Originally posted on The 6th Sens  |  Last updated 10/31/13
As I flipped channels last night between game six of the World Series and the Leafs versus Flames game on TSN, I made a comment on Twitter after watching Mayson Raymond score his fifth goal of the season six minutes into the third period giving Toronto a 3-1 lead. Ultimately, the goal would wind up being the game winner. Why sign Colin Greening to a $2.6 M per year extension when guys like Raymond sign for cheap every year right before the season starts? — The 6th Sens (@6thSens) October 31, 2013 The tweet provoked a wide array of responses. Here’s a glimpse of a few of them: @6thSens Still can't believe Raymond signed for so low. — SensNorth (@SensNorth) October 31, 2013 @6thSens @mlse This year wasn't like every year though. Not all the time useful players are taking massive pay cuts b/c of shrinking cap — ; (@notafullcolon) October 31, 2013 @6thSens for every Mason Raymond there's an equal and opposite Guillaume Latendresse. — Alessandro A. (@Alessandrrro) October 31, 2013 @6thSens you assume those guys want to play here — Thomas K. (@TJKip) October 31, 2013 The point I was making in my original tweet had nothing really to do with Ottawa’s inability or unwillingness to sign Raymond (note: hell, it’s completely possible that he never wanted to play here in the first place), my comment had more to do with pointing out that good yet inexpensive talent is available each and every year for teams that eschew the first few days of free agency to plug holes in their roster. @notafullcolon is correct in pointing out that this season is different because players are taking larger paycuts due to organizations having limited financial resources – thanks to the reality of a shrinking salary cap ceiling. While true, I think it ignores the fact that there are a finite number of NHL jobs available each and every season and that bargains are out there. Mayson Raymond just happens to be at one end of the spectrum: an exceptional case in which a player inked to a paltry salary who is playing and producing in a top six capacity. Sure, for every Raymond there is a free agent who plays and performs at an average level. As @ Alessandrrro pointed out, Guillaume Latendresse could be one such example. While correctly asserting that Latendresse was a gamble that didn’t pay off for the Sens, it ignores the fact that Bryan Murray spent over $2 million on the first day of free agency to get #Guyet in a Sens uniform. If anything, this simply reinforces the principle that the worst financial decisions are made in opening days of unrestricted free agency. Teams with minor holes are better off eschewing these first few days and looking for bargains as players scramble for jobs later in the summer. As an organization whose management and owner have acknowledged (and in the latter’s case embraced) the team’s small market mentality, the decision to ink Colin Greening -- a player who was entering the final year of his contract with Ottawa and would have become an UFA in 2014 -- to a three-year extension worth $2.65 million per annum without seeing how he’d perform in 2013/14 was and still is curious. At the time, I’m sure the organization thought it was being smart by locking up a piece of its roster before he had a chance to improve. However, in already being 27 years old, Greening, thanks to his relatively limited NHL experience, is a player who feels like he should be younger than he is. Given his advanced age, I remain unconvinced that the likelihood of seeing continued growth in his game or production is there; especially since his shots per game, average ice-time per game and points per 60 minutes of ice-time rates keep declining. Season (GP) Shots (Shots per Game) Average TOI/G Pts/60 2010/11 (24) 57 (2.38) 15:05 2.45 2011/12 (82) 184 (2.24) 15:35 1.57 2012/13 (47) 80 (1.70) 14:44 1.51 2013/14 (12) 10 (0.83) 12:28 0.91 Looking at his production throughout his career, we’re talking about a player who has been on the ice for 72 goals for. And of those 72 instances, Jason Spezza, the team’s nearly point-per-game center was also been on the ice. In other words, Spezza has been on the ice for 58.3 percent of the goals that Greening was also on the ice for and that includes the 2013 lockout shortened season that Spezza pretty much missed in its entirety. To his credit, Greening boasts a tantalizing set of tools. He’s big. He can skate. He’s defensively responsible and he can bring a physical dimension when the mood suits him. Much like his production however, his ability to harness his physical gifts and use them effectively has been fairly inconsistent. So the question remains: why would a small market team risk overpaying a third or fourth line player, especially since its best prospects who are close to being NHL-ready are wingers? @6thSens Teams tend to overvalue their own guys, and yield to fan and media pressure to re-sign them... — Dennis Prouse (@Dennis_Prouse) October 31, 2013 It’s a fair point. Whether it’s Greening or praise being bestowed by the organization on internally developed inconsequential players like Gryba or Borowiecki, there is a tendency for teams to overvalue their own players. Moreover, as Scott pointed out at the time news broke of Greening’s extension, if he gets minutes on the top line again there could be value above that $2.65M AAV. And there’s the rub, with Milan Michalek set to become an UFA at the end of this season, Greening looks like the de facto heir apparent to his left wing spot on the team’s first line because of his previous experience playing with Jason Spezza. And if he doesn’t, he’s a player who’s put up 8 goals in past 59 games – a pace that would him at 11 goals over the course of a full season. For a sum of $2.6 million, there are probably ways for a financially strapped team to allocate that kind of money; especially since this team should not want to box in a number of its best prospects who should break into the NHL on one of Ottawa’s bottom two lines. Perhaps most importantly, with where this team wants to go through its rebuilding efforts, if Greening actually becomes this team’s first line left winger moving forward, will the team really be that good or threaten to contend? Probably not.
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