ANA | BOS | BUF | CAR | CBJ | CGY | CHI | COL | DAL | DET | EDM | FLA | LAK | MIN | MTL || NHL UFAs | NHL Draft

NJD | NSH | NYI | NYR | OTT | PHI | PHX | PIT | SJS | STL | TBL | TOR | VAN | WSH | WPG || Kelowna Connection | Shea Weber | Leadership

Monday, July 9, 2012

NHL Dominoes: Alexander Semin to Pittsburgh? Fellow Capital Mike Green to follow?

With Zach Parise and Ryan Suter now signed and delivered to the hockey fans of Minnesota by their Wild management team, the NHL version of falling dominoes will play itself out. The players likely to be landing on different teams include a who's who of NHL snipers and blueliners including:
  • G Roberto Luongo
  • D Shea Weber (RFA)
  • D Mike Green (RFA)
  • D Alexander Edler
  • D Keith Yandle
  • W Rick Nash
  • W Bobby Ryan
  • W Ales Hemsky 
  • W Shane Doan (UFA)
  • W Alexander Semin (UFA)
  • W Andrei Kostitsyn (UFA)

Lets start with likely the first to move, Alex Semin. The teams rumored to be inquiring include PIT, DET, NJD and of course his old team, WSH.

I get the sense, despite WSH's addition of Mike Ribiero, Semin may well look else where to find himself a pivot partner in crime -- the crime being lethal wristers from almost anywhere on the ice. NJD would seem to be a natural fit. However, with the departure of Parise and the uncertain financial status of the team, other potential issues become more prominent. For instance, the Devils top two centers by ice time these past playoffs, Travis Zajac and Patrick Elias, will both be UFAs at the end of next season.

Then there is DET, Semin showed tremendous chemistry at the latest World Championships playing alongside the Red Wings Pavel Datsyuk. Extending that dynamic duo relationship to the NHL would seem a natural. And it could well be Semin's eventual landing spot. The downside there is that DET is in the western conference, something that is less familiar to Semin. Also, if he intends to sign with DET longterm now or eventually, there is the added concern that Datsyuk is already 33 and only has two years left on his deal with the Wings. Not to mention their other key forward, Zetterberg is  now 31 and their all world blueliner, Nik Lidstrom has retired.

That brings us to PIT. There is an stated opening on the top line to play wing alongside Sidney Crosby (or for that matter Evgeni Malkin). Penguins GM Ray Shero had this to say about the matter:
“If we could (find center Sidney Crosby) a winger, that would be fantastic...It would make my life a lot easier, (but) Sid does pretty well whoever he plays with. I’d love to get a winger for Sidney, but those guys don’t fall off trees.”
With Parise being out of reach, the low hanging fruit is Semin now for Shero to pick. Rumors are swirling that Semin has been made a 3 year, $30m offer by Moscow CSKA of the KHL (which also recently signed KHL super star (and NHL enigma), Alexander Radulov, to a huge deal). Their is also gossip about Semin signing a "prove-it-to-me" one-year deal with PIT perhaps as early as tomorrow. That type of risky short-term certainly has precedence with regard to Semin. He did it twice with WSH, once as a pending RFA and another time as a pending UFA.

If Semin does it again, he'd be doing so for the same reasons he signed a one-year deal previously, to set himself up for a big payday after a big year. This time though Semin will likely seek out an environment that can provide with a first line center to play with, and within a consistently successful offensive system.

I would guess that in such a short term contract scenario, Semin's cap hit would likely be around the same he has signed for previously, $6 to 7m. And if its with PIT, that would leave the Pens about $3.5m+ to seek a blueline addition, and perhaps as much as $7m+ if they ship out another more replaceable top six winger (Chris Kunitz, for example) while acquiring that new top four d-man.

Why Kunitz? Well there maybe a replacement for him already on the Pen's roster; namely Tyler Kennedy. Here's what Shero had to say about TK:
"We’ve always talked about TK having the ability to move up. Maybe it’s his time to do that.” 
The reason why Shero and the coaching staff feel this way is probably because of Kennedy's playoff performances. Kennedy has more goals in fewer games than Kunitz, over the last four years of playoffs (including these past playoffs). TK is also seven years younger and has just over half the cap hit. 

So what could Shero do with $7m+ of extra cap hit after solving his top six winger issues? Well I think he'd naturally look to the blueline. Here's what he had to say on the subject:
“You’re not going to find Ryan Suter out there...We like our defense the way it is. If there’s a chance to upgrade, certainly we’re going to do that. But there are a lot of teams looking for defensemen. They’re not easy to find...We’ll see what’s available...If you can improve your team, you’re going to do that. One thing that we have now that we haven’t had in a while is cap space.”
The obvious name sitting out there is Shea Weber.  I'm sure Shero has plans to pursue RFA Shea Weber with a similar strategy, who I'm sure would be the ideal candidate. However, like the playing field was not level with regard to the pursuit of Parise & Suter (see why here), it's also likely tilted against PIT in any pursuit of Weber as well.

The next logical high end answer, may well be a star d-men whose rights are currently onwned by Pens nemesis, Washington Capitals. Yes, I'm talking about Mike Green -- despite his d-zone reputation. 

If Shero thought the end all be all answer to his blueline was a defensive d-man (the anti-Mike Green if you will), I sincerely doubt that well respected defensive defenseman Zbynek Michalek would have been traded last month. For this and other reasons then, I would contend, Mike Green is a better fit in PIT than Michalek and probably Paul Martin. By playing in a more structured offence with somewhat reduced minutes, Green's d-zone reputation would surely improve.

Green already has the right to choose his own destination. All he has to do is find a team that would be willing to give him a deal that WSH has been unwilling to give him thus far (a lockout anticipating, front loaded deal for example). 
And if WSH played hardball by not trading Green's rights, then Green could play his own version of hardball by refusing to play for WSH.

Even if Green eventually relented and accepted a one year deal with WSH, at least he gave his agent, hardball master, Don Meehan, the opportunity to determine precisely what his contract value would be on the open market when eligible. That would be valuable information during negotiations with WSH during the eventual negotiations on an extension after Jan 1.

Green's injury problems the last couple years will make WSH gun shy on a big extension. Whereas Green will feel as though his past performance is plenty evidence to be paid like a boss. Green's
comments the other month certainly didn't sound as though he was completely relying on WSH for that contract desire:

“I’m excited to come back if that’s the game plan. That’s what I want, but we’ll see.”

Green's actions (declining his qualifying offer and refusing arbitration) in my opinion, indicate he doesn't want a one year deal to prove himself, something that I'm sure McPhee would much prefer before offering multiple years at boss-type dollars. Plus, Green would most likely want to get a big deal done this off-season, before the new CBA comes into effect.

Like Alex Semin, Mike Green could very well be low hanging RFA fruit, where the playing field for PIT will be level (unlike during the pursuit for Suter and the likely pursuit of Weber). If that's the case, it will be strange enough seeing Semin in a Pens uniform, never mind Green.

No comments:

Post a Comment