The Pittsburgh Penguins’ Guide to the Decertification Free-Agency Apocalypse
December 18, 2012 Leave a comment
If you have tuned out all NHL Lockout news, here is a good primer on what has been happening recently by Two Line Pass writer Ryan Lambert.
If you did not click on the link above, here is a one-paragraph overview:
“The NHL requests a declaration that, if the NHLPA’s decertification or disclaimer were not deemed invalid by the NLRB, and the collective bargaining relationship between the parties were not otherwise to continue, all existing contracts between NHL players and NHL teams (known as Standard Player’s Contracts or “SPCs”) would be void and unenforceable,” the league’s filing said (top of page 8).
As usual, Ryan provides an entertaining, informative take on the whole process. I echo some of his sentiments below.
In boring, related news, the NHL preempted the NHLPA by filing suit in the state of New York. This is largely legal posturing, and was done to prevent the faint potential of a Decertification Apocalypse, meaning that every player under contract in the NHL would immediately become an Unrestricted Free Agent.
The dissolution of the National Hockey League via Decertification has the same chance as happening as the Zombie Apocalypse. Still, much like with the Zombie version (or for that matter the 2012 Mayan Version), it’s interesting to imagine what might happen to the Penguins in the event of total NHL anarchy.
Because I am feeling festive and have the day away from work, here is a fun little “What If?” concerning my second-favorite topic, the National Hockey League:
What if all NHL Players were immediately granted Unrestricted Free Agency?
The outcomes of such a situation are obviously infinite, and even covering one “reconstitution” would take a month of 12-hour writing days. Still, for a moment it would be fun to look at the current Penguins’ roster, and to imagine what the team would look like if Decertification would come to pass.
To keep this within the realm of understanding, let’s say that for the theoretical 2013-14 season that League would still implement a $70.3 million-dollar Salary Cap. That will give us some barometer for what contract Figures and Term might be issued. To keep your head from spinning, I am omitting any players currently on Entry-Level Deals, because the UFA Apocalypse would do some insane things to the minds of 21-year old prospects accustomed to making $80,000 in the AHL or riding the buses in Junior.
Welcome to Club Sid
An NHL Decertification Apocalypse would mean that no team would be able to keep two Superstars like Sid and Geno, as the wealth would completely redistributed Free Market-style. The Pens would be forced to choose between Sid and Geno, much like the Avalanche were forced to choose between Joe Sakic and Peter Forsberg following the 2005 Lockout. It’s like picking which limb to cut off. That having been said, for the sake of construction let us presume that the Pens would move forward with Sid as the Franchise Centerpiece.
This would fundamentally change the team model, as the team would look much more like a Wayne Gretzky Oilers/Kings squad than a Red Wings Yzerman/Fedorov build. The Penguins would seek to maximize the productivity of Sid by surrounding him with players who would completely insulate him, both on and off the ice.
The team would likely keep its current model of Player Development: stock-piling Defense prospects that best fit the system, and then flipping them for help upfront when needed.
These are the players I would foresee re-signing in Pittsburgh under Decertification circumstances:
Kris Letang – Eight Years, $56 million
Showtime Ray Shero would back a money truck up to Tanger’s house to keep him in the fold. Tanger would presumptively stay because he and Sid are close and like Sid, Tanger’s motivation seems to stem from his competitiveness. I believe he would want to remain aligned with Sid because in his mind, that would give him the greatest chance to win.
Barring some nightmare scenario where Sid, Tanger, and the next two Loyalists would want to ply their trade in Montreal, I see these four players comprising the core of the post-apocalypse Penguins.
Marc-Andre Fleury – Six Years, $27 Million
Flower, like Tanger, is close with Sid. The three of them can frequently be seen hanging out and doing charity work together. Flower seems like the type of guy who would prefer certainly and comfort over dollars and insecurity, and I think he has a strong-enough relationship with Upper Management that he would be inclined to say.
