a·cu·men [ak-yuh-muhn] noun: keen insight; shrewdness

Welcome to Oil Acumen. All Oilers, all the time... Occasionally other stuff.

Thursday, 30 June 2011

06/30/11 11.6 Odds & Ends: Smid, Erhoff, Flames' Goofs

The fresh-faced young man in the Mighty Ducks jersey never played a game for that franchise in the NHL. After being selected 9th overall by Anaheim in 2004, Ladislav Smid became part of a package that netted Chris Pronger. Five years into his NHL career, Smid is starting to cash in.

As with most contracts, Smid's can be good or bad depending on who you ask. $2.25 million is a big raise. He'll be making almost a million dollars per season more than he did with his last contract. This is quite clearly a signing that the Oilers hope Smid will outplay one day, because he's not there yet. One could argue with some truth that Smid hasn't done a whole lot to prove that he deserves a pay raise at all. There's never been an overly offensive bent to his game but his shutdown ability is also still a work in progress. Smid is good in the dressing room and he's a good team guy but is that worth what the Oilers are paying?

In the grand scheme of things, the Smid signing is not really a bad one money-wise. He is still young and he has still has plenty of room to improve, so there's every chance that Smid could be worth more than $2.25 million per season by the time the deal expires. The one problem with this contract is that if the Oilers are projecting him to play his way up to a $2.25 million deal, they probably could have committed to him for longer term. When this pact expires Smid will be an unrestricted free agent, and if he really does improve enough to be worth what he's now being paid then there's every chance that he could need another raise. At that time it will be harder for the Oilers to hold onto him, considering that the wunderkids' contracts will be up as well. If Smid never plays up to it then it's not a black eye on the organization and it won't handcuff the team under the cap, but this deal may end up being too conservative if the player does improve as much as the money suggests that he will.

Other Headlines:

- The Buffalo Sabres signed Christian Erhoff, which is pretty much the biggest news of the day. He's a $4 million cap hit, but Erhoff will be paid ten million dollars in the first year of the deal and $18 million after the first two. This negotiation obviously took into account the fact that the NHL's collective bargaining agreement expires after next season, and if there is another work stoppage Erhoff will be guaranteed not to go hungry. It also helps to circumvent the salary cap, but it won't be stopped like the Kovalchuk contract because much of the actual money comes in the form of signing bonuses - $13 million worth in the first two years. When the new CBA gets tabled, there will almost certainly be measures that attempt to make contracts like these more difficult to push through.

The word now is that the Sabres are going to be in on Brad Richards tomorrow, so expect them to put together an offer that will also be ridiculously front-loaded. One thing is for sure: Buffalo is sending the message that they are a big player. The Oilers tried this same approach and fell on their collective faces, so we'll see how well it works out for the Sabres.

Alex Tanguay

Get used to seeing Alex Tanguay in that jersey of his because he's going to be in Calgary for the forseeable future. This is another bafflingly bad move on the part of Flames management. It's not so much that Tanguay didn't deserve a new contract, but consider the following:

- Tanguay is 31 years old and will be 36 when this deal expires.
- The contract isn't front-loaded, so he'll be making the exact same amount of money when he's a graybeard as he is next year, and have the same cap hit.
- The contract includes a Modified No-Trade Clause. Presumably Tanguay can name a list of teams he'd be willing to be traded to, or conversely he could have a list of teams he can't be traded to.
- The Flames now have 11 No-Trade or No-Move Clauses on the roster, which is actually more than before.

Tanguay played well in his Calgary return, but it was one year. Not only is there no guarantee that he will continue to play as well, but time will eventually catch up to him. There's no reason to commit to him for so long and so much money and with a NTC. Such clauses should only be employed when the team is going to get a discount on the contract, and that doesn't seem to be the case here. Certainly Tanguay would have got some interesting offers in free agency, but probably nothing more lucrative than this and almost certainly not for as long. Also, Tanguay has seemed to play his best hockey in Calgary of late, so the player obviously wanted to stay.

The Flames shipped out Robyn Regehr for some mediocre pieces that could probably have been found without trading him. They also got the Sabres to take on Kotalik's contract by giving away a second round pick, instead of simply burying him in the minors and waiting for his deal to expire. That created $7.02 million in cap space, which the Flames then promptly half filled with Tanguay's new contract. In other words, the team lost Regehr and kept Tanguay, which means they actually got worse. Now they are looking to add defensive help via free agency in a weak free agent pool, presumably to replace Regehr...

Flames fans are going to have to break out the good cutlery for all these head-scratchers.

By the way, Anton Babchuk is leaving to test the free agent market, which means that Calgary's once powerful blueline has been blown up in order to bring in Matt Stajan, Tom Kostopoulos, Chris Butler and Paul Byron.

Things should be interesting in Calgary in the Feaster Era.

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