Dave Lozo's Bag Skate: Bargain NHL Signings Are Both Great and Meaningless

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Dave Lozo's Bag Skate: Bargain NHL Signings Are Both Great and Meaningless
Mark Buckner/Getty Images

Last week, the hockey world looked more like people storming a Target on Black Friday, as people fought and stumbled over one another in an effort to praise two signings by the Nashville Predators.

And understandably so, the Predators picked up a pair of bargain centers off the free-agent scrap heap, signing Derek Roy to a one-year, $1.05 million contract and Mike Ribeiro to a one-year, $1 million contract, presumably because Roy had his eye on a $50,000 wallet chain to match the one owned by Ribeiro.

It picked up again Tuesday when the Toronto Maple Leafs announced they had added David Booth on a one-year, $1.1 million deal. People enjoy a potential good bargain like few other things in this world.

When considering the potential production from Roy and Ribeiro and what it will cost the Predators, they’re wonderful moves when you think about the output expected from the likes of Dave Bolland, Mikhail Grabovski and Jussi Jokinen, who all signed multiyear, multimillion-dollar deals earlier this month.

The same could be said for Booth, although concussions have turned him into a shell of his former self, and the likelihood of him even being on the same level of Roy or Ribeiro isn't all that great.

2014 UFA signings
Player Goals Assists Points Contract
Derek Roy 9 28 37 One year, $1.05M from NSH
Mike Ribeiro 16 31 47 One year, $1M from NSH
David Booth 9 10 19 One year, $1.1M from TOR
Mikhail Grabovski 13 22 35 Four years, $20M from NYI
Jussi Jokinen 21 36 57 Four years, $16M from FLA
Dave Bolland (23 gms) 8 4 12 Five years, $27.5M from FLA

NHL.com, CapGeek.com

As well as general manager David Poile did for the Predators and to a lesser extent Dave Nonis and the Maple Leafs, recent history shows those signings will have little to no impact on either team winning a Stanley Cup in 2015.

That’s obviously not a bold statement, as the Predators have missed the playoffs the past two seasons and are a solid bet to do the same again this year, same as the Leafs, but these value/low-risk UFA contracts people love to speak so glowingly about rarely have an impact, as true Cup contenders have their houses in such regimented order that the likes of Ribeiro, Roy or Booth are hardly ever part of the blueprint.

These types of signings are always low-risk, but more often than not, they offer little reward, especially from an ultimate-prize standpoint.

For the sake of this discussion, let’s consider any UFA bargain to be a player who joins a new team on a contract that is two years or less, carries a cap hit of less than $2 million and provides a significant impact to the new team.

Let’s not set any hard and fast rules about what defines “significant,” but we’re not talking about fourth-line forwards or bottom-pairing defensemen who are playing minimal and/or sheltered minutes.

The past five Cup winners have zero players—zero—who fit that criteria.

The past five Cup runners-up have two players who fit that criteria—Petr Sykora of the 2012 New Jersey Devils and Benoit Pouliot of the New York Rangers. Sykora signed a one-year, $650,000 contract after arriving at training camp as a tryout and went on to score 21 goals in 82 games; Pouliot signed in July for one year at $1.3 million and delivered 15 goals in 80 games.

The fact of the matter is, the teams that are hoping to hit the lottery in free agency are doing so because they are not among the elite teams, teams that have a core in place built via drafting and development that is reinforced with either the marquee free-agent signing or the crafty trade-deadline acquisition. 

The 2009-10 Chicago Blackhawks made a splash in the summer, signing Marian Hossa to a 12-year, $63 million contract.

The other notable additions were John Madden (one year, $2.75 million) and Tomas Kopecky (two years, $2.4 million), and while the latter fits the “bargain” profile, his 21 points were 13th-most in the regular season, so he was less a diamond in the rough and more a guy the Blackhawks signed because he was friends with Hossa.

The 2010-11 Bruins picked up Nathan Horton and Gregory Campbell in a trade during the offseason with the Florida Panthers. They also acquired Tomas Kaberle at the trade deadline. 