One of my favorite things about Flower is that he is such an easy-going, genuine guy. On the ice he remains a ferocious competitor, and all the bandwagon douchebags who piled on Flower after the unfortunate Playoff series against the Flyers are going to be buying $300 #29 Jerseys when he wins a Conn Smythe en route to the Penguins’ fourth or fifth Stanley Cup (I have Sid winning the other Conn Smythe, as Geno already has his).
My gut instinct is that Flower would feel he owes the Penguins a Cup-Winning performance after a few years of relative inconsistency. In the Apocalypse scenario, having Sid and Tanger aboard just seals the deal. I even have Flower agreeing to a slight salary hair-cut to get the deal done.
Pascal Dupuis – Five Years, $15 million
(Check it – yes, that is Duper is goalie gear.)
Duper has a young family in Pittsburgh and has thrice re-signed with the team while leaving money on the table. He has become the Kato to Sid’s Green Hornet, and has maximized his NHL career potential playing under Dan Bylsma. I will again point out that his 59 points trumped Jaromir Jagr’s 54, and Duper was playing without Sid most of the year while Jagr suckled at the teat of Claude Giroux.
Duper is a sure-fire re-sign, though the Pens would finally have to pay him Market Value instead of the absurd Groupon discounts Duper gives the team every two years.
Brooks Orpik – Five Years, $20 million
Candy knows where his bread is buttered. He shrewdly left money on the table during his big UFA contract in 2009 in exchange for Term and a No-Trade Clause. Like Duper, he wants to be in Pittsburgh for a variety of reasons, not the least of which is the collection of talent. I think Candy would recognize that Pittsburgh has been an outstanding mutual fit, and that he has seen his game develop well under Coach Disco. He would likely want to continue the relationship as Tanger’s defensive partner.
Matt Niskanen – Four Years, $13.5 Million
Nisky is blossoming under Coach Disco’s puck-retrieval system, and the best part is that the rest of the League has yet to catch on. Nisky would seem to be a strong candidate to re-sign, assuming Showtime caved a little and gave him a bit of Term (and assuming he is not secretly still pissed about Sid jumping him a few years ago). It would be worth it, as the still-young American Defenseman’s best playing years are directly in front of him.
Craig Adams – Three Years, $1.8 Million
Craig would likely take a bit of security in exchange for leaving a few bucks on the table. He has been a solid citizen on the Penguins’ 4th line for a few years now, and would likely prefer to keep his young family from being uprooted. His defensive ability and versatility makes him a desirable player to retain.
Tomas Vokoun – Two Years, $4 Million
T-Vo is a Showtime guy from Nashville. He is veteran 1A-type goaltender who clearly is willing to leave minutes and money on the table to win. He would not have signed with Pittsburgh after his Summer 2012 trade if he wanted another chance to be The Man on an also-ran team. He wants a Ring before he retires, and the newly-formed Club Sid would give him a great opportunity to get one. He’s still one of the best 15 or 20 goaltenders in the League, but he knows from experience that putting up a .940 Save Percentage on a 30-Win team is senseless martyring.
Tanner Glass – Two Years, $2 Million
Tanner just got here. He did not sign to turn around and leave immediately. He obviously likes something about Pittsburgh and the way the Penguins do things.
Brandon Sutter – Four Years, $12 Million
He just got here, so he has no idea if he even likes being a Penguin or not. Because of how nomadic his Dad and his uncles were throughout their playing careers, he likely does not have an NHL allegiance, possibly excluding Calgary (near the Sutter compound in Red Deer, Alberta). It would require a Free Market salary-bump, but Sutter would likely opt to stay and slot behind Sid on the post-Apocalypse Penguins.
Deryk Engellend – Three Years, $2.7 Million
Engel is a Disco favorite. He has greater value to Pittsburgh than almost any other team. He would likely re-sign readily in exchange for a bit of security in Term.
