Tag: restricted free agency

Philadelphia Flyers v New Jersey Devils

Flyers sign budding star James van Riemsdyk to a six-year, $25.5M contract extension


The Philadelphia Flyers will have some decisions to make next summer, but one thing they won’t have to worry about is re-signing James van Riemsdyk. The team came to terms on a six-year extension with the budding star today to avoid a prolonged negotiation process next summer, when JVR was primed to become a restricted free agent. David Isaac reports that the six-year total is $25.5 million, which means that his annual salary cap hit will be $4.25 million beginning in the 2012-13 season.

However you might feel about the way the Flyers do business, they’ve shown some solid foresight in wrapping up soon-to-be stars before. They did so in November 2010 when they re-signed Claude Giroux to a three-year contract extension that will pay him just $3.75 million per season. That’s the kind of contract that opens up wiggle room for the team to reinvent itself with splashy moves such as trading Mike Richards and Jeff Carter while giving Ilya Bryzgalov a high-risk contract.

We’ll have to wait and see if this signing is as much of a home run as the Giroux deal. The Flyers are putting a lot of stock in the idea that JVR’s impressive 2011 playoff performances are a sign of a true breakout rather than just a brief run of excellence. No doubt about it, he was downright sensational at times in the postseason; it seemed like he could have scored four goals during his two-goal game against the Boston Bruins in the team’s overtime Game 2 defeat.

JVR needs to keep firing away

If you ask me, it could come down to confidence, which might be most tangibly illustrated by the staggering difference in the amounts of shots he put on net in the playoffs versus the regular season. In 75 regular season games in 2010-11, JVR scored 21 goals on 173 shots (2.31 shots per game). In 11 playoff games, he scored seven goals and put a dizzying 70 shots on net, which comes out to about 6.36 shots per game.

It’s not realistic to expect him to maintain that pace over 70+ games, but if he can hit somewhere around four shots per game, it’s not crazy to expect a 30 goal season in 2011-12. Hopefully he’ll share the vulcanized rubber with teammates every now and then, though; he didn’t register a single assist during his impressive 2011 playoff run.

Following in Bobby Ryan’s footsteps

JVR was part of a watershed moment for USA Hockey, as he went second overall behind fellow American-born winger Patrick Kane in the 2007 NHL Entry Draft. The Chicago Blackhawks reaped immediate rewards from their top pick while the Flyers have been patient with van Riemsdyk’s development process, bringing him along slowly as he debuted with the team in 2009-10. In a way, his path is reminiscent of fellow U.S.-born second overall pick Bobby Ryan; the impressive power forwards may always be “the guys who were drafted after Sidney Crosby/Kane” but their teams’ patience is paying off on the ice and on accounting spreadsheets as well.


Philly now has 16 players and about $51.3 million in cap commitments for the 2012-13 season, with Jaromir Jagr, Jakub Voracek, Matt Carle and Braydon Coburn ranking as their most prominent pending free agents next summer. The latter three will represent some tough choices for the Flyers, but they took care of their biggest concern today.

The Flyers’ investment is clearly based on their internal projections that JVR is primed to be a star. Every indication is that they were right about making a similar decision with Giroux, so this could be another huge move for the long-term viability of the franchise. There are always risks involved with these types of moves – especially when it comes to contracts as lengthy as these – but overall it looks like both sides won big.

Report indicates little progress between Brad Marchand, Bruins; Should Tyler Ennis be watching?

Boston Bruins Victory Parade

The Boston Globe’s Fluto Shinzawa reports that “only crickets are being heard” when it comes to Brad Marchand’s contract negotiations with the Boston Bruins.

While that might seem like a bad joke for Bruins fans, the fact of the matter is that the team has about $7.6 million in cap space to cover three roster spots (including – presumably – Marchand’s). In other words, it’ll probably just come down to a compromise on money, duration of the contract or some combination of those two factors. It’s hard to fathom a situation in which Marchand isn’t harassing opponents and occasionally filling up the opposition’s net in a Bruins uniform in 2011-12.

What might be the most interesting part of Shinzawa’s brief discussion of Marchand’s contract talks was the player who Shinzawa believes may be watching those negotiations most closely: Buffalo Sabres forward Tyler Ennis. Shinzawa thinks that Ennis could ask for a similar amount of money to what Marchand receives next summer – and Ennis might be able to tack on a “premium” price if he has a strong season in 11-12.

