Thursday, July 3, 2008

More Calming Perspective

Some of the early free agent period (and it is still early in the free agent period) angst rising amongst Caps fans with signings of Brooks Laich, Sergei Fedorov, Shaonne Morrision, that ever-so-easy-to-find-and-sign elite defenseman, etc. not yet in the books, it’s time to pause for a moment for some (final) thoughts on the Cristobal Huet non-signing, and to put some perspective in place.

Huet is now making more money with his non-Vezina-winning resume than Martin Brodeur is with his multiple-Vezina-winning ways, including one the year just past, in which Huet apparently earned his big contract for his post-trade heroics. That being said, he is, as we know, still not the highest-paid goalie on the Blackhawks. That distinction goes to $6.75 million lottery winner Nikolai Khabibulin.

This headlong recklessness is clearly not the operating style of the Caps and GMGM, and we should be grateful. Plus, the more we hear about how the Huet negotiations went down, the better it seems the Caps are for walking away. Getting desperate and panicky to offer up market-shifting sums to a player based on a few months’ of work (no matter how blissfully memorable those months were) would not serve us fans well in the future. Chicago may well learn that when their salary-throwing puts them in Penguins-like crunches a year or two from now. If Brian Burke is peeved at Kevin Lowe for driving up salaries last year, he surely must be saving some ire for Blackhawks’ GM Dale Tallon now.

Speaking of the Penguins, how about that Marian Hossa? Swell guy, that one. He makes a case for being the first non-DC sports figure inducted into the DCO Hall of Fame. But we’ll show some non-Tallon-like restraint and simply salute him for his choice of Detroit over Pittsburgh. That while we wait for the chorus of praise for Evgeni Malkin, he who unselfishly accepted $8.7 million a season to join the martyr Crosby in putting team above contract. They, of course, being the superior team players for not grabbing for Alex Ovechkin’s selfish $9.5 million (that cad; when he’s not being “selfish” getting a big contract he’s being “selfish” scoring too many goals and not compiling enough secondary assists, right?). Why with all that extra cap space the Pens might just be able to replace Hossa with Ben Clymer!

But back to perspective. With reports of Laich not being close to signing, let’s not assume the Caps are being cheap and not trying to get the deal done. It’s more likely that, as with the Huet dealings, they want to keep this guy. DCO loves Brooks Laich and wants his net-crashing acumen around for a long time. DCO also loves Nick Backstrom, Alexander Semin, and other Caps or future Caps who may need to be signed in coming years. Thus, panicky money should not be thrown at Brooks in a desperate attempt to keep him here, much as we would be pained to see him go. But we don’t expect it to come to that, and remain optimistic it will get worked out, unless Chicago or Edmonton throws a 5-year/$25 million contract at him.

Some admiration this free agency period should also to go Mats Sundin. While certainly no one would begrudge him from jumping at 2 years and $20 million from Vancouver, it’s heartening to see that gaudy figures alone do not drive this scorer of 78 points last season (34 fewer than previously mentioned “money-grabber” Ovie). Such a contract precedent might push similarly aged Fedorov out of the Caps’ reach. We still hope to see him around as well, dishing to Laich in front of the net and centering a third line of quality we have not seen since the Kono-Halpern-Dahlen days. Mrs. DCO pines to see Fedorov remain as well, as she will miss his "cute striped hat” if he’s not here.

Calm perspective. It’s still early and these things will work out.

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