Desirable Players, Category 1: Sid’s Buddies
These are players that Showtime would go after to appease Sid, obviously.
(Note: Don’t ask where I found that. Amazing what they have floating around on this internet-machine.)
Jarome Iginla/Rick Nash/Bobby Ryan – Four Years, $32 Million
Since the Apocalypse team is being rebuilt around just Sid instead of the Wonder Twins, the first thing Showtime would do is get a Power Winger to play with Sid and Duper. Assuming Jimmy Neal signs elsewhere, the next step would be to get either one of Sid’s Team Canada linemates, or to get the guy drafted behind him in 2005, American Olympian Bobby Ryan.
Showtime might even have to offer up a fifth-year to get one of these three under contract, but $8Million per-year under the current Cap would be the going rate, even for soon-to-be-36 years old Sugar.
Showtime and Disco, being Proud Americans, would likely salivate at the prospect of adding Bobby Ryan and installing him as Sid’s go-to winger. While Bobby is a lifelong Flyers’ fan from Cherry Hill, N.J., I do not think he would turn down the chance to play for the leaders of the 2014 U.S. National Team and bury 45 goals per season riding shotgun with Sid.
Jack Johnson – Six Years, $33 Million
That’s a swell picture. Anyway, Sid has known Defenseman Jack Johnson pretty much from the cradle. You could alternative file Jack under Desirable Players, Part 2, as both Coach Disco and Showtime would love to get their hands on a fleet-footed, hard-hitting, puck-moving U.S. Olympian like Jack. I think if Jack was ever on the market that the Pens would be atop the list of teams he would want to play for, but he is currently the Centerpiece of the Columbus Blue Jackets’ massive rebuilding project.
Amid the Decertification Apocalypse, Jack is probably a seven-word text away from signing with Sid’s team. Zach Parise and Ryan Suter might be the standard for Mid-Western Bromance, but Sid and Jack seem pretty tight.
Max Talbot – Five Years, $12 Million
Max loves Pittsburgh, and Pittsburgh loves Max. All other factors aside, Talbo will always be a hero in Pittsburgh because he scored two goals in the Seventh game of a Stanley Cup Final. That accomplishment will only look better with the passage of time in the eyes of Penguins’ faithful.
No one in Talbo’s position would turn down the five-year contract the Flyers sent his way during 2011 Free Agency, but if Decertification came to pass, he would strongly consider a return to Pittsburgh. Showtime might realize that he underestimated Talbo’s on-ice value, and might pony up to match Philly’s prior offer – if for no other reason than to appease Sid.
Colby Armstrong – Two Years, $3 Million
Same logic as above. Army’s stock is low right now because he was injured for most of his tenure in Toronto, but he remains a third-line bulldozer and beloved locker-room presence. He would be a keynote member of Club Sid, much like Bob Errey and Phil Bourque are signature members of Club Mario.
Desirable Players, Category 2: Showtime/Disco Guys
Since Zach Parise and Ryan Suter want to retire together on a farm in Wyoming, Showtime and Disco would elect to go after as many U.S. Olympians and “Pittsburgh Penguins Defensemen” as possible. Here are a few names at the top of each of their lists:
Dustin Brown – Five Years, $27.5 Million
Dustin Brown is a U.S. Olympian and a frigging freight-train. If there is a player who would fit well in Coach Disco’s aggressive forechecking system, it’s Dustin. Showtime is already familiar with him, of course.
Ryan Callahan – Five Years, $25 Million
Similar to Dustin Brown, though I give Dustin a slight edge in terms of natural ability. Callahan compensates by being incredibly ballsy and hard-working, which Coach Disco would love. As an added bonus, Showtime would be cutting the heart out of the rival New York Rangers, though admittedly Pittsburgh would not seem to be Callahan’s first choice.
