Timo Seppa talks NHL free agency in today's chat.
Timo Seppa (Hockey): It's the big free agent signing day in the NHL. Let's get the chat started!
R.A. Wagman (Toronto): With more and more of the so-called "top players" inked before the free agency period officially begins, who much of today is much ado about nothing?
Now a real question: With the cap now rising more than the usual nominal adjustment amount, should we be adjusting our expectations as to what is market value?
Timo Seppa (Hockey): No, there are plenty of interesting players left to sign. Brad Richards, Gagne, Vokoun for instance. Those are impact players, elite in Vokoun's case no matter how he keeps getting downplayed by mainstream media.
Don't look at the contracts being signed now as the new market value. Because of the big salary cap bump combined with the thin free agent class, teams are probably spending a 20% premium this offseason. The half dozen teams near the cap floor are forced to spend all of that increase and the dozen teams that have been near cap max are voluntarily going to spend most of the additional they've been given. For this reason, FAs signing ahead of time for "home town discounts" (Jussi Jokinen comes to mind) haven't played it smart.
Bill (Amherst, NY): Thoughts on Buffalo's offseason so far? I'm excited about the Erhoff signing, but don't know anything about Regher.
Timo Seppa (Hockey): Certainly, you should be enthusiastic about Pegula's ownership. It seems clear that Buffalo's ready to spend near the cap. As long as they do it fairly intelligently, it should translate to better results on the ice.
Regardless of the praise heaped on Kevin Bieksa in Vancouver's run this postseason (and rightly so, to an extent), Ehrhoff's been Vancouver's best defenseman the last couple of seasons. Our Kent Wilson and other Flames fans have been crying a river of tears over Regehr's departure - he should be a respectable addition at the very least. Sabres have a really solid top two pairings now with Tyler Myers, Jordan Leopold, Ehrhoff and Regehr. In the running for the best top four in the NHL. Good depth past those four as well.
Sky (The Roc, NY): If the price tag gets too high on Brad Richards, what are the best free agent or trade options for improving Buffalo's offense?
Timo Seppa (Hockey): Generally speaking, trades are a better option than free agent signings, given the cap bump/thin class. But today's about free agents. I'm one of the few Tim Connolly fans out there, but if you're looking for someone new, Simon Gagne would be one of the name forwards out there. Buffalo could use a finisher outside of Thomas Vanek.
R.A.Wagman (Toronto): Timo, After getting ragged on mercilessly by the Thrashers and now non-tendered by the Panthers, what has gone wrong with Niclas Bergfors? Long way to fall for a guy who was not too long ago a key peice in the deal for Ilya Kovalchuk. Where do you see his career going from here?
Timo Seppa (Hockey): I never thought Bergfors was that great, which is why I thought it was a bit comical that anyone thought the Devils were trading away their future for Kovalchuk. Don't think he's more than a third line guy. Speaking of Swedish guys named Niklas/Niclas, I'm thinking a Niklas Sundstrom type career at best? Half-a-point per game type guy.
krissbeth (watertown, ma): Last chat, I asked why there were no articles on the Stanley Cup for Hockey Prospectus and this was the answer I got: "We prefer writing about the actual playoffs and let others talk about the Cup". Do you have a more serious and respectful reason for why your site didn't write about what was happening in the final round of the actual playoffs?
Timo Seppa (Hockey): Certainly, that's not quite how I would have answered. Our focus ay Hockey Prospectus is on in-depth analysis. Sometimes that ends up being a close study of playoff games (I did that for the last couple of rounds in 2009), but it usually doesn't take that form. We're not beat writers, and there are lots of outlets--mainstream and otherwise--that do an excellent job covering the regular season and playoffs game-by-game. Any props for me on picking the Bruins in 7?
JonL (my bleeping desk at work): What does GVT say Jagr's numbers in Europe were, and how do they compare to his NHL play?
Timo Seppa (Hockey): League translation numbers usually come out to 80-85% between the KHL and NHL. You can look for Jagr to score in the ballpark of 60-70 points.
Tbirds (Seattle): Do you like the WHL?
Timo Seppa (Hockey): Tough to follow it here in Connecticut!
JonL (my bleeping desk at work): What with his concussive history, do you think the risk/reward on Tim Connolly is worth it for him to be signed to a big contract? Where do you think he'd best fit - staying in Buffalo or going somewhere else?
