By Allan Muir
The story started making the rounds just as I was leaving the Stars-Flames game tonight. Somehow, the Ducks defied the naysayers and signed Corey Perry to a long-term extension.
And here I was thinking the biggest news coming out of SoCal tonight would be Peter Murphy's DUI arrest.
My first thought? What a coup this is for Anaheim GM Bob Murray. Instead of facing a major rebuild this summer, his franchise cornerstones are locked into place. Who thought that was possible at the beginning of this season?
Just two weeks after signing captain Ryan Getzlaf to an eight-year, $66 million deal, he gets Perry to agree to a very similar eight-year, $69 million pact. Call the extra $3 million the MVP bonus and everybody's happy.
Happy and probably more than a little surprised. There were many folks around the league who believed that Getzlaf's massive contract signaled the end of Perry's tenure in Anaheim, either at the trade deadline or, to preserve the team's Cup chances, this summer. Signing both would be prohibitively expensive, especially in light of the healthy decrease in next season's salary cap.
But Murray did the math and determined that losing Perry would be even more costly, in terms of franchise prestige and the ability to compete at a high level moving forward. So he ponied up to the tune of $8.625 million per year for Perry on top of Getzlaf's $8.25 million.
That's a serious commitment.
Of course Perry, like Getzlaf, would have gotten more if he'd gone to market. Probably a lot more per year, although the term would have been shorter (both players signed for the maximum eight years with their current team--moving would have limited them to seven). Still, we saw how highly teams value impact players in the sweet spot of their careers when the Minnesota Wild backed up the trucks for Ryan Suter and Zach Parise last summer. Both players must have had cartoon dollar signs in their eyes when they imagined the riches waiting for them in free agency.
But both accepted a (slight) hometown discount to remain with Anaheim, a team that's enjoying a remarkable resurgence this season under Bruce Boudreau (whose system coincidentally allows the two to make the most of their offensive gifts). And don't think the team's success didn't play a significant role in convincing both players that they could make fat stacks and compete for the Cup if they stayed put. Perry turned down a significant offer last summer because he wanted to see the direction the franchise was heading after a couple of disappointing seasons. Smart man. Ask Vincent Lecavalier how much fun it is to be rich and tied down to a team going nowhere.
So give credit to Murray for successfully plowing the field by acquiring Daniel Winnik to add size up front, Sheldon Souray for blue-line depth and goaltender Viktor Fasth, without whose 8-0 performance in relief of an injured Jonas Hiller this deal might not have happened the same way, if at all.
None of those deals were considered significant at the time, but in concert they made the Ducks a tougher, deeper, more competitive team. And while a massive payday was coming no matter where they signed, Perry and Getzlaf wanted to be someplace where they could win. Murray made that possible.
I'm sure there will be critics of this contract. This isn't basketball, after all. Committing 25 percent of your cap availability to two players--even two world-class players--isn't exactly a proven formula for success. And, according to capgeek.com, Murray could enter the summer with less than $20 million in cap space and nine jobs to fill. Two of those could be top-six forward positions if Teemu Selanne and Saku Koivu decide to move on or, more likely, retire. Quality replacements won't come cheap.
It'll be a challenge, especially if he moves young hopefuls to improve his team's postseason chances before the deadline. But Murray has proven he can find value where others might not see it.