Scott Hartnell – Five Years, $22.5 Million
I know, I hate him too, but remember that Showtime worked in the Nashville Predators organization for years prior to taking over as GM in Pittsburgh. Hartnell obviously has the ability to produce with talented players, and it would be about 7 minutes before he ingratiated himself with Penguins’ fans.
Ryan Kesler – Six Years, $42 Million
I cannot come up with even a bad-fiction scenario in which Kesler would spurn Vancouver to sign with Pittsburgh. The Canucks would give him $12 Million per-year before they allowed him to walk out the door, and even if he did not want to stay in Vancouver, a dozen other teams would get in line for a drastic overpay. Showtime would make a call and tender an offer, but the likelihood of landing this particular player would be zilch, even post-Apocalypse.
Mike Ribiero – Three Years, $15 Million
He’s far from my favorite player, but under the Club Sid model you would obviously prefer to have Brandon Sutter centering your third line. While Coach Disco might cringe at the thought of the defensively-indifferent, soft-checking Ribiero playing for him, the fact is that Ribiero has a very high-level skill-set and that Geno’s offense is not going to replace itself. Barring some ludicrous scenario in which U.S. Olympian Ryan Kesler would end up in Pittsburgh, Ribiero is as good as you are going to get for a veteran second-line centerman.
Alex Goligoski – Six Years, $32.5 Million
Showtime did not trade Gogo in early 2011 to just to get him out of town; he did it in a coup to snag Jimmy Neal and Matty Niskanen. The De-Cert Apocalypse would allow him to right that wrong by tendering Gogo a UFA offer, giving the team another presumptive U.S. Olympian and a left-shot Offensive Defenseman to off-set Tanger, Nisky, and Jack Johnson.
John Carlson – Six Years, $27 Million
Another product of the U.S. National Development Program, Carlson is a hero from the 2010 World Junior Championships and a prototype Pittsburgh Penguins Defenseman. Showtime would at least take a run at him were the De-Cert Apocalypse come to pass.
Michael Del Zotto – Four Years, $21 Million
Ryan “Bugsy” Malone – Three Years, $12 Million
Bugsy now realizes he made a major mistake in taking the dirty Oren Koules money in 2009. He has more than a passing interest in returning to his home, hockey-mad Pittsburgh, after a few years of non-playoff life in hockey-apathetic Tampa. Now that he has more money than his family could ever spend, he would likely have a strong urge to play in his home city.
RJ Umberger – Three Years, $12 Million
RJ constantly comes up in Penguins’ Trade Rumors, because he’s a legitimate Top-Six forward from Plum (East Pittsburgh). I think Showtime would put a three-year, $12 million-dollar offer between Bugsy and RJ and have them fight over it like dogs.
When he was hired in 2006, Showtime instituted a wise policy of not signing or trading for former members of Club Mario. Like the Club’s founder, the members of the original Club Mario are an almost-uncoachable pack of Alpha Wolves who have a complete disdain for anything that isn’t riotously funny, like conditioning or Defense. The original Club Mario was built on the foundation of having more Offensive talent than any other team in the League, and this methodology was largely de-commissioned upon Showtime’s arrival.
Showtime made sure that his galaxy of stars (Sid, Geno, Jordan Staal, Tanger) did not become the entitled rich kids everyone hates by forcing them to play a few years under Defensive fascist Iron Mike Therrien, and gave them as little personnel support as possible – remember Nils Ekman, everyone? Quick, name a Sid Crosby winger prior to 2009. Stumped? You should be.
The final remnant of the Original Club Mario was dispersed when Mark Recchi was Waived in 2007-08. While Showtime has reluctantly dabbled in mixing with a few former members of Club Mario under dire circumstances (Kovy, Jaromir Jagr), for the most part Showtime has stuck to his guns by supporting his All-World Centers with hard-working, offensively-limited, responsible types. There is not a Dan Quinn or a Rick Tocchet or an Aleksey Morozov in sight.
