If you hate Helen St. James as much as I do, do yourself a favor and read this. It takes hackery to an entirely new level. If I'm understanding this correctly, especially the last paragraph, her argument seems to be, "Wings fans shouldn't be upset about free agency because this year FAs had reasons to go elsewhere". Which, apparently, is totally different than every other year when free agents just sign willy nilly. Daniel Alfredsson leaves Ottawa after 17 years and it's "time for a change of scenery", but Dan Boyle signs with NYR and it's "couldn't be avoided, he and Martin St. Louis played together ten years ago".
She actually suggested that Niskanen signed in Washington because his former coach now coaches there. As if that's special. If that's all it takes to woo FAs can we hurry up and hire some former assistant coaches?
I hate her journalism, but I do think there's some merit in the idea that players are signing contracts to teams that can provide familiarity. It was the main theme of the Suter and Parise sweepstakes, and they ended up together, in Minnesota, with family. The Sudin twins refuse to be separated. We recently saw two of the Staals united in Carolina. Weiss signs in Detroit, having been familiar with the area during his time with the Whalers. Dekeyser has been a Red Wing in his mind all throughout his hockey development, growing up in Michigan. This whole Niskanen thing seemed to play out similarly. Niskanen relied on Orpik to scout out Washington and the team and let him know what Orpik thought. It certainly doesn't hurt that his former coach was also in the system (Niskanen actually mentioned the familiarity of playing for his old asst coach and playing with Orpik as one of the reasons he went to Washington here: http://video.nhl.com...27797&lang=en).
I don't think these things mattered so much in the past, because there was no cap and team contracts weren't equal. Now, if you want to get paid, the only teams that can afford an outrageous contract are bottom feeders, while the most competitive teams are tight against the cap. There's now a $ value for each player, and there isn't going to be much difference in contract amount offered between playoff teams (maybe a million or so, or year or two). If contracts are roughly equal, why not sign with the team where your old friends are playing, or that team that's near where you grew up?
Having said that, it's still an issue that the Wings organization needs to overcome. Erhoff signed with the Pens on a discount and short term presumably to be on a team that has a chance at the Cup, or play with Crosby/Malkin. Richards signed in Chicago, again, likely because of their odds of winning a Cup, and maybe playing alongside Kane/Toews etc. Holland needs to do something to the team to make players want to come here over going to places that can provide familiarity. The first step is moving the Wings from a fringe playoff team to one that is expected to go deep every year. I personally think that starts with a top 2 defensman ala Yandle (or someone at that level). We aren't going to get a top player in free agency. They can go anywhere and get the same money Holland can offer them, but also play in front of family or whatever elsewhere. This needs to happen via a trade (which I absolutely hate, because trades are such an inefficient way to acquire a player), or we can wait and see if one of our prospects develops into a franchise player. I guess the bottom line here is that Holland needs to change his game plan from expecting to get top talent in free agency every year to fill in the holes, and start actively working on making free agents want to come here.
Edited by Echolalia, 03 July 2014 - 10:42 AM.