Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Free Agency - Christmas in July?

The free agent signing period which begins July 1 is an intriguing time of year. Obviously no games are being played. And the day is basically associated with two things: player names and dollar signs. For the professional hockey world, it’s sort of like Christmas in July with everyone waiting in anticipation for the gifts that will be bestowed upon their team. The only problem is that you’re not really going to know what you’re getting until three months from now when the new season starts. Sure, the size of the box can be measured (i.e. is the individual a big name player?). And the box can be weighed and shaken to get a better idea of what’s inside (i.e. what are the player’s prior stats and their current reputation?). But again, at the end of the day you’ll never really know what gift you received until game 1 of the season. Eric Duhatschek of the Globe and Mail has a good article on what happened in general yesterday and sort of raises this same question.

Ok, I promise I’m not going to turn this into the Penguins hockey blog because I really want to touch on the Bears signings. But I just want to make a couple of points about what went down yesterday with the Caps. While the guys over at RMNB are freaking out about CORSI numbers and dollar amounts versus years, I think there are some other issues being overlooked regarding both players. Orpik is a tough defensemen to play against and his reputation is well known because of his nastiness. But that punishing style of play takes a huge toll on his health and he’s become more prone to injuries over the past few years. The question is how much longer he can keep it up. Or can he adjust his style to curtail the aggressive physical play and just be an overall smart defender. That will determine whether he lasts the full length of his contract or not. Niskanen, on the other hand, has “potential”. His style of play is sort of mixture of both Alzner and Carlson. He’s a good defender but is not going to overpower the opposition physically. He’s got a good shot and is willing to shoot but doesn’t have the creativity of Mike Green. This became evident when he replaced Letang on the top power play unit. He also logged a lot of minutes last season so that is definitely in the Caps favor if they plan to go deep in the playoffs. Overall, if Niskanen can keep this level of play and be consistent over the next 3-4 years, I’d say the contract was worth it.

The Bears also had a few signings yesterday picking up two defensive defensemen, Mike Moore and Jon Landry, and winger Chris Conner (another former Penguin). As I mentioned in my initial post, it’ll be interesting to see if the Bears style of play ends up mirroring the expected defensive system of Barry Trotz. This is probably the first good indication since both Moore and Landry bring additional size to the back end. Moore especially provides some much needed defensive experience and perhaps a new leadership personality which is sorely needed. As Tim Leone mentioned in his PennLive post regarding the signings, Mike Moore was the captain of the Providence Bruins last season and put up career best numbers. Chris Conner should be well known to Hershey fans for his time spent in Wilkes-Barre. It was mentioned that Conner could be a good call-up option for the Caps. That’s a possibility, considering his time spent with Pittsburgh and being used sparingly on the first line with Sidney Crosby last season. But the amount of call-ups will probably dictate how well he produces offensively. Looking at his career stats, anytime he bounced between the AHL and the NHL his production suffered. However, if Conner’s able to spend the majority of the season in Hershey, and be reunited with former teammate Jeff Taffe, he’ll easily hit 15 goals and maybe even a career high 20.

On a lighter note, I can’t wait to see what RMNB comes up in terms of GIF's for Brooks Orpik's "crazy eyes."

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