Early returns indicate the big free agent bucks aren't out there
No one is ever going to confuse
If you want to put a finer point on it, it's not likely that Biron will be compared to
The veteran netminder moved himself to the head of the signing pack seemingly as early as inhumanly possible. The opening bell rang at noon July 1. By 12:04 p.m., tweeters were twittering that the former Sabre, Flyer and Islander had signed a two-year deal with the Rangers. Though salary was not disclosed, the initial postings indicate it will average about $875,000 per season. That's not great for a former first-round draft pick (16th overall in 1995) who used to be a starter, but consider what Biron did:
In a year when many teams have threatened to spend closer to the floor than the newly conceived salary cap of almost $60 million for the 2010-11 season, Biron got a gig backing up one of the league's premier goalies (
For free agents of moderate talent, this is the way things are in the newest version of the "new" NHL. To ignore today's state of hockey's economy is to put oneself in a situation not unlike the one affecting millions of workers.
It won't go that way for everyone who is seeking what used to be near automatic riches at the start of the NHL's summer silly season, but it will for a significant number. There was a time when GMs awaited this day like Ralphie anticipating the arrival of his Red Ryder BB gun in
In fairness, it's a bit too early to tell, but at the time of this posting, the supposed big three in this year's free agent pool --
Consider some of these right-from-the-get-go price points:
The Canadiens, in desperate need of a backup who can mentor Price and maybe even be his replacement should he falter, went with veteran journeyman
And look at what the Sharks did. They'd been paying Nabokov $6 million per season and though he never got them to a Stanley Cup Final, it's fair to say he performed well enough for the money. The Sharks opted not to keep him and today signed
Where does that leave Turco and Nabokov? Well, maybe the Flyers will come back to one of them, but if it happens it will be at a price point not all the much higher than Biron and Auld. Too early to call it a trend, but it's reasonable to say that Marty Biron wasn't wrong to jump at the first offer that came his way and for a price that Marty Turco and Evgeni Nabokov might someday envy.
If there is any one group who appear to be doing reasonably well in today's market, it's defenseman. But even then there are two somewhat large "buts" ...
Offensive-minded defensemen seem to be doing significantly better than their defensive-minded brethren and even the most highly sought-after blueline guns aren't breaking any financial barriers.
There isn't a GM outside of Chicago who would touch the Campbell contract today. According to several sources, Chicago would like to be out from under it if they can't have a do-over. One can state with certainty that the Campbell deal alone cost
Almost before the door hit Gonchar's backside on the way out, the Pens moved to get younger and, to a degree, cheaper at the position. They signed
Martin is 29, so the money seems pretty good for the number of years that he should be a top-flight defenseman. Zbynek is 27. One could argue that the Penguins, who came to market hoping to rebuild their defense to where it can help lift them back to the Cup Final, got the two most desirable free agent defensemen at a price almost any team could live with. This two-man approach is nothing short of masterful regarding Penguins GM
Hamhuis left Nashville, who'd sent his rights to Philadelphia. When the Flyers couldn't sign him, Shero picked up the rights and used them as an option or a screen and got Martin and Zbynek. Hamhuis was then rumored to be going to Toronto, but ended up at "home" in Vancouver, reportedly for the relative "bargain" price of $4.5 million per over six years. Again, a far cry from Campbell money.
The deals will continue to come in, but the early returns indicate that price points have dropped in the NHL and that youthful talent is favored over veterans, especially at the goaltending and forward positions. Defenseman are doing only marginally better and usually only if they have an offensive upside.