Damien Cox Gets Paid To Write About Hockey

"You think I have time to read the CBA when I'm trying to handle this gorgeous coif?"

The ongoing game of brinkmanship between Brian Burke and Mike Gillis is apparently starting to wear on the mittenstringers that demand moves be made so that they can have something to write about rather than idle speculation. Today, in a shocking display of ignorance, Damien Cox suggested the Maple Leafs' GM should sign the Canucks' current starting goalie Cory Schneider to a large offer sheet in order to force Gillis' hand with regard to moving Roberto Luongo.

You're probably thinking that this isn't such a bad idea? Well, there are some good points...

Pressure

Mike Gillis has done a good job of playing things cool. He's repeatedly said that he'd be willing to start the season with both Luongo and Schneider on the team. He's increased expectations by insisting that he'll make 'a hockey deal' which suggests that he does not want to take on bad salary and is expecting to get commensurate value for Luongo.

The reality is much closer to what Cox suggests. The Canucks do not have an infinite window of opportunity with this team. There is a price to this game of chicken. If Gillis, as he claims, will match any offer sheet and doesn't trade Luongo then he will have robbed himself of $5.3M of cap space to improve his team and allowed another team to dictate the contract of the goaltender he wants to keep. As we've seen, while it is not impossible to make trades during the season, it is much easier to deal with the cap implications in the summer when you have more time and cap buffer to react.

Offer Sheets

First off, Canucks Army has a comprehensive look at Schneider and the offer sheet question that you should read. One issue is that the window for making an offer is only four days long. From July 1 to July 5 at 5pm when Vancouver will follow Montreal's lead and take their young RFA goaltender to team-elected arbirtation at which point Schneider cannot sign any offer sheets.

The idea of using an offer sheet on one player in order to either poach that player or to force another one free because of cap considerations isn't a new one. It's not one that has been used often mostly because the good old boys club of NHL General Managers do not allow for trying to take advantage of another's weakness beyond making trades with Scott Howson. Of course, Damien Cox should be a little familiar with the particular code that Brian Burke operates under which does not allow for offer sheets.

Ostensibly because he believes that they lead to salary inflation and because he doesn't want to open himself up to retaliatory offer sheets. In reality, it's a key part of his Gentleman GM persona which puts personal honour above his fiduciary duty to win Stanley Cups in Toronto. The threat of an offer sheet is what Burke used to pry Kessel loose from Boston but to expect him to go through with it on Cory Schneider is laughable on its own merits.

Cory Schneider

Cory Schneider

#35 / Goalie / Vancouver Canucks

6-2

195

Mar 18, 1986

GP MIN W L OTL/SOL GA GAA SA SV SV% SO
Career - Cory Schneider 68 3639 38 17 4 136 2.24 1880 1744 .928 4

If this is the career path of Cory Schneider then, sure, it'd be great to get him. The tricky part of an offer sheet is that the player has to accept it. So maybe Damien can explain why Schneider would leave a two-time President's Trophy winning team with a Stanley Cup final appearance just 24 12 months in the past where he has successfully waited out the incumbent and is poised to take over as the beloved saviour?

It makes even less sense when you think that he would be coming to a team that hasn't made the playoffs since the lockout, has a glut of awful contracts that might restrict the team's ability to improve this off-season, and to face a media group that would immediately be cheering on his potential failure because of the price tag. Gee, where does the kid sign? Not to mention, as Thomas Drance notes, he is just one year away from unrestricted free agency. Arbitration seems like a pretty good choice for Schneider if he can't come to terms and Luongo hasn't been dealt.

Would he even be worth the $5M per year cap hit that Cox is suggesting? With so few games played (and only a couple of playoff games as the acknowledged starter) it is a massive gamble to take. Especially because of the cost of completing such an offer sheet...

Compensation

Now, you're going to head over to the Star and read the following which seems to just represent the extent of Cox's consideration of compensation:

That wouldn't get them Schneider; Vancouver would have to match rather than accept multiple first rounders from Toronto.

This is where Cox's article goes from HFBoards rosterbation into cluelessness. First off, I'm told that this passage was added after publishing because originally, if you can imagine, Cox had not considered what would happen if the Canucks declined to match the offer sheet. Indeed, the way he disregards that possibility is frankly a bit stunning. Roberto Luongo, contrary to many reports, is not washed up. He will be a very good goalie for at least a few more seasons. More than enough time for a smart GM to find more goaltending. Especially one with a player like Eddie Lack to provide cover in the interim if he is not the solution himself.

So what would happen if Mike Gillis, after looking at the bang up job Burke has done of evaluating the quality of his team each summer, decides that he'd rather roll the dice with one of the best goalies post-lockout and a top AHL prospect? Well, as vigilant CBA observer Chemmy noted, the Leafs would pay through the nose because of the following:

10.4 Draft Choice Compensation for Restricted Free Agents

Any Club that is entitled to but does not exercise its Right of First Refusal pursuant to Section 10.3 shall be entitled to obtain Draft Choice Compensation from the New Club. The number and quality of draft choices due to the Prior Club shall be based on the average annual value of the compensation contained in the Principal Terms (as defined in Section 10.3(e) hereof) of the New Club's Offer Sheet (determined by dividing such compensation by the lesser of the number of years of the Offer Sheet or five), based on the following scale:

This means that you cannot, as presumably Cox assumed, reduce the compensation due by lengthening the term of the contract because that max number of years that are used is five. That means that a $40M contract over 8 years is actually worth $8M a season for reasons of calculating the drafts pick due. What does that mean? Well, here's last years compensation table:

  • $1,034,249 annual cap hit or less: No compensation
  • $1,034,249 - $1,567,043: Third-round pick
  • $1,567,043 - $3,134,088: Second-round pick
  • $3,134,088 - $4,701,131: First and third-round pick
  • $4,701,131 - $6,268,175: First, second and third-round pick
  • $6,268,175 - $7,835,219: Two first-round picks, a second and third
  • $7,835,219 and higher: Four first-round picks

While there are some wild cards - the ranges are based on the average salary and a new CBA may cause changes although whether it would affect this deal is a question - the minimum that Cox is advocating that Burke spend on Cory Schneider is 2 1st round picks, a 2nd round pick, and a 3rd round pick. That's even more than the Leafs paid for Phil Kessel! I'm sure Cox thinks that that was a fair price to pay to get Kessel:

For some time it's been undeniable that the price to get Kessel from the Boston Bruins was too much, that Burke overpaid to jump-start a quick turnaround in the club's hockey fortunes, a move that symbolized a sense of haste that only he seemed to feel.

- D. Cox, May 14, 2012

Wow, that's not even two months ago! That's impressive even for a Toronto mittenstringer. And what will Cox do when, behind the Maple Leafs, it turns out that the Leafs have signed a goalie that is only slightly better than James Reimer or Ben Scrivens at the cost of possible four first rounders? Why, then he'll fire up his computer in 2-3 years and lament the insanity of Brian Burke spending four high quality assets on a minor upgrade on the team's own assets. It's really a win-win for him.

Update: Courtesy of James Mirtle:

Here are the draft pick compensation figures for the 2012-13 season:

$1,110,249 or below - No Compensation

Over $1,110,249 to $1,682,194 - 3rd round pick

Over $1,682,194 to $3,364,391 - 2nd round pick

Over $3,364,391 to $5,046,585 - 1st round pick, 3rd

Over $5,046,585 to $6,728,781 - 1st round pick, 2nd, 3rd

Over $6,728,781 To $8,410,976 - Two 1st Round Picks, 2nd, 3rd

Over $8,410,976 - Four 1st Round Picks

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