Having said that, Mario is always watching and is keenly interested in what is going on with the team, appearances aside. In the event of the Decertification Apocalypse, you could not dismiss the possibility of Mario leaning lightly on Showtime to add a few of his old chums. Thankfully for Showtime, most of Mario’s contemporaries are retired at this point, which would allow Showtime to continue building the Pens within his vision post-Apocalypse.
Geno – 100 Years, Eleventy Billion-Dollars
Let me state that I think Geno is an extremely loyal guy and does love playing in Pittsburgh, but every man has his price. Some team would immediately cut him a blank check. I am not trying to perpetuate that ridiculous stereotype that Russians are total mercenaries, but under these circumstances no team would have two true Superstars – let alone the Best Two Players in the World.
During the Free Agent Apocalypse, Geno is the first casualty because some team would give him a vault full of Gold Bouillon and unlimited term.
My greater suspicion under these circumstances is that the Russian National Team would eventually re-unite somewhere. Some team (let’s say Detroit) would manage to sign Geno, Pavel Datsyuk, Ilya Kovalchuk, Sarge, and maybe even Alex Ovechkin just because all of those guys would want to play together. It would be like building an Adult League Dream Team, only with some of the most-talented players in the world.
James Neal – 10 Years, $65 Million
Like Geno, some team would see Jimmy as their Franchise Player and give him an absurd amount of money. He’s from Whitby, Ontario, which makes me think the Senators or the Maple Leafs would be that team.
Chris Kunitz – Six Years, $39 Million
The NHL Decertification Apocalypse would essentially turn the League into the NBA, in which excellent second-tier players are paid like Franchise Players. I was going to cite examples, but there are too many to name. The point is that some team would give Toxie a massive overpay in both Dollars and Term that he could not refuse, much like Geno or Jimmy.
Tyler Kennedy – Six Years, $30 Million
There are a lot of teams, the Penguins included, who think TK is a potential Top-Six Winger. In TK’s last contract, which Showtime called “a bridge”, the team wanted to see if TK was a very-skilled third-liner who could move up in a pinch, or if he is a still-developing Top-Six guy.
I am bullish on TK. TK really stepped up during the injury-ravaged 2010-11 Season (Sid with Concussion and Geno with ACL/MCL reconstruction). One thing I like about the Jordan Staal trade is that the Pens finally get to see what TK can do when he is not hand-cuffed to Staalsy. I think a lot of teams would give TK a fat contract based on his still-untapped offensive potential, while TK would like a chance to be given guaranteed Top-Six/Power Play time.
Matt Cooke – Four Years, $15 Million
Cookie gets an overpay from someone. There would just be too much money floating around for above-average NHL players in the event of Decertification.
Paul Martin – Two Years, $8 Million
Paul’s value around the League seems to have plummeted to a degree. He has not been a great fit for the team, especially at his current salary slot. While he has been more-than-serviceable, Showtime would likely use a De-Cert to part ways with Paul. Another team in the League would be quite pleased with him at a slightly-lower salary.
Ben Lovejoy/Dustin Jeffrey/Joe Vitale – Two Years, $3 Million
Same situation: most of these young pros would get some team to offer them a few more bucks than the Penguins would. Showtime’s line of thinking has generally been not to pay much for fourth-line/third-pairing types, so in a Free Market players with 1-2 years of NHL service would likely find work elsewhere. This line of thinking does not account for any personal relationship these players have with the team that drafted them, but just looks at the business aspect.
So What Could the Post-Apocalypse “Club Sid” Look Like?
Assuming all teams retained rights to players on two-way contracts:
[Duper - Sid - Bobby Ryan] [Umberger - Ribiero - Brown] [Talbo - Sutter - Armstrong] [Tangradi - Adams - Glass]
[Letang - Despres] [Johnson - Orpik] [Niskanen - Engellend/Strait] [Flower/T-Vo]
Not bad at all, but any Penguins lineup that does not include Geno is an abomination. I would rather sit through a combined Twilight/Lord of the Rings/Hobbits movie-marathon for six months straight than envision Geno skating on another NHL squad.
