(This post is part of a fundraiser for the ACLU and SPLC, two great causes that need our help in these, umm, trying political times. For a donation of $50 or more on Giving Tuesday, readers got me to write about whatever they wanted. So I wrote the nonsense below, which was requested by J. Kaz.)
Remember all that drama this summer about how the Ducks were going to be able to get all their restricted free agents signed?
They were always a budget team to begin with and they just didn’t have the money to spend on Rickard Rakell, Hampus Lindholm, and Sami Vatanen. On some level you got it, but at the same time it was like, “How are you going to not-sign these three guys?” They’re all solid or better contributors, and Lindholm in particular is an elite defender.
And that’s why it was weird to see Vatanen sign first, back in June. And then Rakell shortly before the season started. Leaving Lindholm(?) as the final addition in late October, well after the season got under way.
How could a responsible NHL team let this happen? How did they get into this mess? Well the answer, not surprisingly, comes down to cap mismanagement, just like it always does.
In addition to not having Lindholm and Vatanen locked down for about $9.5 million combined, they’re also spending $4 million on Cam Fowler (a deal that’s vaguely worth it), $4 million on Kevin Bieksa (not worth it), and $3.25 million on Clayton Stoner (might as well just light $3.25 million on fire and flush the ashes down the toilet).
Bieksa and Stoner are obviously two very bad bets, as is forward Ryan Kesler at $6.875 million. And whether you’re a budget team or capped out (which the Ducks now are), every dollar counts and so on and so forth. Every dollar you give those guys — old and broken down as they mostly are — is one you can’t give to your 22-year-old superstar defender.
Now, to be fair, the Ducks got Lindholm to bend on his ask and locked him in at an incredibly good deal that takes him all the way through his prime and out the other side. That’s the advantage of having a CBA designed to screw young players at every opportunity, especially if they’re good. But honestly, it’s because NHL GMs can’t help themselves when it comes to signing 33-year-old physical defensemen that it’s a discussion to begin with. Imagine if that money were spent wisely, rather than wasted on guys on the wrong side of 30 who couldn’t play that effectively even when they were on the right side of it?
In the end it all kinda-sorta worked out for the Ducks but there shouldn’t have been that much drama in the first place. Everyone’s signed now, and the Ducks are chugging along near the top of their division (despite firing an excellent coach and replacing him with a borderline-incompetent one).
But the kinds of decisions Bob Murray makes about how he pays the guys he’ll be putting deeper in the lineup don’t exactly give you hope that everything is going to be figured out, long-term.
You can say that about a lot of GMs, though. And those GMs don’t have as much elite talent as Murray does in the first place.