While this summer has still (in my opinion) been a great one for defensemen, it’s been a horrid one for goalies. Just ask Evgeni Nabokov and Marty Turco, two potential big money makers who are sitting on the sidelines. (I give Turco and Nabokov slightly more benefit of the doubt that Ilya Kovalchuk because they’re probably not taking a “$100 million or bust” stance. Still, the two high profile goalies must not pay attention to the limited amount of job opportunities for goalies in the NHL right now.)

Is this the “Summer of the Pay Cut”? I’m not sure if I’d go that far, but it’s been a season of lateral moves for players and their sad panda agents. We’ll see if the many unrestricted free agents waiting on the sidelines will up-end the less moneyed trend or confirm the fact that NHL owners might actually be watching their money a little bit this year.

DiMaio named Blues’ director of player personnel

via St. Louis Blues
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The St. Louis Blues named Rob DiMaio their director of player personnel on Tuesday.

He’s been with the organization for some time. He joined as a pro scout in 2008 and was the pro scouting director starting in August 2012.

He was also a scout for the Dallas Stars before landing with the Blues (one would assume his biggest connection is GM Doug Armstrong, then).

In case his nose didn’t give it away, he also enjoyed a lengthy hockey career over 19 seasons.

No doubt about it, this is a pivotal season for the Blues after multiple campaigns in which strong regular seasons dissolved into playoff disappointments. Perhaps DiMaio can make a difference in a heightened role?

Hitchcock going to more aggressive attack for Blues

Ken Hitchcock

ST. LOUIS (AP) After three straight first-round playoff exits, the St. Louis Blues have learned to temper expectations.

They have been consistently among the NHL’s best in the regular season and realize it is past time to build something for the long haul. The sting still lingers from the latest failure, against the Minnesota Wild last spring.

“We’re all disappointed, everybody can agree on that,” defenseman Alex Pietrangelo said. “It’s never easy to kind of think about your failures, but we grow every time it happens.”

Management isn’t ready to tear it all down yet.

“We play, in my opinion, one of the toughest if not the toughest division in the NHL, and we’ve finished first or second in the last four years,” forward Alexander Steen said. “So we have an extremely powerful team.”

Maybe a change in strategy will be enough: Coach Ken Hitchcock is back with a mandate for a more aggressive, even reckless, style of play from a roster that hasn’t changed appreciably.

“We’re coming hard from the back and we’re coming hard to see how close we can get to the attack,” Hitchcock said. “I think it’s where the game’s at; I think it’s where the game’s going to go.”

The 63-year-old Hitchcock is pushing forward, too, unwilling to dwell on the flameouts. Coach and players agree that would be “wasted energy.”

“My opinion is when you sit and think about the past, you do yourself no good,” Hitchcock said. “If you learn from the past, that’s when you do yourself a whole bunch of good.”

There were only two major roster casualties. Forward Troy Brouwer came from Washington in a trade for fan favorite T.J. Oshie. Defenseman Barret Jackman, the franchise career leader in games, wasn’t re-signed.

“If you were expecting 23 new faces to be on the roster this year, I don’t think that was realistic,” captain David Backes said. “We’re going to miss those guys in the room and on the ice, but there has been some changeover and I think it’s pretty significant.”

Things to watch for with the Blues:

GOALIE SHUFFLE: Just like last year, there’s no true No. 1 with Brian Elliott and Jake Allen sharing duties. The 25-year-old Allen missed a chance to seize the job last spring when he failed to raise his level in the playoffs.

TOP THREAT: Vladimir Tarasenko had a breakout season with 37 goals and was rewarded with an eight-year, $60 million contract. The 23-year-old winger is by far the Blues’ most dangerous scoring option and said he won’t let the money affect his play. “I never worry about it,” Tarasenko said. “If you play good, you play good.”

NEW FACES: Brouwer and center Kyle Brodziak add a physical element that was perhaps lacking a bit last season. Brouwer has three 20-plus goal seasons and Brodziak, acquired from Minnesota, fills a checking role. Veteran forward Scottie Upshall got a one-year, two-way deal after being coming to camp as a tryout. Rookie forward Robby Fabbri, a first-round pick last year, will get an early look. Another promising youngster, forward Ty Rattie, begins the year at Chicago of the AHL.

RECOVERY WARD: Forward Jori Lehteri bounced back quickly from ankle surgery and opens the season without restrictions. Another forward, Patrik Berglund, could miss half of the season following shoulder surgery.

TRACK RECORD: The Blues won the Central Division last season and Hitchcock, fourth on the career list with 708 regular-season wins, has consistently had the team near the top of the standings. “He is our coach, tough cookies if you don’t like it,” Backes said. “From my experience, he puts together one heck of a game plan.”