Players wrestle with the inexact science of free agency

Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for kovalchukkhl.jpgIn this free agent frenzy filled July, we often look at team building through a sober lens of numbers or – as fans – like we’re filling our plates at some hockey buffet table.

The “human element” is often lost in this process, especially for the far-from-superstar players. While it’s quite reasonable to imagine that the Ilya Kovalchuk situation comes down to money, market, team quality or a picky combination of all those factors, it’s a little different for the average NHL player.

One former hockey player turned scribe named Justin Bourne has become one of the best sources of insight for what a skater goes through. He shared some of his experiences as a far-from-sought-after free agent for USA Today.

It’s an odd feeling when your agent calls with options. What do you value the most this year? The city? Its location? The money? The opportunity? Any of the other 52,006 variables?

What matters most to each player is nowhere near the same. Maybe a single guy wants to live in a bigger city to have a social life. Maybe a family man wants to live closer to his hometown. Some guys want money, and some just want to get noticed. And while GMs don’t know exactly what will pique the interest of each player, sometimes that player won’t even be sure where his priorities are.

If you’ve ever read a “choose your own adventure” book, I’m sure you remember frequently making the wrong choice. It happens in reality, too. I chose to make a couple hundred bucks less a week in the ECHL to sign with a team that I thought provided a better path to the NHL. Lesson: Active players make lousy GMs.

There certainly are a lot of factors that play into a decision that could drastically alter the lives of these players. Perhaps that’s why the Patrick Marleaus of the world decide that there’s no place like home.

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    Kings grab goalie insurance by signing Budaj

    LOS ANGELES, CA - SEPTEMBER 22: Jhonas Enroth #1 and Peter Budaj #31 of the Los Angeles Kings stretch before a game against the Arizona Coyotes at STAPLES Center on September 22, 2015 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Andrew D. Bernstein/NHLI via Getty Images)
    via Los Angeles Kings
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    In slightly less interesting Los Angeles Kings news than the latest in the Mike Richards fiasco, the team handed Peter Budaj a one-year, two-way deal on Friday.

    The veteran goalie’s contract pays $575K on the NHL level and $100K in the AHL (though it’s $150K guaranteed), according to Hockey’s Cap.

    At the moment, it sounds like Budaj will be third on the Kings’ goalie depth chart. That says as much about how things have been going lately for Los Angeles than Budaj’s work on a PTO.

    As noted above, one of the more significant moves in Budaj’s favor came when the New York Islanders claimed Jean-Francois Berube off of waivers this week.

    The Kings actually waived Budaj before signing him, so this has to be a relief to a goalie with a fairly robust resume as a backup.

    All apologies to Budaj, but it’s probably true that the Kings would prefer not to see him at the NHL level very often in 2015-16.

    Kings, NHLPA announce settlement in Richards grievance

    Los Angeles Kings v New York Rangers

    The Los Angeles Kings announced today that they have “reached an agreement with Mike Richards to resolve the grievance filed in relation to the termination of his NHL Standard Players Contract. The terms are agreeable to all parties.”

    The club said that it will not be commenting further “on the terms” of the settlement.

    The NHLPA released a similar statement.

    It was reported earlier in the week that a settlement was close to being reached; however, it wasn’t clear what salary-cap penalties the Kings would incur.

    We’re starting to find out some details now:

    How the final numbers differ from what the Kings would have incurred if they’d bought Richards out will be interesting to see. And if there are differences, how will they be justified?

    Stay tuned.