Sunday, 28 June 2015

Thoughts on the Pierre-Alexandre Parenteau buyout.

I have a couple of thoughts on the P.A. Parenteau buyout.  He's just been placed on waivers for those purposes by the Canadiens.

I figured he'd dodged that bullet when I wrote this a few days ago:

I had the odds that P.A. gets bought out at 33%, but since he hasn’t been put on waivers yet, I guess that ship has sailed too. I guess they’re taking a chance that with another strong off-season of work, maybe fewer injuries, he can contribute more.

I had in my mind’s eye an image of Rick Dudley giving him a call every couple of days, checking in on him, maybe Scott Mellanby drops by while he’s working out at the gym, sizing him up, poking and prodding him, while they hem and haw about whether to buy him out.
The first thought is that Pierre-Alexandre is another asset that we have to write off, that goes to zero instead of being realized or amortized.  We tell each other often that if a player doesn't work out, he can be 'flipped for picks', or 'traded to another team', but sadly it seems it rarely happens.

I know that the mantra painted on the dressing room wall is "Pas d'excuses", but I think we've been a little unlucky.  Off the top of my head, P.A., Mike Weaver, Bryan Allen, Sergei Gonchar, Louis Leblanc, Yannick Weber, Ryan White, on and on it goes, all these 'assets' end up being non-negotiable.

I envision the team as being on a treadmill, and we're taking on new players every year, and some fall off the back.  It's nice and easy to talk about the fact that we're not taking aboard any Sydney Crosbys, any Connor McDavids, so we'll never win, but I think the secret to success is to keep replenishing, to trade off a Douglas Murray or a Roman Hamrlik before they're due to fall off, even for 'low picks', and to keep replenishing the well.  Ideally, for every player who falls off, we add two prospects, and inevitably some of them will be winning tickets.

Of course this is easier to do when you're not in a race to the playoffs, if you're not holding on to everyone for depth, in case of injuries, but I think there's a way to bet on both horses a little bit.  We can have a little more success, be a little more far-sighted, by flipping players for futures, if we make that our mission, if we refuse to take lightly that players will leave without compensation.

I don't have the figures in front of me, it's more of a sense than a conviction, but seeing the Lightning pick up nine players in this draft, take Dennis Yan and Anthony Cirelli with two third-round picks, while we made do with five picks, is a bit of a stark contrast.

As astute as Marc Bergevin has been, I think we've bled out a little more than we could have.  And even as he juggles so many balls, I'd like to add in another one, that diligence, that conviction that a player traded for a 3rd rounder two years from now is a win, is very much better than nothing.  I'd like it to become part of the management philosophy.

And it would necessitate some changes in the way we do things.  Leaving Mike Weaver in the pressbox for an entire season may not be the way to go.  Maybe if we see we're not using him, we send him off for a low pick, and depth is provided with prospects doing injury callups instead.  We take a little hit there, for a bigger gain elsewhere, by giving Trevor Timmins more shots at the dart board.

These are not black and white, right or wrong issues, just tweaks, nuances, another factor to add into the equation.

And I don't think it's a matter of outlook, of policy that sank the value of Pierre-Alexandre.  If he'd popped in a handful more goals, if he hadn't been injured, that would have been the determining factor.  Just a little luck...

But another facet we now have to consider is how we structure our contracts.  For years we spoke of how big ticket contracts could be dumped on teams trying to reach the salary cap floor, in a theoretical sense.  We always hoped that Scott Gomez's front-loaded contract could become attractive to such a team in its last couple of seasons, when it would deliver a big $7.3M salary cap hit, but would require only 3 and 2 million in salary or thereabouts.

The thing is, teams trying to reach the cap floor won't take an awful player on to do so (exception: Chris Pronger loophole).  They want guys who can still play.  They still need to sell tickets, attract fans, they're budget teams because they're trying to establish themselves.

But this off-season, we've seen two players go to budget teams because of this dodge.  James Wisniewski was taken by the Hurricanes in trade, because, aside from still being able to play, he'll provide the Hurricanes with $11M in cap hit, but require only $8M in salary.

Same with the Flyers dumping Chris Pronger's contract on the grateful Coyotes, who'll enjoy his almost $5M in cap hit as they jury-rig themselves a roster that'll reach the cap floor.  The Glendale team will only have to pay out a half million in actual salary though.

And now I kind of figure that that's what the Blackhawks are counting on with Marian Hossa, and the Kings might have hoped for in Mike Richard's case, that they'll be effective for a few more seasons, but as they get to the cap-circumventing years of their contract, when they're making a million dollars or so, they can be dumped on a budget team trying to reach the cap floor.

And it makes me wonder, if P.A.'s contract had been similarly structured, if it called for him to receive only $2M this season, would he have been much more marketable.  Could we have wheedled a mid-rounder out of a budget team for him in that case?

Now, we didn't sign P.A., we didn't write the contract, but I think there's a clear opportunity for a rich team like the Canadiens.  If we're bidding for a free agent and the contract is going to be necessarily high, we can front-load it, pay as much money as possible up front, and in the last year or two, those that might be a problem due to declining performance by the player, he can hopefully be packaged to a team looking for salary-cap floor relief.

I don't think it would be a problem for players and their agents to receive most of the money up front.  That's usually what they want.  And I note that Jeff Petry will earn $7M in the first couple of seasons, but 'only' $4M during the final two.

And that's an advantage we have over the Nashvilles and the Glendales, we can churn through players like this, with 'ejectable' final years on their contracts.  The contracts can't quite 'backdive' so aggressively with the new CBA, but we can still derive an advantage this way.  We can have a yearly salary cap hit in line with the rules, but spend more than that, and ice a more competitive team.

If Mr. Molson is willing to write slightly bigger cheques and charge us a little bit more per 'stimé' to facilitate a winning team.  Which I do not doubt he is.

EDIT: June 29, 2015 AT 11:46 AM

According to La Presse, Pierre-Alexandre Parenteau was informed of the buyout by his agent Saturday evening. He still hadn’t spoken to anyone from the organization as of Sunday noon, and Marc Bergevin hadn’t raised the subject at their end-of-season talk. He wasn’t expecting a buyout.
«C’est sûr que je n’ai pas eu la saison escomptée, a-t-il reconnu au bout du fil. À cause de ça, je peux comprendre la décision du Canadien, c’est une décision d’affaires. Ça ne s’est pas passé comme prévu pour moi, ce fut une saison en dents de scie.»

“I admit I didn’t have the kind of season I was hoping for. I can understand the Canadiens’ decision, it’s a business decision. It didn’t go as expected for me, I had an uneven year.”

He says he hopes to get a chance with another team in the fall.

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