Welcome to “Silly Season.”
Sure, it started a bit over the weekend, but today is when it will kick into full gear. Teams will spend too much on contracts with players that are too long. Said players rarely live up to the expectations set by those contracts and after being treasured today, will potentially be bloated mistakes to be bought out tomorrow.
Look no further than David Clarkson, a coveted free agent two seasons ago after rolling up 45 goals over a 128 game span between the 2011-12 and 2012-13 seasons.
The Toronto Maple Leafs didn’t hesitate to sign him to a seven year / $36,750,000 contract that featured an AAV of $5.25 million per season. They did that knowing full well that over his final season with the New Jersey Devils he scored 10 goals over his first 14 games and just five in his final 34.
To me that was something that should have been a red flag, but it was explained away as something that was the product of the “defensive-style” played by the Devils. Instead, it was sort of a “he is who we thought he was” kind of moment because that .15 goals per game average over those final 34 games matched up almost perfectly with the .13 goals per game he put up over 118 games in Toronto. (15G)
Luckily for the Leafs, they found a willing taker for Clarkson in the Columbus Blue Jackets, trading him for all of the Long term injury relief they could get in the form of Nathan Horton. Most teams don’t get out from under their mistakes so easily.
Clarkson was just one example of many, but don’t worry, there will be plenty more to discuss today, especially when you consider that this year’s crop of free agents isn’t all that sexy.
If I were going to point the finger at one player who could end up being the biggest mistake of today it is likely to be Matt Beleskey who just finished up a career season for the Anaheim Ducks. Unfortunately for him he has mesmerized opposing general managers into believing he is a game breaker.
You may be asking yourself what I mean when I say, “unfortunately for him.”
That comes from the fact that he doubled his career high of 11-goals that were scored back in 2009-10 this season scoring 22 in 65 games. He also put up a career high 32 total points, adding another eight goals and nine points in 16 playoff games.
He is a good player, but is he the player everyone now perceives him to be? He has set himself up to have the weight of the world placed on his shoulders.
Let’s all remember that he was a complementary piece in Anaheim. Wherever he ends up he won’t have Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry out there shouldering the load – he’ll be asked to be Getzlaf or Perry.
Especially after he went out and had five goals in five games against the Calgary Flames in the second round of the playoffs, including two game winners.
He’s not near being either player. He’s already 27-years-old and his ceiling doesn’t get much higher. Stir in the fact that in his career season he scored five goals over his final 24 games and seven in his final 31.
That is horrible production, but it isn’t going to come near matching the value of any contract he signs today. He’ll be the target of fan angst by November if he performs at that level, which is a realistic possibility when you consider that he will not have the supporting cast that he did in Anaheim.
He doesn’t quick strike me as a “create your own offense” kind of guy.
The bottom line is that there will be far more mistakes made today than home runs hit, but that is what makes “Silly Season” so intriguing. We’ll all have fun identifying potential home runs and breaking down every move that is made.
The intrigue will be through the roof here in Pittsburgh as we know that Jim Rutherford is exploring all options including trades, signings and exploring all options in terms of unrestricted free agents out of the college and European ranks.
To this point he has swung and missed on almost everything, but that isn’t a bad thing – yet anyway.
He’s been linked to the St. Louis Blues (TJ Oshie), Maple Leafs (Phil Kessel), Blackhawks (Brandon Saad, Patrick Sharp), and several other available top six wingers. He is expected to at least check in with Alex Semin who was bought out by the Carolina Hurricanes, Joel Ward late of the Washington Capitals and Michael Frolik and Jiri Tlusty who are finishing up contracts with the Winnipeg Jets.
The Penguins are also expected to finalize a contract with Sergei Plotnikov, who spent the past three seasons with Lokomotiv Yaroslavl.
I’ll have full coverage of the Free Agent Frenzy throughout the days and weeks to follow here at From the Point, over at Timesonline.com and of course next Monday between 5-6pm on Penguins Live via Penguins Radio 24-7.
For some additional reading here is today’s column over at Timesonline.com
Here are some additional options for the Penguins — Pens Free Agency Options