Friday, November 02, 2007


New car, caviar, four star daydream

Latest in a near-daily trend of "things that make Dion Phaneuf's price go up": Jason Spezza has signed a long and lucrative contract extension. Anyone care to guess what Phaneuf's deal is going to look like? Here's what I wrote in early July:
Sutter has long been aware that Phaneuf will be due a big raise, but these events [the Whitney, Vanek, & Crosby deals] have certainly made Phaneuf more expensive. They have also introduced an element of risk (and of urgency) to contract negotiations with Phaneuf, where it probably wasn't a concern previously.

Certainly now, there's no way to get Phaneuf signed to a contract any longer than one year for less than $4M/yr. If they want to sign him to a long-term deal that eats up 2 or 3 of his UFA years (like Whitney's), the price is surely going to be in the $5M range. And that's today: if his form rounds out in the early part of this season (i.e. he takes that next step we've all been waiting for since at least the beginning of last season), the price goes up some more.

First off, I'd like to get your guesses as to what Phaneuf will get (maybe plurisapience will give us an accurate answer). Secondly, I was mulling over what the best -- or most original -- way for the Flames to approach this might be.

In fact, I was just congratulating myself on a great idea! We know this:
So, I figured, why not negotiate 2 contracts with him? On July 1st, he signs a 1-year deal for $3M, and then 5 minutes later he signs an 8-year $60M extension? There are rules in the CBA against signing a contract with any wink-wink understandings, but when the understanding is "right after I sign document #1, I'm going to sign document #2", there's not much that's secret or untoward there, and they could probably get away with it.

Unfortunately, the lawyers thought of this, as I found out as soon as I checked the CBA on extensions (50.5 f, since you asked). A player on a 1-year deal can't sign an extension until January 1 of that season. So much for that bright idea.

This isn't to say that a 1-year deal is impossible, however: it's distinctly possible. The Flames can quite openly say, "Look: we'll be in a much better position to negotiate a long-term deal with you when Aucoin et al come off the books. If you sign a one-year deal, clearly our intention will be to sign you to a long-term extension, and why wouldn't it be?" Then Phaneuf can make his own decision, based on his own preferences, and priorities, and assessment of the risk.

There are basically 4 possibilities:
  1. A one-year deal (say $4M-$4.5M). This could happen per the scenario above (Phaneuf believing he can get a better deal next year, and the Flames basically agreeing), or simply because they can't agree on a longer-term deal. Phaneuf is not arbitration-eligible; this is the "Fine, let's argue about this later" scenario.
  2. A medium term (2-3 year) deal. $5M or so per year.
  3. A long term (4-6 year) deal. Surely this would be up in the $6M+/yr range.
  4. An ultra-long term (Vanek-to-Dipietro) deal. Probably a smaller annual salary than than the long term deal, just because there is so much total money guaranteed, in the event that Dion gets Brett Lindros-ed in 2009.
My suspicion is that #3 is the least likely scenario. Darryl Sutter, frequently to the Flames' detriment IMHO, puts a lot of weight on young players proving themselves, not merely through performance but also through time. I just have a very hard time seeing him giving Phaneuf essentially the same deal as Iginla or Kipper.

Accordingly, #2 is more plausible than you might think, given the recent trend of 6-7 year deals for top-end RFAs. Relative to most other GMs, Darryl Sutter would probably not be panicky about having to re-sign Phaneuf again in 2-3 years, at potentially a much higher salary.

#4 is the wild-card. I have no idea if the Flames as a corporation are willing to sign someone to a 10-year guaranteed contract, even if, on balance, it's the best move for the franchise. Whether they are or are not, even in theory, is none of our business as a matter of team policy. Phaneuf seems like as good a candidate as there is in the league for this type of deal, but who knows.



The one year contract + wait for extension proposal seems like the most sensible plan to me, but is mediated, of course, by Phaneuf's demands. I guess it depends if he values stick around/seeing the team succeed above cashing in as much as humanly possible right now.

I guess we'll see.

Gut feeling: Phaneuf will not be a Flame 2009/2010.

There's a powerful reason for Phaneuf signing a nice long-term deal now even if a better one would be available in a year (summed up roughly as "Jiri Fischer").

But like you say, we'll see. I don't have a good instinct for how it'll go; for some reason I have trouble putting myself in the shoes of a 22-year-old with the potential to be the best in the world at what I do. :)

I think it's probably headed to talks over a long-term deal, talks that are ultimately unsuccessful, and they settle for a one-year deal and a "hope for the best" for the next round of negotiations the following year.

They're pretty tight against the cap to dole out Spezza-ish money short term.

Trades to free up cash aren't a possibility?

