August 4, 2011

Fischler Report: Mixed reviews on long-term deals

by Stan Fischler

Alex Ovechkin (photo: Getty)

The hard-salary cap CBA negotiated in 2004 left many loopholes for GMs to sign players to long-term contracts. It enables teams to keep their most talented players long-term at manageable cap numbers.

These long-term deals (10-plus-year contracts) are currently being handed out like breath mints to the NHL’s marquee players. Our roving reporter, Patrick Lally, analyzes how a few of these contracts are evolving:

Alex Ovechkin (13 years, $124 million):

Ovechkin is three years into a pact with a league-high annual cap hit of $9.5 million. Wow!

From a business perspective, Ovie has been fantastic. His razzle-dazzle play awards him mainstream media exposure; not to mention the fact that he fills seats in the Verizon Center.

But the Caps have never been past the second round of the playoffs with Ovie. He has a nifty supporting cast, but he’s the one counted on to lead the Caps to the promised land.

With 10 years left on his current contract, Ovie has time to orchestrate a Cup winner.

* Vinny Lecavalier (11 years, $85 million):

With nine years to go on his mega-deal, Lecavalier’s off to a strong start. After captaining a superb Lightning squad to the seventh game of the conference finals, there’s no doubt he has what it takes to perform at a level that will establish the Lightning as Cup contenders.

If he stays healthy, Lecavalier will continue to put up numbers that will demonstrate why any team would welcome him, even with such a high cap hit ($7.7 million).

* Marian Hossa (12 years, $63.3 million):
It only took one year for Hossa to prove to the Blackhawks that he was worth such riches. He contributed 15 points in 22 playoff games in 2010 en route to Chicago’s first Stanley Cup in 49 years.

Though Hossa’s numbers aren’t in the Steve Stamkos or Sidney Crosby range, he’s a perfect vet sidekick to Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews. At a manageable $5.3 million cap hit, Hossa’s deal is panning out as well as GM Stan Bowman could have hoped.

* Jeff Carter (11 years, $58 million):

What is a proven 30-goal scorer worth to an NHL GM? Paul Holmgren decided this summer that $5.27 million per season for another 10 years was too much (not to mention the off-ice issues) and subsequently unloaded Carter to the Blue Jackets for Jakub Voracek and draft picks.

Considering that Carter scored 36 goals and was a plus-27 on a Flyers team that finished first in the Atlantic Division in 2010-11, the move was shocking.

While it’s tough to judge a contract from its first year, this looks to be a good move for a Columbus team that knew Rick Nash needed an elite center to compliment his play.

* Roberto Luongo (12 years, $64 million):

It would be easy to call Luongo a bust with memories lingering of a Stanley Cup Finals meltdown. But he wasn’t the only reason why Vancouver couldn’t seal the deal.

Detractors often overlook the fact that Luongo won 38 games in 60 appearances last season, while posting a 2.11 GAA and .928 save percentage. He was the premier goalie on a team that came as close to the Cup as a team can get without actually winning it.

Only one year into this deal, it’s debatable whether Luongo has proven himself worthy of his salary.

Observations

* Kris Draper’s retirement comes as no surprise because -- like Mark Recchi and Chris Osgood -- he has paid his NHL dues in full, and then some.

After three cups of coffee with the old Winnipeg Jets, Draper graced the Detroit Red Wings’ roster for 17 seasons and, during that time, he was an integral part of no less than four Stanley Cup-winning squads. His fine blend of skill and tenacity on the ice was equaled by his naturally giving personality away from the arena.

For more than a decade, Draper was Detroit’s Goodwill Ambassador Without Portfolio but with hockey stick. We wish this good man well in whatever role he chooses.

Gossip

* There's some dispute about whether or not the NBA Nets' proposed arena in Brooklyn will have ice-making facilities. The New York Post's Larry Brooks reports that a Brooklyn arena rep insists that there will, in fact, be ice-making machinery and room for an NHL rink. That, however, does not necessarily mean that the NHL would approve a team moving into downtown Brooklyn.

* Credit Globe & Mail columnist Bruce Dowbiggin for this interesting insight. It appears that TSN has become a stepping stone to head coaching jobs. Former panelists such as Peter Laviolette (Franklin, Mass.) of the Flyers), John Tortorella (Melrose, Mass.) of the Rangers, Paul Maurice of the Hurricanes and Joel Quenneville of the Blackhawks have all served time at the TSN studios in Toronto until they each found another job in hockey.

The latest panelist recruited from TSN is former bench boss of the Edmonton Oilers, former UMass-Lowell standout Craig MacTavish, who was recently named head coach of Vancouver’s AHL farm team in Chicago.
 

Stan Fischler can be reached at FischlerReport@aol.com.