With the regular season, postseason and first wave of free agency over, there are only several offseason storylines remaining. One of the more intriguing topics, as we end the near of July, is whether Phil Kessel, Patrick Marleau, Dany Heatley and Patrick Sharp stay with their current teams heading into next season. The Bruins and the Sharks find themselves in tight salary cap situations, as do the Blackhawks as the result of a procedural blunder in the Chicago front office, while Dany Heatley continues to hold the Ottawa Senators franchise hostage.
So the question remains: Should teams 'buy' their players by keeping them on the roster or 'sell' their players by trading them away?
VUKOTA is bullish on young Phil Kessel, and why not? The Madison, Wisconsin native has taken a quantum leap from a 0.41-0.45 points per game level in his first two years with Boston to an exceptional 0.86 P/GP level. Even with two merely solid campaigns preceding last year’s breakout of 36 Goals, 24 Assists, 60 Points, +23 plus/minus and +14.6 GVT, the combination of track record and age combine to give a VUKOTA projection of +13.9 GVT for 2009-10. Throw in the fact that Kessel was the Bruins’ second best skater to Milan Lucic in the postseason (with an outstanding +2.9 Goal Differential per 60 minutes at even strength), and he looks like a lock to at least consolidate the gains of last season.
Now the bad news: The Boston Bruins’ roster is already full of financial commitments to too many mediocre forwards, with Marco Sturm (Age 30, $3.5M in 2009-10, signed through 2010-11, +3.8 GVT) a prime example thereof. If the Bruins were starting from scratch, they would presumably look to prioritize their promising under-25 forwards: Milan Lucic, Phil Kessel, David Krejci, Blake Wheeler, Patrice Bergeron.
Chances of the Bruins winning now are real, but they also have enough quality young pieces to build a winning team for years to come. Phil Kessel could be a key part of that foundation. If necessary, Boston should sign the young center to a 1 year deal, while looking to shuffle less important pieces to allow his long term signing next offseason. Deal other players if necessary, but keep Kessel.
- Timo Seppa
Patrick Marleau has taken a lot of heat for being one of the causes for the Sharks’ annual postseason flops; this has led a lot of fans, commentators and armchair GMs to call for him to be traded away. In my opinion, these calls are unfair. Marleau is a very hard worker for the Sharks, and can play all zones of the ice: last year he was one of the Sharks’ top penalty killers, in addition to being a threat at even-strength and on the power-play. In the last 5 seasons he’s had only one bad year, in 2007-08, with a GVT of 8, otherwise notching GVT totals of 11, 15, 17 and 18. He has also obtained a playoff GVT of 15 in 58 games, which would project to 22 over 82 games, even better than he has achieved in the regular season. Not bad for a playoff “choker”. His salary for next year is $6.3 M, which is significant, and VUKOTA projects him for a GVT of only 11 next year. However, unless the Sharks can get a decent package in return for him, they should hold on to their captain.
Unlike most people, I do not fault Patrick Marleau for the Sharks’ recent playoff failures, despite the fact that he has accumulated a total of 4.5 GVT in 30 games over the last 3 postseasons. The real reason to trade Marleau is that the Sharks are up against the salary cap, with less than 1 million dollars in space for next season. They have a proven commodity, Marleau, who is not a troublemaker, as opposed to Dany Heatley, and whose price tag is just about right. Marleau is probably on the downside of his career: he will be 30 in September, an age at which hockey forwards have already begun a slow decline, and VUKOTA projects a GVT of 11 for next year. If the Sharks can dump some salary and get decent young players in return for him, they should bid their captain goodbye and wish him well on the next step of his journey.
- Tom Awad
Is there a win/win situation in Dany Heatley's case? Not likely. Considering that Heatley is hardly in demand across the NHL and wants out of Ottawa, he has put the Senators between a rock and a hard place. The Senators' best bet would be to "buy" Dany Heatley and keep him on the Senators until a better offer for him comes along--especially considering Ottawa doesn't exactly benefit from having lots of cap space at its disposal (hey, it just doesn't have the same appeal to free agents as NY). In the summer, everyone's roster is ideal, every team has a chance and the playoffs are just 82 games away. However, once the season begins, teams become more realistic and a player like Dany Heatley may pique a team's interest at the quarter-point of the season.
While his VUKOTA projections have him at 36 goals and 38 assists for next season, it is entirely posisble he reverts to old form playing alongside a passer like Jason Spezza. For now, Heatley carries more value in Ottawa than he does in a trade. Whether he's willing to play in Canada's capital until traded is a whole other story.
- Richard Pollock
Sharp was only the 10th best on the Original Six squad over the course of the 2008-2009 season with a 7.7 GVT, but that says more about the quality of his teammates than the abilities of the 27-year-old. Normally, forwards will begin a production decline after their age 23 to 26 peak years, but VUKOTA, which looks back at historically comparable players, views the center as an exception. The third-highest paid Blackhawk has a very solid projection of a 10.0 GVT for next year, along with 26 goals, 26 assists and 52 points in 68 games played. Not too shabby, despite the $4 M salary for the 2009-2010 campaign. If the Blackhawks want to shed salary, they should look in the direction of defenseman Brian Campbell. The veteran is quite expensive, with a salary $7.140 M per year, however, VUKOTA also sees Campbell improving on last year's 9.7 GVT with a 12.7 GVT. Such a stellar mark would make the 30-year-old a top 50 NHL player for next season, and would ensure that at least one team would call up Chicago with a good offer for the 6'0'', 188 lbs. southpaw at the 2010 trade deadline.
- Andrew Rothstein
This article was authored by the staff of Puck Prospectus. You can contact the Puck Prospectus team by clicking here or click here to see the Puck Prospectus team's other articles.