You will notice that the Pens did not land many of the players I suggested above, and that the team is heavy on two-way guys. That would be life after the De-Cert Apocalypse: you get one Superstar, a few All-Star caliber guys, a few mid-level vets, and fill out the roster with kids. Decertification would be the ultimate conclusion to Commissioner Bettman’s plan for NHL Parity: rosters that look like they were picked in a 12-Team Yahoo! Sports Fantasy Hockey League. On Auto-Draft.
Where the Penguins would succeed post-Apocalypse would be in retaining players. Showtime has cultivated a great amount of respect from players around the League because he does right by his guys. He sends someone like Jordan Staal to the team he wants to play for (albeit for a larcenous return), then he sends a guy like Zbynek Michalek back to comfortable surroundings in Phoenix. Players in other organizations notice things like that. Because of the way he is, Showtime generates loyalty, and even in the event of De-Cert Apocalypse he would retain a good chunk of his current team.
Coach Disco is another selling-point. He is the Players’ Coach. He is highly-intelligent and very modern. While players surely respect him because he was in the League recently, they really respect them because of the innovations he has been able to bring to the Salary Cap-era NHL. The Penguins would be as well-steeled as any team for a De-Cert, because they run a first-class organization.
Random Apocalypse Projections
Here are some Random Projections of what might happen IF the NHLPA were to achieve Decertification:
Anaheim Ducks: Pay whatever it takes to keep Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry, then do a complete rebuild around them within their financial framework. Decertification would get the Ducks out of a lot of bad contracts.
Boston Bruins: Manage to keep together the core of their 2011 Cup Team (Zdeno Chara, Patrice Bergeron, Tyler Seguin, Brad Marchand, Milan Lucic, Andrew Ference, Shawn Thornton). The team likely loses most of their lower-line players ala the 2010 Chicago Blackhawks, but the prominent pieces would likely stay for small pay-bumps.
Buffalo Sabres: Overzealous Owner Terry Pegula uses his financial clout to turn the Sabres into a Cap Ceiling juggernaut. This time around, GM Darcy Regier gives mega-money to guys who deserve it, like local boy Patrick Kane. They likely retain Buffalo-native Patrick Kaleta, if you care.
Calgary Flames: Get what they have been wanting: a final chance to go for it with Jarome Iginla and Miikka Kiprusoff. A De-Cert situation would allow the team to grossly-overpay anyone and everyone for a 2-3 year window in which they went all-in for Sugar and Kipper.
Carolina Hurricanes: Build their team around all four Staal brothers, supporting them with Jim Rutherford favorites like Erik Cole, Joe Corvo, Tuomo Ruutu, etc.
Chicago Blackhawks: Freak out (rightfully) as teams seek to pillage their Superstars: Buffalo-native Patrick Kane (Sabres, duh) and Winnipeg-local Jonathan Toews (Jets), not to mention the bidding wars that would occur for Duncan Keith and Brent Seabrook. Decertification would potentially blast the Hawks back to the Bill Wirtz era.
Colorado Avalanche: Are in trouble because they have been low-balling their young players; for example, they recently let Ryan O’Reilly sign a two-year deal in the KHL rather than giving him a reasonable RFA extension. It’s possible that they convince Matt Duchesne to stay by combination of overpayment and Duchesne’s affection for Joe Sakic, but otherwise the team is looking at a complete rebuild.
Columbus Blue Jackets: (Almost Published a 5500-word article without remembering them. Decertification would be an improvement. This team needs to be moved to Quebec City or Seattle before the overall situation gets any more bleak.)
Dallas Stars: Are in major trouble, as they are forced to give Ovechkin Money to Jamie Benn. Players are reluctant to sign, as the Stars do not have native Texans nor the tradition of some of more-Northern teams.
