Bogosian and Jets still negotiating, difficulty will be finding fair market value

Rewind back to the 2008 Draft. Steven Stamkos was the consensus #1 pick and was expected to be followed by four promising defenseman. Drew Doughty, Zach Bogosian, Alex Pietrangelo, and Luke Schenn were all expected to be top-notch defensemen for any club lucky enough to draft them. Doughty, Schenn, and Bogosian all earned spots on the respective NHL teams only months after taking the draft stage Scotiabank Place in Ottawa. They’ve all had their individual ups-and-downs as professionals, but they share another trait that their organizations wish to remedy: they’re all restricted free agents in the middle of contract disputes.

The major difference between the Bogosian contract negotiations and that of Doughty and Schenn is how much quieter the talk has been. Part of it is because Winnipeg isn’t the same type of media market that Los Angeles or Toronto can be. Part of it is that Jets GM Kevin Cheveldayoff isn’t known for the same types of quotes that Leafs GM Brian Burke and Kings GM Dean Lombardi are known to drop to the media. But mostly, it’s because Bogosian isn’t quite the same type of player that Doughty and Schenn have been over the course of their first three NHL seasons.

Bogosian did his part to keep the talks out of the limelight as he was mum on the subject of his contract negotiations:

“Things are good. We’re talking. That’s about all I will say. You’ve just got to sit back and let the agents and GM deal with all that kind of stuff.”

While he’s at it, he might as well say that he plans on “taking it one day at a time” and “he’s just hoping he can help out the team any way he can.” Regardless, it looks like Bogosian is toeing the company line with the team and his agent Bob Murray as all sides are keeping the negotiations out of the media.

Bogosian is an interesting case-study in NHL economics because of the potential he possesses vs. production on the ice. Coming out of the draft, most scouting services had Doughty and Bogosian ranked neck-and-neck with Pietrangelo having a high-ceiling (but needing more time in the OHL) and Schenn being the best stay-at-home defenseman. Today, Bogosian still has the most question marks surrounding his game. Doughty has already been a Norris Trophy finalist and won an Olympic Gold Medal with Team Canada. Alex Pietrangelo is showing signs that he could become a Norris candidate in the next few years and Luke Schenn has already made a name for himself as a nasty defenseman with the Maple Leafs.

Gary Lawless from the Winnipeg Free Press spoke to an NHL executive about the three restricted free agents:

“They were comparable players in junior but haven’t been to date as pros. It’s difficult to know what Winnipeg has in Bogosian at this point. He may very well turn into a fine player but that has only been demonstrated in flashes so far.”

Bogosian is a different deal all together. He’ll show flashes of the talent that made him one of the most sought-after prospects in a great draft; then he’ll regress and look lost on the ice. It certainly didn’t help that he and defensive partner Johnny Oduya were buried with defensive zone starts more than anyone else on the Thrashers, but his points per 60 was the second worst among Atlanta blueliners. Not exactly the kind of statistic a player wants going into a contract negotiation. Going further with advanced stats, Bogosian’s zone finish was the worst Thrashers defenseman as well.

What does all of this mean? Former coach Craig Ramsay had Bogosian starting in his own defensive zone a lot and he finished his shift in his own zone more than anyone else.  He spent a ton of time in his own zone and he scored less than every defenseman on the Thrashers NOT named than Mark Stuart.

There are two ways to look at it—either one can look at it that Bogosian was never put in the position to succeed; or Bogosian hasn’t blossomed into the type of top-tier defenseman that can bail his team out of trouble. The best defensemen in the league can start anywhere on the ice and help their team generate scoring chances. Clearly, Bogosian isn’t at that level yet—and it’s unfair to expect him to be.

The troubling part for Atlanta’s Winnipeg’s management is how to pay the player who could be a very good defenseman down the road, but is currently just an average blueliner. Do they want to gamble on a long-term contract hoping to lock him at a reasonable cap hit? Do they want to sign him to a short-term contract to see how he develops over the next season or two? As much as money is a factor in the negotiations, the term can be just as crucial in a negotiation like Bogosian’s.

Once someone starts talking, we’ll have an idea which way each side is leaning. Of course, we’ll keep you updated with any developments.

Report: Predators avoid arbitration … with Marek Mazanec

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The Nashville Predators avoided salary arbitration in at least one case on Thursday, but it wasn’t the biggest name they were worried about.

FanRag’s Craig Morgan reports that Marek Mazanec settled for a one-year deal worth $650K at the NHL level and $100K in the AHL.

That two-way split is quite relevant, as Mazanec probably comes in fourth on the Predators’ goalie depth chart behind Pekka Rinne, Jusse Saros, and Anders Lindback. Actually, with Matt O’Connor in mind, Mazanec may even come in at fifth.

One interesting wrinkle is that Lindback gets the same $650K at both levels while Saros and Mazenec see different salaries depending upon where they are, according to Cap Friendly’s listings. From a sheer financial standpoint, that might give Lindback some fuel to push as Rinne’s backup, though Saros is already pushing for starts after strong showings in 2016-17.

It’s not the easiest situation for Mazanec, but credit Predators GM David Poile for giving his team plenty of options in net. Both Mazanec and Lindback saw elevated action when Rinne was hurt in 2013-14, so these situations can change quickly at times.

Mazanec was the least crucial of the Predators’ three salary arbitration situations, as Viktor Arvidsson‘s hearing is scheduled for Saturday (July 22) while Austin Watson is set for Monday (July 24). Arvidsson emerged as a legitimate first-line winger last season, so that will be a significantly trickier situation for the Predators.