Ennis, the No. 26 pick of the 2008 draft, will be in Marchand’s position in one year: restricted with no arbitration rights. Through his first two pro seasons, Ennis has been a Marchand comparable. In 2009-10, Ennis, as a first-year pro, had three goals and six assists in 10 NHL games. Last year, Ennis punched in 20 goals and 29 assists for 49 points, 8 more than Marchand (21-20-41). If Ennis submits even better numbers this year, the undersized Buffalo forward could be looking at a premium on whatever Marchand scores from the Bruins.

source: Getty ImagesRe-signing Ennis might be a bit of a challenge for the Buffalo Sabres next summer, especially since he will be joined by restricted free agent defensemen Tyler Myers and Marc-Andre Gragnani. There is, however, a small problem with the Ennis-Marchand comparison: they make very different impacts on games on nights when they fail to score.

For one thing, Marchand brings an agitating role that rubs opponents the wrong way more often than it hurts his own team – at least last season. On the other hand, Ennis frustrates opponents with his craftiness, imagination and offensive skill.

Marchand also spent time on the Bruins’ penalty kill, while Ennis’ shorthanded time was negligible last season – another indication that Marchand’s influence extends beyond box scores.

Marchand: 1:20 shorthanded minutes out of 16:46 total minutes per game in the playoffs; 1:34 in 13:59 per game in regular season.

Ennis: one second of shorthanded time out of 16:38 total minutes per game in the playoffs; two seconds in 15:40 per game in regular season.

If Ennis’ agent is savvy, he’ll make the focus merely about points scored and argue that Ennis deserves just as much money – if not more – than anything Marchand will receive. Yet if the Sabres dig a little deeper, they can counter that Ennis played easier minutes than his supposed comparable.

Either way, I’d expect Marchand to be with the Bruins and Ennis to play for the Sabres for quite some time, unless something drastic happens in either case. It just seems like Ennis-Marchand is an apples-to-oranges comparison, unless points end up being your only barometer.

(H/T to The Sporting News.)

Leafs assistant GM Dave Nonis optimistic about Luke Schenn and Matthew Lombardi

Tampa Bay Lightning v Toronto Maple Leafs

Even with the limitations of a salary cap ceiling, the NHL’s richest teams still enjoy some advantages thanks to their superior resources. When it comes to the Chicago Blackhawks and New York Rangers, they have the money to make their worst contract choices (such as Cristobal Huet, Wade Redden and Chris Drury) go away. The Toronto Maple Leafs and their GM Brian Burke haven’t taken frequent advantage of CBA loopholes like some of their deep-pocketed peers, but they enjoy the unusual advantage of employing a handful of former NHL general managers as assistants.

That group includes former Atlanta Thrashers executive Rick Dudley and former Vancouver Canucks GM Dave Nonis, who discussed two important issues on TSN 1050 today: Luke Schenn’s contract negotiations and the status of recently acquired center Matthew Lombardi.

Nonis said that he expects the team to come to terms with Schenn before Toronto’s training camp begins on September 16. Schenn is represented by agent Don Meehan, whose clients have been the focus of many of this off-season’s critical contract talks.

“Contracts sometimes take a little longer to get done,” Nonis said in the one-on-one interview. “This isn’t the first one that’s gone into late August.

“When [your] starting point is the player wants to be here and the team wants to have him, usually you find a way to get it done.”

For a little more about Schenn’s negotiations, check out his optimistic outlook on the discussions and another update that focuses on his contributions to the Maple Leafs.

As usual with players dealing with concussion-related injuries, Nonis didn’t give a clear timeline for Lombardi’s return to NHL action (he played just two games in the 2010-11 season). That being said, he seemed optimistic about the situation and even downplayed the concussions issues, pointing to the other issues Lombardi is dealing with.

“We’re very comfortable that he’s on his way back, that the concussion isn’t an issue at this point,” explained Nonis. “But there’s a lot of things that happen when you have that kind of injury; there’s neck issues, there’s nerve issues and those all have to be addressed.

“With Matthew, there is no timetable. He’s getting better. He’s been feeling very good. His workouts have increased in duration and intensity, but he won’t be playing for us until he’s ready to play. So whether that’s a month or six months, who knows when that’s going to be. We’re not going to rush him, but we’re going to be pushing as hard as we can to get him ready and prepared.”

Lombardi might not be a star player, but he’s a speedy, versatile center. His murky health is one reason why the Leafs’ group of centers seem primed to be both fragile and exciting in 2011-12. Keeping their sturdy young defenseman Schenn in the picture wouldn’t hurt, either.

Buffalo Sabres sign Marc-Andre Gragnani to one-year deal, must clean up salary cap mess

Marc-Andre Gragnani

The Buffalo Sabres just announced that they re-signed restricted free agent defenseman Marc-Andre Gragnani. The financial terms were not disclosed, but the amount couldn’t have been too high since the Sabres are already almost $4 million over the salary cap ceiling according to Cap Geek.

