Welcome back to my Prospect Ramblings this week! Today I look at the changes in asset management in the NHL, my early dark horse Calder prediction for the upcoming season, as well as the release of rosters for the upcoming Maple Leafs Rookie Tournament in London, Ontario.
To most of us, we all knew this day would come.
Where the times of plenty would end, where the rules of economics would extend their constraining hand, and make us realize that infinite growth is an impossibility. Where General Managers could not simply sign big money contracts, all under the hopes that the cap would continue to inflate.
Hockey-Related-Revenue? No problem… when the pie gets too small, we’ll just find a way to make a bigger pie!
While this remains a workable concept in theory (as many theories do – communism, for example), reality must ultimately set in when said theories are placed into practice. In the hockey world, this idea is just now starting to find its realization on the second wave.
The first wave you ask? That one was around 2003, when the NHL realized that cost controls were needed. The idea of simply spending your way out of trouble became the root of all evil, as we lost hockey for far too long as a result. While one would think that the lessons of the dark times would have created a legacy, or at least a cautionary tale, of history repeating itself.
Sadly, no. Stupid is as stupid does… and in this case, stupid translates to David Clarkson, Bryan Bickell, and most recently Dave Bolland.
Behold… the NHL’s new, informal, “luxury tax”.
Now these situations are not all created equal. The David Clarkson situation found its solution rooted in the creativity and fiscal wherewithal that few franchises can boast in the Toronto Maple Leafs. In dealing the beleaguered winger for the broken-body that is Nathan Horton, they found a fortunate mistake in an uninsured contract that allowed them to buy their way out of trouble and acquire more cap space.
However, the Bryan Bickell and Dave Bolland situations may appears to be the new normal in the NHL, as stagnant economic growth (and quite possible economic regression) raise their heads on the horizon. It is in this age that the art of asset management, quite possibly the most critical of all skills a GM must possess, shows its worth. The Carolina Hurricanes were the beneficiary of the Blackhawks misfortune, taking on the bloated contract of once ballyhooed playoff performer Bickell, where Chicago was forced to pay the “luxury tax” of highly-touted Teuvo Teravainen. Notch this once again, as the increasingly-shrewd John Chayka of Arizona capitalized on a similar situation in Florida by taking on the final five years of Dave Bolland’s ill-fated contract in exchange for also acquiring blue-chip prospect Lawson Crouse.
This new “luxury tax” is hardly a brand new idea, showing its roots right back to 2009 where the Toronto Maple Leafs made a controversial trade deadline deal with the Tampa Bay Lightning. Acquiring several injured players, and their corresponding contract values, with a fourth-round selection in exchange for Richard Petiot was essentially buying a fourth-rounder. Hardly earth shaking, but the nature of the deal was clear to all those observing. Further trades where players are sent to reduce cap-hits were hardly uncommon as well. The idea of paying others to take your mistakes has been clearly shown in balancing out value, and thus the term “cap dump” was born.
This is a new stage of evolution, however. This evolution is, simply, a token economy. Give me your downtrodden, your sick, your infirmed, your unproductive and overpaid… but it ain’t coming cheap. While the book remains open as to if the likes of Lawson Crouse or Teuvo Teravainen can reach their respective ceilings, the fact remains that proper asset management, including cap space, has become a boon to those who use it well.
While the conversation may be short-lived for the moment, as the possibility of advertising on team jerseys may be the jolt to HRR that the league is looking for, it is only hitting the pause button and not the skip on this movie. This change, however, may represent a shift in the landscape… and the balance of power in the league over the course of the new few seasons.
So there is already discussion around potential Calder candidates that is bustling about. Many look to the Big Smoke and the saviour of Leaf Nation in Auston Matthews. Others will look at a few more lesser-known candidates like Zach Werenski in Columbus (who did not at all look out of place in the pro game last season). For as many prognosticators are out there, there are as many possibilities.
This scout looks at one name that could surprise some. His name is Mikhail Sergachev.
While I’m certain many will read this and scoff at the notion, and you may end up being quite right in doing so, Sergachev seems to be a great fit for the Canadiens and could be a big part of their movement going forward… if he makes the team, that is.
I believe Sergachev has an excellent chance of wearing the bleu, blanc et rouge this season. While there is little doubt that there are warts to his game, the reality is that his offensive game remains a potent one and his skating will help him in many situations. Creating the proper environment for which to nurture that growth is of critical importance, and I believe that the environment exists now. It exists because for at least one more season, Andrei Markov will be a member of the Montreal Canadiens – one of their best defensemen to ever pull on the sweater, and the man who Sergachev appears to be a mirror image of.
If this young man is meant to develop his game, why not have him do this suiting up next to a fellow Russian and stylistic doppelganger? With the removal of PK Subban and addition of Shea Weber, the Habs gained some muscle and a howitzer on the point, they lost a lot of puck-moving acumen. This is an area where Sergachev could be in a spot to truly help.
While it is entirely possible that the young Russian blue-liner returns to the OHL, I believe that Sergachev could be a potential impact player this season and will introduce himself into the Calder conversation somewhere around December/January as he acclimatizes himself to the pro game. He is just too much of what the Habs need, and has an opportunity to learn from the best.
It’s rookie camp season! And in three weeks, I will be attending the Maple Leafs Rookie Tournament in London, Ontario.
Just this morning, the rosters for the camp were announced and, after attending this tournament in some iteration or another for the past decade, they look as star-loaded as any. No, Leafs fans, you won’t see Auston Matthews… and nor should you.
If interested, take a look at the full rosters just released for all four teams.
Well, it’s been a fun ride the past year.
However, I will be taking an indeterminate hiatus from DobberProspects to pursue other opportunities over the past year. I prefer not to see it as goodbye, but rather “see ya later” as you may just happen to see me pop up again in the future.
Feel free to give me a follow on Twitter! It’s been a blast, folks, and continue supporting DobberProspects and the fantastic work they’re doing!
Until we meet again!
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