For more on Arvidsson’s situation, click here.

Penguins GM confident they can find third-line center with Bonino gone

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August is nearing, and the Pittsburgh Penguins haven’t made a trade or signing to replace Nick Bonino, their outstanding (but former) third-line center.

On the bright side, the Penguins have remarkable breathing room considering their status as repeat Stanley Cup champions. Cap Friendly places their 2017-18 room at about $10.38 million.

That robust space likely explains why GM Jim Rutherford seemed fairly calm about the whole situation, as Jason Mackey of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reports.

“I do feel confident that, by the start of the season, we’re going to have a third-line center that we’re comfortable with,” Rutherford said. “Whether it’s one of those guys on the list or one of the guys that I could go and get right today.”

Rutherford (jokingly?) said that he had a list of “hundreds of names” as options, although it’s difficult to top Mackey’s suggestion of Phil Kessel‘s buddy, Tyler Bozak. After all, Bozak is a competent player who carries a $4.2 million cap hit that Pittsburgh could comfortably absorb (and the Toronto Maple Leafs might need to shed). It doesn’t hurt that Bozak’s contract expires after 2017-18, so the Penguins wouldn’t be on the hook if things don’t work out.

Of course, Matt Duchene is another name worth considering. It almost feels a little strange to ponder that speedy Avalanche forward being a “third-line center,” especially if Pittsburgh would want to get the most out of him.

MORE: Duchene might begin next season with the Colorado Avalanche

After that, though … the pickings could be much slimmer than Rutherford indicated to Mackey.

Shallow pool

Take a look at this current list of forwards who are unrestricted free agents.

There are some potential bargains here (P.A. Parenteau, Jiri Hudler, anyone?), but the situation gets significantly shakier if you’re picky enough to look only at centers. The likes of Daniel Winnik and Ryan White are reasonable roster additions, but the drop-off from Bonino could be pretty drastic.

What about other trade possibilities?

That’s a shaky group, too, especially if you apply Bozak-like terms as far as guys who only have one year left on their current contracts.

Honestly, the Penguins’ best bet in looking at that list would probably come down to an in-season move with a team that realizes it’s not a contender or simply understands that a player won’t be back.

Maybe the Calgary Flames would want to cut bait on Matt Stajan or (less realistically) Mikael Backlund? Would the Ducks move speedy, versatile sometimes-center Andrew Cogliano? There are other remote possibilities, such as the Leafs instead trading Leo Komarov (or especially unlikely moves in Paul Stastny or Tomas Plekanec).

Even if the above list seems enticing, how many of those teams would really want to move those players now, especially the bigger difference-makers?

If you’re the Penguins, you’re probably hoping that a Bozak deal could take place. And maybe you’re sweating this situation more than you let on.

(Note: There’s also the slight possibility that the Penguins might identify a replacement from within, though a contending team like Pittsburgh might not be so comfortable with that approach.)

Blues have ‘wiggle room’ after locking up Parayko

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The St. Louis Blues didn’t break the bank to keep Colton Parayko for five more years, and that’s important since they don’t believe the NHL’s salary cap will rise significantly in the next little while.

Parayko’s cap hit came in at a manageable $5.5 million, as the two sides narrowly avoided an arbitration hearing that was scheduled for today.

“You like to have as much wiggle room as possible,” GM Doug Armstrong said, per the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. “Now we view the cap will stay flat for the foreseeable future. We’re content with the space we have. We’ll move forward and get ready for training camp.”

The Blues now have a number of key players locked up long term, including Parayko, Alex Pietrangelo, Vladimir Tarasenko, Alex Steen, Jaden Schwartz, Patrik Berglund, and Jake Allen.

For Armstrong, the next big decision could involve Paul Stastny, the 31-year-old center who can become an unrestricted free agent next summer.

But a decision on Stastny doesn’t need to be made now, or even before the season starts. It’s the trade deadline that could be the real pressure point, akin to the Kevin Shattenkirk situation this past year.

Per CapFriendly, the Blues have just over $3 million in cap space, with one roster spot left to fill.

‘Highly unlikely’ Suns will pursue shared arena with Coyotes

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The Arizona Coyotes appear to be on their own in pursuit of a new arena in the Phoenix area.

That’s because Robert Sarver, the owner of the NBA’s Phoenix Suns, says it’s “highly unlikely” he’ll pursue a shared arena with the Coyotes.

Instead, Sarver is focused on upgrading the Suns’ current home (and Coyotes’ old home) in downtown Phoenix, Talking Stick Resort Arena.

From the Arizona Republic:

Sarver said building a new arena would have “maybe made more sense” four or five years ago when the cost estimate was $450 million to $500 million. The costs now, Sarver said, are “significantly higher.” Thus his focus on upgrading Talking Stick, which soon will be the second-oldest arena in the NBA.

“I think it’s the most economically viable alternative for the city and us,” he said. “I like downtown Phoenix. That’s my first preference. I think the NBA is more of an urban game. That’s our demographic.”

Talking Stick Resort Arena, formerly called America West Arena when the Coyotes played there, was designed for basketball and isn’t ideal for hockey. In that way, it’s a lot like Barclays Center in Brooklyn, which hasn’t been a great fit for the Islanders.

The Coyotes recently hired a new president and CEO, Steve Patterson, whose top priority is finding the team a new home in the Phoenix area.