As sports fans, we almost invariably link a player's individual worth to a team based on his contract.
Take Alex Rodriguez and that $252 million contract he signed with the Texas Rangers in December of 2000. Such a contract here is seen as nothing short of an albatross because of the lack of success that befell the Rangers during the three years he was here.
Such standard setting is nothing new. But in the era of hard salary caps, such scrutiny has become broken down to a science. And the NHL certainly isn't an exception to that rule.
The Stars are somewhat of an exception because of Tom Hicks' miserly ways. Still, no matter what payroll level the Stars are at, their contracts are still subject to the natural forces of capology as I'll explain in a moment.
After the jump, a look at the Stars' current cap hits, courtesy Capgeek.
|18||LW||James Neal||78||27||28||55||-5||64||2||1||4||200||13.5||RFA - $800,000|
|26||RW||Jere Lehtinen||58||4||13||17||-8||8||1||1||0||87||4.6||UFA - $2,500,000|
|5||D||Matt Niskanen||74||3||12||15||-15||18||0||0||2||110||2.7||RFA - $800,000|
|2||D||Nicklas Grossman||71||0||7||7||-3||32||0||0||0||58||0||RFA - 1,000,000
First, you'll notice that James Neal, Jere Lehtinen, Matt Niskanen, and Nicklas Grossman don't have any figures posted. Obviously, that's because they're unsigned.
So What Makes an Albatross?
IMHO, an albatross occurs when you have a player that you'd like to move for any number of reasons. It could be because you have a player who has trade value, can get you what you want in return, but other teams balk because they think that player is overpaid. Or in worst case scenarios, it could be because that player doesn't want to be there, or sucks so bad or has so poisoned your lockerroom that you don't want them there.
Think Erick Dampier, Roy Williams, or that Free-Agent-Signing-Who-Shall-Not-Be-Named.
So whose contract on the Stars could be considered an albatross?
Well, Brad Richards contract is the most lucrative on the Stars at $7.8 million. But I daresay that based on his 91 point production last season, it's worth every penny for the Stars. Richards integrated nicely into Marc Crawford's system, he likes it here, and the Stars reportedly like him enough that they want to talk extension with him at some point after the sale of the team goes down.
In my mind, he's the Stars version of a 2006 Michael Young, who was rewarded with a contract extension through 2014 that currently pays the Rangers third baseman $13,174,974 this season.
Which means barring any significant issues with the Stars sale (knock on wood), Richards will get signed to an extension. It also means his contract doesn't meet the definition of an albatross, despite the amount and the Stars financial issues.
So which contract on the Stars comes closest to meeting the definition of an albatross?
Well, before we do that, I
To be fair to Ribs, his deal isn't the albatross that Sheldon Souray's deal is. As you may know, Souray's made it no secret that he's not happy in Edmonton and the Oilers tried to acquiesce to his demands by putting him on waivers shortly after free agency began way back in July.
Teams took a look at his deal, which totals $5.4 million per season over the next two years and kindly passed.
Obviously, the Stars aren't even close to that point with Ribeiro, who showed last season that he's still a productive playmaker. Which also makes any comparison to that Free-Agent-Signing-That-Must-Not-Be-Named silly.
Still, Ribeiro's style of play doesn't quite mesh with that of Marc Crawford's. And the Stars have an obvious need on the blue line. Combine those two factors and Ribs becomes expendable.
So, then, what about that $5 million salary? Is it an albatross?
No, since he's entering a contract year. I used Erick Dampier as an example of an albatross of a contract. You may know that Donnie Nelson cashed in his expiring contract to bring Tyson Chandler back to Dallas. Before this season, Donnie wouldn't have been able to even get so much as a bag of dirt in return because Damp's deal wasn't an expiring deal until this season.
Brenden Morrow and the three remaining years on his contract at $4.1 million per?
No, not even going there. His toughness and ability to score goals from in close make him an asset on any team. Not to mention, his leadership as the captain just about means I ought to be slapped for even bringing his contract up in this discussion.
So who else?
Oh, wait, could this really be a case of Occam's Razor? Did I spend too many paragraphs looking at the contracts of Brad Richards, Mike Ribeiro, and Brenden Morrow when the answer is right in my face?
Yes, I'm afraid so, since the Stars are still technically paying FASWSNBN.
Let's got to the other end of the spectrum now. Where despite what casual hockey observer Richie Whitt said yesterday, the cupboard is far from bare.
Whose contract is the best bargain?
I hope you don't mind, but I'm just going to go ahead and disqualify Bunny from this particular discussion. Ditto for Krys Barch.
I will include just about everyone else who made a million dollars and under last season. And when you have a low payroll with young players, this list is going to be a tad lengthy.
Let's start with Mark Fistric. For a cool million last season, this season, and next, he led the team in plus/minus last season with a +27. He also beat up Eric Nystrom with his own helmet.
I think Toby Petersen also belongs in this discussion, as well as Tom Wandell, whose season was unfortunately cut short by a knee injury 50 games in, just as he was starting to soldify a spot as the third line center.
And I'd be remiss if I didn't include Stephane Robidas on this list. Or Steve Ott for that matter. Both are "veterans" on this club who are rightfully making $3.3 million and $2.95 million this season.
For me, though, I can't overlook Jamie Benn's 41 point season last year in his first NHL campaign. Still technically on his entry level deal, the native of Victoria, BC will make $821,667 the next two seasons.
And I daresay he hasn't quite scratched the surface of what he's capable of.