by Brandt Corbin
Nowadays in the NHL and professional sports, a large percentage of the teams are getting contracts that are unmoveable. Whether it because of the money per year, or length of the contract. For a mid-market team such as Winnipeg, it’s imperative that they avoid those contracts. It’s expected the team will not spend to the max, in fact somewhere around $50 million. Unlike the New York Rangers or Toronto Maple Leafs, the team doesn’t have the money to bury players in the minors.
Do not expect big money deals come July 1
Various reports are true regarding the hockey club having 20 million + in cap space. Will they make an attempt at Brad Richards, Kevin Bieksa or Tomas Vokoun? Why not... but the odds they land a premiere free agent is not good, because they’re not willing to go overboard regarding salary or length of term. Another reason is this, there are large amounts of defenseman available, but the team already have 5 de-man signed next season to 1-way contracts. They could be targeting the second tier of free-agents, guys like Michael Ryder, Andrew Brunette or Tomas Kopecky, affordable contracts around 3 million per year.
Take a chance?
If I was in charge on July 1, I would take a few calculated risks. Players such as Josh Harding, Wojtek Wolski (when he is bought out) or Anton Babchuk all can be had for 1 million or less, which for the most part is peanuts. If they’re a bust ship them to the minors. If they work out, you’ve got a 20-25 goal scorer (in Wolski) and a 2nd unit power play quarterback in Babchuk, and if Harding is 100% can push Pavelic or Mason for a job.
For the first time ever Atlanta/Winnipeg needs to set them up with depth. You don’t want 20 players coming into training camp knowing their jobs are guaranteed. Instead you need 10 guys fighting it out for 5 jobs. Take Anthony Stewart as an example, he was destined for the minors at the start of training camp (last years), but did anything and everything in training camp to win his spot and scored 14 goals and 35 points.
The approach of the team should very clear in the next two Friday’s, June 24th (entry draft) & July 1 (free-agency opens up).