If Tambo’s contracts were somehow involved in Pulp Fiction, Samuel L. Jackson would kick in a door, scream “DOES STEVE TAMBELLINI LOOK LIKE AN ATM TO YOU?” at Pat Morris, Morris would answer “Yes”, Jackson would be forced to concede the point and everyone would go on their way. The Oilers have just announced that they’ve signed Andy Sutton to an extension, one year at $1.75MM for his age 37 season. Sutton played about 14:45 a game in Anaheim during the 2010-11 season before he was swapped to Edmonton in an exchange of mistakes for Kurtis Foster. Here, he’s played 16:59 per game.
The 16:59 figure is a bit misleading – Sutton tends to play more when the really, really bad/one legged defencemen are playing. Colten Teubert and Theo Peckham and Taylor Chorney, for example. Still though, let’s call him a 14-17 minute guy. What do they get when they become UFA? Well, I peaked through data from last two years and gathered all D who became UFA after a season with TOI between 14 and 17 minutes and at least 40 GP. I then added their contractual terms and age at the time. Here it is:
So the average, excluding the guys who retired and got zero, is $1.033MM. Sutton’s guaranteed $500K more, with an additional $250K in bonuses. The median’s $825K. The average age of these guys is 30.4; Sutton’s 6.5 years older. The median age is 30. Of the six guys older than 30, Sutton’s $750K over the next highest cap hit. So, uh, why are the Oilers going to carry a $1.75MM cap hit for Sutton? I can’t imagine a sensible answer to this question.
It’s as if there’s not a soul in the Oilers’ front office who thinks about these things in terms of leverage. Andy Sutton is a 6/7 defenceman on the second worst team in the NHL. He was ditched by his last team, for whom he couldn’t crack 15 minutes a night, in exchange for a bad contract because they didn’t want him around any more. His agent has to know what the market usually looks like for guys like him – $1MM is a great payday. We KNOW that the Oilers are aware of CapGeek; do they not have a guy who tries to figure out what guys like this get paid? It’s baffling.
Stuff like this, like all of the other bad contracts, speaks to the judgment of the front office. It speaks to their ability to assess their position and negotiate. It does not say good things about it. It’s another piece of evidence that they have no idea what they’re doing when it comes to getting players at market price. In the bigger picture, it looks to me like the Oilers are intending to go with an awfully similar defence next year – Tom Gilbert, Ladislav Smid, Ryan Whitney, Corey Potter and Sutton are now signed, with Petry, Peckham and Barker being RFAs. Lowetide’s convinced that this means that there’s a trade coming; outside of Hemsky, I’m not sure what the Oilers have to trade that will bring back anything of value. I assume that the 2012 first round pick, RNH, Hall and, unfortunately, Eberle, are untouchables. That doesn’t leave a lot that’s going to bring you back something for the defence.
Regardless of that, you don’t sign guys for $1.75MM if that’s now what the market bears for them, regardless of whether or not you intend to make some sort of three for one trade in the future. What’s the point? What possible upside is there? What was Sutton going to do, turn down $1MM and play out his contract for the uncertainties of the market? It would have been an awfully risky thing to do.
Jonathan Willis has all of the quotes over at OilersNation and, of course, this is a typical case in which Tambellini is beaming afterwards about adding another guy who praises the work that they’re doing here and really wants to be part of it. Huh. Amazing all of these guys who want to be part of Tambellini’s grand experiment, just so long as they get 150-175% of fair market value or get a third year that nobody gives players like them. We’re a lucky group of fans, I guess, to have management that has created such an environment. I’m happy that he looks to be bringing back a pretty similar team next year, given that they “…have a much better team than what the results and standings show,” as Tambo believes. Absent significant additions and minus Hemsky, I’d bet on them to be worse next year.
Maybe that’ll be enough to get some people who have some sense of how markets for hockey talent work in the front office. The stuff they’ve been screwing up to date has been insignificant. Botching the contracts for Hall and Eberle could have a serious negative impact. There’s no reason to suspect the current crew is up to it.