Detroit Red Wings: Rebuild as a National Team, this time going with Team Russia instead of Team Sweden. After retaining Pavel Datsyuk, the team would let Magic convince the Russian Super-Powers (Geno, Ovie, Sarge, Kovy) to join him in Detroit. The team also retains Hank Zetterberg to further fuel their Offensive Carnival. Michigan State alum Ryan Miller signs to play goal, and the Big Red Machine rolls on.
Edmonton Oilers: Freak out, as their arsenal of elite young talent is now available for the poaching. The team might be able to retain Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Nail Yakupov under the two-way rule, but that would be little consolation. As you know, Edmonton is terrible at attracting UFAs. Darryl Katz would likely take a swan-dive from his Owners’ Box, then promptly move the team to Seattle.
Florida Panthers: Didn’t they just do this? LET’S PLAY THE FEUD!!! Same drill as 2011, except GM Dale Tallon goes after a few more players he drafted: namely, Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane.
Los Angeles Kings: Build a Stanley Cup Winner, lock up every significant piece to reasonable deals, then watch it disappear in the face of the De-Cert Apocalypse. GM Dean Lombardi would likely quit to go work on his Masters in Physics. You probably get some loyalty out of a Championship group, but you also lose some significant pieces (cough Drew Doughty cough cough) when Cablevision, Comcast, and MLSE rolls a convoy of armored cars full of $100 bills into Southern California.
Minnesota Wild: Crazy Craig Leipold re-issues the Zach Parise/Ryan Suter deals, buffering them with Minnesota natives or former Golden Gophers (such as ex-Penguins Alex Goligoski and Jordan Leopold and current Penguin Paul Martin). The team manages to not only re-sign Captain Mikko Koivu, but also picks up his old brother Saku.
Montreal Canadiens: Buy up all and any French-Canadian players, including the likes of Claude Giroux, Vinny Lecavalier, Marty St. Louis, The Habs would make a HUGE run at the package of Sid-Tanger-Flower-Duper, but I think those four would ultimately choose to remain in Pittsburgh after Mario leaned on Sid and/or built him a ball-hockey rink in the basement of Mario’s house.
Nashville Predators: Business as usual. The entire team could elect to take a one-year sabbatical in Greenland, and the David Poile/Barry Trotz team would still get the Preds the 5th Seed in the West. De-Cert Apocalypse would be the Gift Horse that negates the absurd Shea Weber contract tendered by evil fossil Ed Snider. Mike Fisher-Underwood would be a good bet to re-sign.
Lou’s House of Pain, AKA New Jersey Devils: Bring back “Devils”, which could include Marty Brodeur, Scott Gomez, Brian Gionta, or anyone else tertially associated with the franchise. Lou Lamoriello manages to simultaneously build a 100-point club while bungling the Salary Cap, despite being given a free pass via Decertification.
New York Islanders: are SOL, because they play in a decrepit arena under an Owner who does not really want the team. Brooklyn might be able to sell NBA players, but there are not a ton of NHL guys who hail from there. John Tavares might re-sign out of loyalty, or he might pack up Matt Moulson and move to his hometown Maple Leafs.
New York Rangers: Do they focus on locking up their young, homegrown talent, or does Glen Sather go Brewster’s Billions with Cablevision’s bottomless pocketbook? It would be fun to watch. My guess is that Dolan would leverage Sather to go buy the shiniest cars on the lot, much like a younger, less-vile Ed Snider. The Rangers might snare a few big fish, but they likely lose out on players like Michael Del Zotto and Chris Krieder – maybe even Captain Ryan Callahan if hometown Buffalo offered him enough money.
Ottawa Senators: No idea; while I respect Bryan Murray for the young talent he has managed to amass as well as the hiring of Paul MacLean, his NHL signings are usually junk. The Sens maybe try a strategy similar to the Maple Leafs (on a smaller scale), selling Ontario-born players on the merits of playing in a Canadian market near home. Jason Spezza is a fair bet to stay, as he has re-upped on several occasions.
