Shark-Infested Blogger

July 1, 2009 1:17 AM

Should I Stay or Should I Go? Restricted Free Agents, Part III

The last group of restricted free agents to examine is those who are eligible for arbitration and did have an impact on the NHL last season: Lukas Kaspar, Brad Staubitz, Marcel Goc, Tomas Plihal, and Ryane Clowe. (Click to see the rules governing restricted free agents and arbitration, see the first two parts of this series.)

Some of the suspense in this list has been removed, as the Sharks announced that they have offered contracts to Ryane Clowe, Torrey Mitchell, Thomas Greiss, and Brad Staubitz. Terms of these contracts were not made available.

Thus the Sharks will not be offering Tomas Plihal, Marcel Goc, Lukas Kaspar, Riley Armstrong, Taylor Dakers, Mike Morris, T.J. Fox, or Ashton Rome a contract. All are now unrestricted free agents.

Thus, instead of offering a prediction on the remaining restricted free agents, I will offer what I would have done in Doug Wilson's shoes...

Ryane Clowe

Clowie is the only player on the Sharks roster that is a true power forward. The Sharks had seven forwards on the playoff roster who have the physical dimensions of a power forward--above 6', 210 lbs. But the other six play a different game.

Patrick Marleau and Milan Michalek are skaters. Mike Grier, Travis Moen, and Jody Shelley are not counted on for production in front of the net. Joe Thornton makes his living behind the net and along the half-boards as a puck distributor.

In the State of the Sharks event, Wilson and coach Todd McLellan admitted that a Tomas Holmstrom-style presence in front of the net is one thing the team is sorely missing. They cannot let the 26-year old Clowe and his production (22 G, 30 A, +8 in 71 games) go...I would have offered him over $2.6 million to force any team to give up a first- and third-round pick to take him.

F Tomas Plihal

I had been calling for the team to let Plihal go last season so they could make room for younger players. Plihal has been an effective penalty killer and checking-line forward, however, and was productive (5 G, 8 A, -4 in 64 games), and is able to play centre.

I would have offered him the $863,157 necessary to require a team to at least give up a third-round pick for the former fifth-round pick to sign him away. However, I would have let him go if he had gotten more in either free agency or arbitration.

C Marcel Goc

Goc has been a player whose future has been hard to place. The former first-round pick in 2001 has worked hard to become the best on the roster in face-offs (over 58%), and a big reason why the Sharks finished second in the league in that category. That and his exceptional skating ability also has made him a valuable penalty-killer.

However, his offensive game has actually gotten worse from his rookie season (8 G, 14 A, -7 in 81 games)--he scored just 11 points in 55 games (2 G, 9 A, -6) last season. Often, his skating and tenacity would give him scoring opportunities he just could not finish--hence his 1.9 shooting percentage.

Because of his value as a penalty killer, I would have offered him arbitration on a $650,000 salary, and if he got more, walked away.

W Brad Staubitz

It was clear the team valued Staubitz since he was also mentioned specifically at the State of the Sharks event, not just as a promising prospect, but a player McLellan thought perhaps should have been given ice time in the playoffs. (One reason he said he did not was to help Staubitz develop by playing minor league playoff hockey, as he would receive little playing time at the NHL level.)

Staubitz is a large (6'1", 215 lb.) 24-year old converted defenceman who was in primarily for toughness (1 G, 2 A, even, 76 PIM in 35 games). He provided the team with energy and played smart hockey.

However, with his lack of production, I would only have offered him $600,000 in arbitration, knowing he was unlikely to get much more than that. Since he was listed as getting a qualifying offer, I take that to mean a figure of $863,157 necessary to force teams to give up a compensatory pick. Had he won that amount (or maybe as much as $900,000) in arbitration, I would pay it, but why do that if you do not have to?

W Lukas Kaspar

Kaspar was given every opportunity to produce at an NHL level, and has failed to do so. In 13 games with the Sharks, he had two goals (including a game-winner), two assists, and an even rating.

But since being drafted in the first round in 2004, he has managed just 16 NHL games (he was -2 with no points in 2007-08). He was even given a chance on the second line and power play last season, and when he was benched and then sent down to Worcester, the coaches made no secret that they felt he had not been giving enough effort.

He was reasonably productive at the minor league level with two straight 40-point seasons, but has also finished below sea level in plus/minus both seasons. I might have done just what Wilson did and let him go, or I might have been willing to offer him a minimum contract and dare him to try to get more in arbitration or the open market, walking away if he did.

This leaves the Sharks with 13 players destined for unrestricted free agency as the calendar turns overnight: Rob Blake, Brian Boucher, Tom Cavanagh, Mike Grier, Kent Huskins, Claude Lemieux, Kyle McLaren, Travis Moen, Jeremy Roenick, Alexei Semenov, Ryan Vesce. AHL free agents include Brenden Buckley, Cory Larose and Brett Westgarth.

Rumour is that Blake has been retained, but there is no confirmation on the team website. In tomorrow's edition, we will look at what the team should (and may already have) done with the other major NHL players: Boucher, Grier, Huskins, Moen, and Roenick.

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