The 2011-12 Kings followed a similar pattern, bringing aboard Mike Richards in a trade with the Flyers and later Jeff Carter in a deal with the Blue Jackets at the deadline.

The 2013 Blackhawks won their second title in four years with a virtual carbon copy of the 2011-12 team, although the acquisition of center Michal Handzus at the trade deadline was a thing that happened.

The 2013-14 Kings were almost entirely homegrown and devoid of free-agent signings, although they made the difference-making move of landing Marian Gaborik from the Blue Jackets, who apparently exist to send Los Angeles the missing championship piece at the deadline every other year. 

It’s not that these championship teams didn’t have bargains, they just had them via the draft—Troy Brouwer and Niklas Hjalmarsson in 2010; Brad Marchand in 2011; Slava Voynov and Jonathan Quick in 2012; Bryan Bickell and Brandon Saad in 2013 and Alec Martinez, Tanner Pearson and Tyler Toffoli in 2014.

Nam Y. Huh/Associated Press

They also had elite, future Hall of Fame players at the top of a deep lineup, be it Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane or Drew Doughty and Anze Kopitar or Zdeno Chara and Patrice Bergeron. All due respect to the Nashville Predators, but Shea Weber and a collection of third-line forwards are light-years from a Stanley Cup, no matter how many bargains they attract.

The top teams in the NHL all have something in common—they draft and develop talent that’s just as inexpensive, if not cheaper, that they can keep at that price for more than one year. In the case of free-agent bargains, it’s usually second- and third-tier teams plugging holes that only exist because of an inability to draft as well as their competitors.

The only team among the 2015 Stanley Cup contenders with a chance to buck this trend is the Anaheim Ducks, who signed Dany Heatley to a one-year, $1 million contract this summer. His 12 goals and 28 points with the Minnesota Wild last season would have ranked him 13th in scoring on the 2013-14 Ducks, so he'll need to do a little more to fit the billing of significant-impact bargain signing.

So while we all need stuff to write about in mid-July, it's important to remember signings such as Roy and Ribeiro in Nashville, Mathieu Perreault in Winnipeg, Mike Santorelli in Toronto and Marty Havlat in New Jersey, at best, can help a team go from also-ran to playoff participant, albeit one that will be dispatched at the hands of a team that didn’t need to hit the dollar store in the first place.

Essentially, we are all passing the time until the Blackhawks and Kings meet in the Western Conference Final again, and these types of transactions are a nice distraction.

SEVEN LETTERS

(If you'd like to ask a question for the mailbag, you can reach me via email at dave111177@gmail.com, fire your query at me via Twitter at @DaveLozo.)

hi dave!

do you think if the sharks start off the season with a 10 game losing streak, they're more likely try to trade joe pavelski or john scott? this question seems obvious, but given what SJ's been doing this offseason so far, no one knows.

thanks,
hannah

ps: do you think if they lose 10 games in a row, they will also ditch the ice girls?

I assume if the Sharks lose 10 straight to start the year, Joe Pavelski isn't playing very well or is dead, so his trade value will be extremely low in either regard. But you can't deal someone who carries the value of John Scott; players of that caliber are too special to trade after just 10 games.

As for ice girls, I prefer the term ice women or female ice engineers. It's a little demeaning to refer to adult women as girls, and I won't stand for that.

In all seriousness, I know professional ice scrapers who are women are not popular, but I'm all for them. Here's why.

If a friend of mine said, "Dave, the Sharks are adding ice girls. I am going to try out!" my response would be, "Oh yeah? Really?" And she would say, "Yeah, I've been a huge Sharks fan since I was a little girl, and this would be really cool on a lot of levels.

"I'd get to be on the ice during games, which would be a dream come true. It also could be a steppingstone to either a modeling job down the road or perhaps even an entrance point to another job within the organization. So really, I'm super excited about the chance of doing this."

Bill Smith/Getty Images

My response would be, "OK, cool, good luck" as opposed to, "Yeah, but ice girls are a product of a sexist society, demeaning and they only serve to turn you into an object while commodifying your physical attractiveness for the organization's financial gain."