In a vacuum, it’s great news for the Sabres to re-sign the young offensive blueliner, who was voted the AHL’s defenseman of the year and then made an impact on the NHL-level last season (three points in nine regular season games and then seven points in the team’s seven-game series against the Philadelphia Flyers). Gragnani could be a big part of Buffalo having a much-improved defense next season after they also brought in Christian Ehrhoff and Robyn Regehr.

That being said, the Sabres now face two messes they will need to clean up because of this and other moves. The first is the most obvious: they need to unclog at least $4 million worth of cap space before the 2011-12 season begins. They might bury a salary or two in the AHL* and/or trade away a player or two. Jochen Hecht ($3.525 million cap hit) has been mentioned as a possible trade target because of his cap hit, expiring contract and the notion that he might be an odd man out with all of the team’s new hires.

Buffalo’s challenges extend beyond getting under the cap this summer

With all that focus on the immediate future, the one-year deal also underscores something that might be a problem for the Sabres: next off-season. They could experience some serious restricted free agent headaches in the summer of 2012, especially if Gragnani has a strong full season. Tyler Myers could cost a bundle of money to re-sign and Tyler Ennis is another promising young player who can earn himself some nice dough with a strong 2011-12 campaign.

The good news is that the Sabres will probably be able to keep who they want the most since they have a big chunk of aging players with expiring contracts. Buffalo has almost $50 million committed to 15 players for 2012-13, with some cap relief coming from the expiring contracts of Hecht, Brad Boyes ($4M), Ales Kotalik ($3M) and Paul Gaustad ($2.3M). The problem is that the Sabres’ big spending might force them to put a top-heavy team on the ice if the trio of Myers, Ennis and Gragnani end up breaking the bank.

Ultimately, the Sabres should celebrate the re-signing but also realize that they have a lot of work to do in the next month and then next off-season. It remains to be seen if their big spending will actually be worth it.

* = Hopefully Kotalik didn’t get too excited about playing in Buffalo again …

Brad Marchand discusses contract negotiations, ‘mutual respect’ among rivals

Boston Bruins Victory Parade

Boston Bruins breakout rookie Brad Marchand must be enjoying life right now. He had a fantastic first full season at the NHL level, finishing the regular season hot to score 21 goals (and 41 points) then making a bigger impact in the playoffs by scoring 19 points in 25 playoff games.

Of course, that hot run – and its lack of comparable previous seasons – makes it tough to gauge exactly how much the winger’s next contract should be worth. The restricted free agent is like Luke Schenn, Drew Doughty and others in that he isn’t eligible for salary arbitration, so there isn’t as much urgency to get a deal done.

That doesn’t mean that he’s totally oblivious to the need for a new deal, although he didn’t really provide a whole lot of details in this interview with CTV Atlantic. Here’s what Marchand had to say about the contract talks, which really aren’t that big of a change of pace from previous comments.

“Right now, we’re just kind of getting into things,” Marchand said. “It’s been a long summer and people have been on vacation and enjoying the Cup so we’re going to start getting into it pretty heavily here and hopefully we’ll get something done soon.”

WEEI points out that he said nearly the same thing in mid-July.

Either Marchand isn’t heavily involved in the negotiations or there hasn’t been much progress made. Of course, there’s the possibility that he’s just using that answer until his deal gets signed. General manager Peter Chiarelli has been tight-lipped as well, saying recently that he will not comment on progress of the negotiations.

Douglas Flynn took particular interest in some of Marchand’s comments about his friends on other teams. He noted that Sidney Crosby and Jonathan Toews (no surprised in the latter in particular) were rooting for him and also said that he actually gets along pretty well with P.K. Subban, who plays for the hated Montreal Canadiens.

“We played World Juniors together,” Marchand explained. “What happens on the ice stays on the ice. There’s that mutual respect between hockey players. We were buddies when we played World Juniors. It’s part of the game. Guys are going to get hit. It could have been a lot worse. He could have got me in the head.”

Instead, Marchand’s old buddy may want to keep his head up when he plays the Bruins. When Murphy asked if Marchand still owed Subban one for that hit, Marchand replied with his usual mischievous smile, “I’ll take a run at him if I see an opportunity.”

That’s just the way some hockey players are: they beat each other senseless on the ice but are good friends when they trade uniforms for street clothes. We’ll find out how much it will cost to keep Marchand in Bruins’ duds (and for how long) soon enough.