by Corey Pronman
Barring any major move of which I may write a post for, I’ll post all my thoughts on any deals here:
The Flyers traded for defenseman Mark Alt, my thoughts on Alt: He’s what one NHL source describes as an athletic big man, who skates well and moves very well for his size. He’s got a high-end physical game due to his size and willingness to lay the body. Alt is still pretty raw though, trying to figure out the game in his own end and make better decisions overall. He also doesn’t bring much in terms of point production, although there’s a little offensive upside in him. For now I’d qualify him as a low end prospect.
Canucks signed Cam Barker: Barker tends to draw a lot of criticism his way, not without merit as has shown regularly to be an even strength liability and stood out in a bad way on a very bad Edmonton team last season. Still of all EDM defensemen last season he had the 2nd highest TOI/60 on the powerplay and was the only one with a positive Corsi Realtive of the top three defenders in 5v4 TOI/60. I saw Barker play a few times in the AHL this season while he was with the Dallas affiliate and he was good offensively. However this is a (debatable) NHL player in his mid 20s so that should be expected, but it is worth noting because that’s more or less where Barker’s value comes from–his puck moving. He’s at the most a #7 defenseman, but I speculate this signing comes because top D prospect for Vancouver Kevin Connauton still needs some time to iron out a few kinks and if he was brought up it wouldn’t be for such a limited role. I suspect if Vancouver is pleased with Connauton’s progression and there’s an injury on D, Connauton will jump Barker on the depth chart to take even-strength shifts.
Devils extend Zajac: The New Jersey Devils extended center Travis Zajac for 8 years on a 46 million dollar contract. The average annual value comes out to $5.75 million.
At first glance this seems like a somewhat rich deal, both in terms of average annual value and contract length. Zajac is 27 right now, so this deal will range for his age 28-35 years which is past a usual player’s prime. If this deal was signed after Zajac had two straight seasons of the kind of performance he had in 2008-09 and 2009-10 then I could understand the move somewhat. Zajac was a 2+ win player in that timeframe who logged tough minutes, and pushed possession forward at a high rate. I could see a more reasonable argument for this contract under those circumstances. We don’t live in that reality currently though, as while he can still potentially play at a high level, Zajac is two years older and missed most of the previous season with an injury. His 2010-11 season saw a downtick in production, but there was some bad luck to be associated with that dip, and Zajac still had the usual high competition/positive Corsi type of outputs at 5 on 5, albeit his possession rate was lower than the previous two seasons.
I could see a somewhat reasonable argument for the average value of the deal, although I’d have pinned him more towards the 4.5 million range and could potentially stretch it to 5.0. The contract term I see a less of an argument for, and for the two combined makes me pessimistic about this deal. Zajac could potentially be the player we saw the three seasons before the injury, but there is a risk associated with that, and I figured an appropriate discount would come with that in terms of dollars. There’s also a risk with the 8 year term that should have ideally led to some form of discount as well. I could see Zajac potentially play at a 5.75 million value (keeping in mind the cap will likely go up in the future) for 2-4 years of this 8 year contract.
In fact given how well Adam Henrique looked and played last year, and considering he will be stepping into his prime soon, I wouldn’t be surprised if he passed Zajac on New Jersey’s depth chart as their #1 center a few years into this contract. You usually have to overpay for UFA’s, and while this isn’t the worst deal to give an impending free agent, it certainly isn’t a pretty one either.