They are in theory, but generally difficult to pull off. If the guy is earning his money, why would you want to get rid of him, and if he's not, who'd want him?

Plus, the Falmes' roster is ungodly top-heavy: there's Iginla, Kiprusoff, Tanguay, and the core players pulling in the coin, and then there's guys making effectively nothing. The core players can't move without gutting the team, and moving the fringe guys won't solve the problem.

The 2007-08 Calgary Flames are suffering from a lack of Tony Amonte.

Matt, do you not think it's at all likely that Phaneuf doesn't sign right away and gets a ridiculous offer sheet, a la Vanek? I think any discussion around what happens to Dion next year would have to include 'what's the biggest offer the Flames could or would match'? By the way, I have no idea what the answer to that question is, but I find it interesting. Would any other GM risk getting dogpiled by the entire Sutter family by making a big time offer sheet to Phaneuf?

If you assume that they will sign him to an extension before that becomes possible, I think the 2-4 year deal at ~$5-5.5 million a year is the most likely scenario. I think, if they have to, they trade Regher or Aucoin to make that happen. However, I don't think they need to, based on the lovely chart you posted
which shows Phaneuf at $4.5 million. Even at a million more than that, they're still under $50 million and have a smidge of room to play. I realize this makes the re-signing of Huselius and/or Lankgow much trickier, and I don't have an answer for how that could happen, other than trading away defensive depth.

Anyway, my gut says 3 year extension at $5 million a year. Sutter seems to have a way of making players think about more than just money, and Dion could certainly get more than that if he waits around for offer sheets.

3y/$15M is wishful thinking. Isn't it likely that the Flames will end up having to fend off a Timonen-type deal from someone?

In a pinch, to fend off an preadtory offer sheet, could they buyout Aucoin to free up some more cap space?

I think Phaneuf will draw a 6yr $36-40MM offer sheet. The Falmes could probably get him for $6MM/yr on the nose on a long term deal.

It would be stupid to sign a one year deal. I don't think it matters how much loyalty he may have to the Falmes, he can't put his livelihood in danger like that. Plus he'll have far too much leverage anyway.

3y/$15M is wishful thinking

Yes, my gut is wishful. I also think the monster offer sheet is a distinct possibility, as mentioned.

Oh fer christ's sake the kid played in RED DEER! He's been a Sutter's evil helper since he was 16 years old. He's gonna sign whatever Darryl wants him to sign, and if Darryl had any doubts about that he would have extended him first, not last. Darryl isn't losing any sleep over this signing, believe me.

So what you're saying is, it's some kind of codependent Graham James-Sheldon Kennedy type dealio? And Don Meehan's going to go along with this? I vote with Riversq.

Why can't we take him to arbitration?

Arbitration: not all RFA's are eligible. Players coming off their 3-yr entry level deal are not.

Giant offer sheet? I'm skeptical. There just aren't that many GMs willing to give up 4 1stRd picks for any reason. I realize Lowe has a PLAN, as opposed to some kind of undesirable "read & react" skills, but there just aren't. Some kind of trade is more plausible (still not very).

In the wake of the signings of the last few months, it's hard to completely shrug off the idea that Sutter has some kind of Mesmer thing going, but I think anon. overstates Phaneuf's fealty by a good bit.

Here's how that Meehan/Phaneuf conversation is going to go:

Meehan: Congrats Dion, you're having an excellent year, and we're going to leverage that into a dump truck load of money.

Phaneuf: Yeah! Great! Has Mr. Sutter called?

M: We've had some preliminary talks with Darryl yeah, but listen, we've got to work on our STRATEGY for negotitions.

P: okay, but I want to stay in Calgary.

M: Good, Fine, but we have to APPEAR to be willing to go elsewhere to get the best deal, right?

P: I guess so, what does Mr,err I mean, Darryl think?

M: (sputter) Dion, don't worry about Darryl, you and I are going to play him like a fiddle.

P: I don't know how to play a fiddle.

M: It's just an expression, kid, don't worry I'll guide you through it. You and me.

P: Yeah but when do we talk with Darryl?

M: Soon Kid, soon, have you decided on the color of your Ferrari?

P: Could I talk to Brent?

M: Oh you mean you want to go to New Jersey?

P: No, I just want to ask Brent what Darryl thinks.

M: (pulls hair) Listen Dion, I'M representing you, nobody else, besides, Brent can't talk with us till you're a free agent.

P: Well if we can't talk to Brent can we talk to Darryl?

PS: May not actually be true.

Shit. Bowled out by overwhelming verisimilitude.

Wow...a worthwhile "anonymous" comment. What's the temperature in Hell these days?

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