I looked at what the Chicago Blackhawks' ice girls earn, and according to the team's web site, it's $50 per game with a minimum requirement of working 25 games. I'm not a math genius like Maple Leafs assistant general manager Kyle Dubas, but that's $1,250 for some part-time work.

There is also the potential for paid promotional appearances. It's not out of the question for a Blackhawks ice girl to earn around $2,000, which is a pretty sweet deal if you're in college, love the Blackhawks and your parents aren't funding your four-year vacation before real life starts.

Look, I get why people freak out about a team adding ice girls, but that seems to be a knee-jerk reaction. If an adult lady wants to do it and doesn't feel objectified or demeaned in any way, who am I to tell her how to feel?

For people whose argument against ice girls is having scantily clad ladies on the ice every six minutes with children at games is bad, are you serious? Your kid has probably heard four swear words and watched two men punch each other in the head before the first TV timeout, so come up with something else.

Of all the things to get into an uproar over, a team employing women to scrape the ice during commercial breaks should be just behind the ugliness of the Islanders' third jerseys and the cost of a 16-ounce beer at the arena.

Dave-

The Blackhawks and Kings have won 4 of the last 5 cups employing few facepunchers and proverbial pylons. Other teams like the Oilers and Islanders seem to be picking up on the memo that skill wins you games, while grit and heart do not - whether they publicly acknowledge the use of fancy stats or not.

Even if GMs just pay attention to the recent rosters of Chicago and LA, without even buying into the idea of corsis and fenwicks, it seems relatively clear minimizing grit and heart TOI helps.

Why do you think so many GMs still favor truculence so much?

Erik

Because they are bad at their jobs. I could give you a long and winding answer about changing times and the willingness to look at underlying numbers, but at the end of it, the answer will be because they are bad their jobs.

Dave,

What if any changes do you see in the Islanders when they move to Brooklyn?

Edward

The biggest will be their mailing address. As of now, the Coliseum on Long Island is located at 1255 Hempstead Turnpike, Uniondale, NY 11553. Barclays Center in Brooklyn has an address of 620 Atlantic Ave, Brooklyn, NY 11217. Those two arenas are about 28 miles apart, so that means players will have to drive to a new address in order to play hockey.

Some other changes may include an alteration to their logo or perhaps going from "New York Islanders" to "Brooklyn Islanders" since they will now be playing in Brooklyn.

I hate you.

No one.

Never.

Dearest Dave,

Ok, Ok. Here’s my serious question:

Which lead male actor has produced the best catalogue of romantic comedies? A. Freddie Prinze Jr. B. Matthew McConaughey C. Ryan Reynolds D. Zac Efron

Tom

There's a great moment in True Lies when Arnold has been given the truth serum and Jamie Lee Curtis is asking her husband questions to which he would normally lie. After confessing to killing people as a spy, he says, "Yeah, but they were all bad."

CHRIS PIZZELLO/Associated Press

That was my initial reaction to the romantic comedies starring these actors. They were all bad.

Zac Efron did one where he was a soldier and another where he sailed boats or whatever. Ryan Reynolds had the one where he tells his young daughter inappropriate stories about sexy times with ladies. Matthew McConaughey had movies with Sarah Jessica Parker and Kate Hudson, so he's automatically disqualified, despite starring in True Detective, the most amazing television show I've ever encountered.

That leaves us with the steady, unappreciated Freddie Prinze Jr. 

Summer Catch, Head Over Heels and Down To You are superior to any three romantic comedies you can select by the other three actors, and we're not even including She's All That, perhaps the greatest movie in the history of cinema. Yet for some reason, Prinze hasn't starred in a real movie in about six years. 

That's why I'm casting a vote to have Freddie Prinze Jr. star in Season 2 of True Detective. His partner? You guessed it—Chatham A's catcher Matthew Lillard.

 

Dave Lozo covers the NHL for Bleacher Report. You can follow him on Twitter: @DaveLozo.

All statistics via NHL.com and Extra Skater. Contract information courtesy of CapGeek.com.

The Bag Skate will be back Tuesday, August 19 and appear every other week during the offseason.

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