Phoenix Coyotes: Are moved to Markham, Ontario, where they do a Tallon-style rebuild. Shane Doan says, “Fuck” for the first time, then signs with the Winnipeg Jets. Paul Bissonette signs with the Penguins. General Managers have Barn Fights for the right to sign young phenom Oliver-Ekman-Larsson.
Philadelphia Flyers: Go Bananas with a bevy of Front-Loaded, Market-Crushing contracts. The Sky is the Limit, and they would attempt to poach Superstars from every team. But they would lose Claude Giroux, who would opt to skate for the Habs. Not that any of this would matter, because the team would spend all of its Cap Money on Skaters and then spend $800K on goaltending, or re-sign Ilya Bryzgalov.
San Jose Sharks: Weep, because their carefully-constructed empire would come crashing down. Yet assuming the team could keep Logan Couture, it might be the best thing to ever happen to them: after all, how can you justify trading a player like Joe Thornton or Patrick Marleu and claim to be competing for a Championship? But if Decertification blew everything up, the Sharks would be forced to do a rebuild with their excellent management team still in place. It would take time, but Wilson and company would have the Sharks back atop the Western Conference.
St. Louis Blues: Are cash-poor, but remain a team with a rich tradition. Captain David Backes likely sets the tone by re-signing immediately. The team-first concept instilled by coach Ken Hitchcock and enforced by Backes might lead the team to retain a large portion of its young talent.
Tampa Bay Lightning: Under the steady hand of Steve Yzerman, the team would calmly retain Steven Stamkos, Victor Hedman, and Marty St. Louis while allowing contractual albatrosses Vinny Lecavalier and Ryan Malone to sign elsewhere. Decertification would actually help the Lightning more than most teams, if they could guarantee Stamkos (Maple Leafs) and Hedman (Red Wings) would not be pillaged.
Toronto Maple Leafs: Use their Mega-Bucks to buy up all and any Good Ontario Boys they possibly can. If Brian Burke continues to run the team, they would also offer Blank Checks to any available U.S. National Team guys or prospects.
Vancouver Canucks: Sell the farm to retain the Sedins and Ryan Kesler, then quietly thank the Powers That Be that the likes of Roberto Luongo, Keith Ballard, etc. are off the team’s books. The Canucks would be likely to retain core guys like Alex Burrows and Kevin Bieksa while bidding adieu to the excess baggage the team has become saddled with.
Washington Capitals: Screwed, because Ovie would likely look to greener pastures. Say what you will about Ovie the Player, but Ovie the Brand still carries tremendous clout. They might be able to extract some loyalty out of Nick Backstrom, but the team’s real strength is in all the young RFA talent they currently possess (Karl Alzner, John Carlson, etc). Those players would need a massive overpay, or more likely a good American like Carlson takes his talents to Madison Square Garden.
Winnipeg Jets: Would give 98% of their Cap Money to Winnipeg-native Jonathan Toews and Franchise Icon Teemu Selanne. Their insistence on buying those two players would incite an epic bidding war on both fronts.
Thanks for indulging me. That was fun. It was totally pointless, but fun.
Maybe not totally pointless, for most Penguins’ fans would now agree that Decertification would be even worse than a Lockout. Have no fear, though: Decertification is the Nuclear Deterrent to hard-line Owners who refuse to make reasonable concessions in 2012 after having broken the Union completely in 2005. While the NHL ties the matter up in court, the respective heads of the NHL and the NHLPA will continue to hammer out a deal that allows for a 48-game Regular Season. By this time next month, the Lockout may be nothing more than a bitter taste in the back of your mouth.
Or there’s the .000001 % chance Donald Fehr talks the NHLPA into hitting the Reset Button, and suddenly we are looking at apocalyptic anarchy.