Timo Seppa (Hockey): Connolly's had all sorts of dings since his serious concussion issues a few years back. Nice skater and playmaker; I like him more than most. I could see a relatively short term deal; teams might be able to "buy low" and have a pretty nice player, based on the injury history and the down year. Don't count him out of Buffalo. I see him as a consolation prize for a team that doesn't get Brad Richards.
mattymatty2000 (Portland, OR): Hey Timo, Thanks for the chat. I was wondering your take on the Caps acquisition of Troy Brouwer. I'm far from an expert on his game, but it seems he's young and productive and did I mention young? Still, I wonder if McPhee & Co. aren't placing a lot of weight on his ring. The fact that he's not signed also seems at least slightly alarming at least when you consider the lost 1st rounder he cost the Caps. Anyway, enough rambling. What do you think of the deal and what does it mean for players like Laich and Bradley?
Timo Seppa (Hockey): Brouwer's underrated; I think the Caps bought low on him. Really nice depth player. Washington lost a LOW first rounder. Value of draft picks past the top 10 or so in the first round smooths out a ton. You'll note than he was one of the few depth players not dealt by Stan Bowman last offseason when the Blackhawks were in cap hell. Bowman's a smart cookie, so I'd consider that a vote of confidence. Washington needs to mix things up a bit, so I'm all for the move.
hoffy444 (cambridge): Do you think Kampfer is a viable option for the Bruins next year?
Timo Seppa (Hockey): Not a big prospect guy, sorry. But 2.5 GVT in 38 games pretty nice start for a rookie.
Bill N (Amherst, NY): While it is exciting for the Sabres to be associated with Brad Richards, I'm a bit worried about him actually signing with the team. Based on his age and salary requirements he doesn't seem like a savvy investment. On the other hand, I have read this free agent class is poor for centers, which is a serious need for the Sabres. Is Richards the best option, or is there a viable alternative?
Timo Seppa (Hockey): Brad Richards is the best short term alternative for a team willing to spend. So yes, assuming that the Sabres couldn't pull off a creative trade for a top player. Most likely a longish deal, so "the winner" will definitely be overpaying, perhaps considerably, in the long term.
If you didn't read it or have forgotten, here's Tom Awad's take on Richards from back before the trading deadline:
The short version reads: very good, but not elite.
Jay (Madison): Do you expect the Caps to make any other significant moves? Seems like they need to shake it up.
Timo Seppa (Hockey): Absolutely. In fact, I wouldn't have blamed Washington for "overreacting" and changing coaches, but they chose not to.
Before the trade deadline, I suggested a Brad Richards for Alexander Semin challenge trade. I wonder how the postseason and offseason would have changed, had that taken place! A challenge trade wouldn't be the craziest idea now, either. Maybe move Semin or Green for like value. Unlikely to happen, but that's what I'd do.
Phil S (Toronto): Shouldn't GM's like Burke who disavow offer sheets be fired? Isn't their job to IMPROVE the club, by any means necessary? Would you not be at Stamkos' door this morning with a 10 year, max deal (12.8M/) in hand? He's 21, super elite (maybe only Crosby better, given Ovi's slippage), and an insanely hard worker during the summers to improve. The fact that he has not received offer sheets yet shows the NHL colludes.
Timo Seppa (Hockey): Might just mean that GMs a. aren't willing to think outside the box or b. don't want to tick off other GMs to the point they won't be dealt with.
JonL (my bleeping desk at work): Do you think Columbus should look into bringing back LeClaire to play with Mason? Or was there some bad blood from when they traded him?
Timo Seppa (Hockey): Pascal Leclaire? .904 career save percentage. No thanks.
Vokoun's the blue chip answer to any goalie question. Otherwise, you look for relatively low cost options.
Russell (Jupiter, FL): Thanks for the chat.
Jonathan Ericsson at 3.25 per year: Is this deal as bad as it looks like, or are there some reasons to be optimistic? His advanced metrics (just looking at last season) don't seem terrible (though his QoT was highest of the Wings D). Your thoughts?
Timo Seppa (Hockey): First of all, remember that Ericsson is no longer young. He's entering his age 27 season, about NHL average for age. His last three seasons by Goals Versus Threshold: 0.8, 1.9, 4.0. That's not world-beating. His relative Corsi was slightly positive in 2010-11, for the first time. Not hideous, but I tend to think that there might have been a better use for the money.
Timo Seppa (Hockey): All right, folks. Thanks for the questions. Switching over to Twitter to continue my commentary on Free Agent Frenzy, so follow me over there at @timoseppa. See you next time!