Sunday, July 7, 2013

No Contract for Old Men: Scuderi, Dupuis, Kunitz and Adams

By Artistry

Ray Shero has had a brilliant July, so why does it smell like old people in here? Uh, that's easy. It's because the Penguins just handed a combined $40 million to the guys in the headline -- in deals that will keep them in Pittsburgh until they're 38, 37, 38, and 38, respectively. For now, those four join Brooks Orpik (33 in September), Paul Martin (32), Tomas Vokoun (37), Jussi Jokinen (30), and Tanner Glass (30 in November) as regulars in the 2013-14 lineup. No reason to panic about these numbers, but let's face it, sometimes people go from "old man strong" to "I've fallen, and I can't get up" in the blink of a swollen Deryk Engelland eye. Wait. What's that? Holy shit. I'm being told Deryk Engelland is already 31.

Craig Adams, Jr.
Here's the paradox of this off-season: you can't argue about any of Shero's moves if you look at them in isolation. But if you look at the roster as a whole and don't feel at least mildly uncomfortable, you haven't been paying attention. Why Shero isn't done, after the jump...

As a predicate, Shero is the best in the business at understanding the market and underpaying when virtually every other team is giving the Tyler Bozaks of the world $21,000,000. Or locking up an injury-prone Nathan Horton, who last scored as many as 30 goals 7 years ago by the way, for 7 more years at $37 million. Or buying out their last big mistake. Really, we could do a dissertation on why pretty much every deal this done summer was a bad one, but who has the time? Rob Scuderi is probably the only big-name UFA who didn't get massively overpaid. And yes, he is exactly what the Pens need on the back-end.

Pascal Dupuis and Chris Kunitz? Both just signed for $1 million a year less than they could have gotten on the market. No question. Kunitz was first team all-NHL for God's sake, and he took a million a year less than Ryan Clowe got from New Jersey. Ryan Clowe scored three goals last season. THREE! OK, I know I said I wasn't going to get into this, but look:

- In Ryan Clowe's best season, he had 24 goals. Dupuis and Kunitz just scored 20 and 22, respectively, in 48 GAMES.

- Patrick Elias just signed an over-35-year-old-so-say-goodbye-to-this-money-forever 3 year, $5.5M a year contract after scoring 14 goals.

- Toronto decided to pay Dave Clarkson $5.25M a year every year until he's 36. His career high in points is 46. Over 80 games. Kunitz just scored 52 points in 48 games.

- Detroit just handed Daniel Alfredsson $5.5M, perhaps with the hope he can, what, double his 10-goal output from last season?

Do we see a pattern yet? The Dupuis and Kunitz deals were GREAT signings. Stellar signings. Inarguably.

"We're rich, hahahaha, rich! What? You mean Matt Cullen got $3.5M a year?"
You have a problem with re-signing Craig Adams for 2 years at $700K per? Fine. But you won't find better value. Adams is arguably the Pens' top penalty killer and was one of maybe two guys (Vokoun being the other) who actually played over his head in the Boston series. And he costs virtually nothing.

See? It's as easy as can be to make the case for all of these moves, but it doesn't change the fact that the Pens already tried and failed to win the Cup with an aging all-star team. It also does nothing to address the glaring holes in the bottom 6, where Matt Cooke, Brenden Morrow, Jarome Iginla, and Tyler Kennedy used to reside. Now we're looking at Jokinen, Glass, Vitale, Dustin Jeffrey, and Adams, with no legitimate depth beyond them. Anybody think Brandon Sutter is going to carry this group? Anyone? This is the first time I can recall that there is no realistic chance for any minor league forward prospect to make the team out of camp. Who's going to do it? You Dom Uher? You Tom Kuehnhackl?

Pretty dramatic, Tom Kuehnhackl.
There needs to be a youth infusion, and the bet here is it's still pending. Matt Niskanen is now a must-move, and Engelland, Jokinen, and Glass may have some (limited) trade value as well. With the Pens right up against the cap and with the aforementioned holes, it's worth exploring. And don't discount the possibility that there is some team out there drooling over Marc-Andre Fleury, who with a change of scenery could easily regain his 2008-2009 playoff form. He can fetch assets, even though the Penguins would be selling low, low, low. What the Pens need in return for some or all of these players are cheap, fast forwards, with room to grow. If Fleury goes, they'll need another goalie, too.

Over the next three months, when the free agent frenzy has long subsided, that's when Shero will really need to earn his GM-of-the-year title. This isn't over.

1 comment:

  1. I don't love the long contracts for the older guys, but you do what you got to do. As you said, these are individually good deals and good players. Given prices for FAs now - those contracts will look fine for 3rd and 4th line guys, if that's what happens, for the last couple of years of the deals. Reasonable now for major pieces, reasonable in 3-4 years for role players. So what do you want?

    Outside of Niskanen (likely)- I don't know that I'd advocate a trade. You likely won't get a better player back - and he who gets the best player, wins the trade. Trading Letang for 3-4 mediocre pieces or draft picks that won't develop for several years doesn't make this team better.

    Also- any better options than these proven vets? Certainly not on the FA market. The major issue is that the organization has no good forward depth. That's a consequence of giving up draft picks for the 08-09 runs. Regrets there? Sure, it hurts not to have young forward talent, but there's no way to get it. Bottom line - Shero took the best action available to him on all counts.