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The Sedin Twins Are Elite Hockey Players

There seems to be quite a bit of mirth, shock, and despair at the report that Daniel Sedin and his twin brother Henrik Sedin are looking for matching 12-year $63M contracts. I've tried to spread the gospel of James Mirtle's definitive post looking at the fact that while the hockey world was snickering at their alien shaped heads the twins have become elite players in the NHL:

  1. Daniel and Henrik both finished with 82 points, good enough to be tied for 13th in the NHL during the season.
  2. Putting aside the limitations of plus-minus for the moment, they also finished 14th and 17th among forwards in that category as well.
  3. The only players Daniel had fewer even-strength points than this season were Malkin, Ovechkin, Crosby, Parise, Datsyuk and Havlat. Add Iginla to the list for those ahead of Henrik.
Steve is equally puzzled that the Sedins seem to be non-starters for so many Leaf fans. He then goes further and does his best to battle the perception that the Sedins disappear in the playoffs but MLHS' Jeff Bellamy thinks that it's hilarious to offer a top 20 forward in the NHL a contract that will result in a $5.25M cap hit and TSM's visitors voted 3-to-2 against signing the twins at a slightly higher cap hit but only for four seasons. But the outright dismissal makes me feel like this guy:

There seems to be three main concerns about signing the Sedins:
  1. There are two of them
  2. They are too good
  3. Twelve years is a long, long time

1. There are two of them

The fear here is that two of them will take up a lot of cap space. One would only be $5.25M but two would be...carry the one...$10.5M. This one is actually ridiculous and possibly a strawman.

2. They are too good

This one goes back to how you think think the Leafs can best go about winning the Stanley Cup. Since the Leafs' began rebuilding (Step One: Fire Incompetent GM - check) we have been bombarded with all of the possible models for turning around a moribund franchise:

  • The Pittsburgh Model - Tank on purpose, trade away anyone close to NHL-calibre, draft two generational talents
  • The Detroit Model - Be really good at everything related to hockey and win so much that players will give up millions to join you
  • The Boston Model - Have a penny-pinching owner, Sign a Norris Trophy candidate (winner?), turn a journeyman goalie into a Vezina candidate (winner?)
  • The Chicago Model - Have a penny-pinching owner, be terrible by accident, draft good kids, have penny-pinching owner die (someone should have told us in the 70s when it mattered)
  • The San Jose Model - Be pretty good at developing players, have Ron Wilson, ensure a pipeline of great Finnish goaltenders, have opposition GM trade you a Hart Trophy winner for 50 cents on the dollar as a final act of stupidity
  • The Washington Model - Like the Pittsburgh model but not as hyped or successful (yet)
  • The Montreal Model - What goes up must come hilariously down.

So far, it's the Pittsburgh Model that the vocal majority of fans has adopted. Every game played by someone over 25 is seen as a waste. Especially since we all know that there is only one way to get elite players. Success post-lockout has been driven mostly by teams that have an elite core, cheap veterans, and youngsters outperforming their contracts. It's no surprise that the Senators fell apart as soon as the cheap players started wanting to get paid.

3. Twelve Years is a Long, Long Time

Well, to be fair, it is a hell of a long time. Hell, it's almost 50% of my lifetime (so far!). Still, the entire concept is being dismissed out of hand despite the Red Wings using it to good effect.

Quick Rebuttals

Obviously the first one is ridiculous. It's actually great that if you get one they come together because you know what's better than one elite forward? Two of them. Three's even better than that (should have thought of that Mrs. Sedin). If they all come with a cap hit of $5.25M then careful handing me the pen to sign because you might pull back a nub.

The second one is at least understandable. The Leafs are likely going to add another stud defenceman or a high end forward to Luke Schenn. It's hard not to wonder if it might be worth it to try to add Taylor Hall to the duo or whoever is set to go 1st in 2011. However, there are different ways to build a good team and one way that we've seen works is Detroit's method of letting the kids develop out of the limelight.

The third one is the big worry. It's certainly a gamble to start tossing out long-term contracts like these. Players can get injured, become ineffective, lose their motivation, get injured, decide that they want a trade, get injured...There's a lot that can possibly go wrong. Ask Garth Snow how he feels about 13 more years of Rick DiPietro.

The Pitch

Here are the Sedin's stats from last year:

2008 - Daniel Sedin 82 31 51 82 24 36 9 0 7 1 285 10.9

2008 - Henrik Sedin 82 22 60 82 22 48 4 0 8 0 143 15.4

That could be yours for the low-low price of $10.5M a year. Read the links up top. These guys are great players, defensively responsible, and they made Anson Carter a 30 goal scorer. Think about what they could do with Jason Blake, Niklas Hagman, or Nikolai Kulemin. The contract itself is deceptive. The term is not as oppressive as it would seem. The Sedins are extremely durable. Daniel Sedin has missed only 14 games (or an average of 2 a year) since he entered the league and Henrik Sedin has only missed 10. What makes those totals even more impressive is that they have only missed one game combined over the past four seasons despite playing an increasingly important role against tougher opposition.

Not to mention that like the Zetterberg contract (which Steve discusses) is front-loaded. If the Sedin's was similarly front-loaded the buyout would be miniscule especially factoring in 7+ years of the cap going up (it can only go up right?). Toss in the fact that if the Sedins decided to retire the contract would come completely off the books. And in a worst case scenario they can help the Marlies win the Calder Cup. Actually, there's no way they won't ask for a no-movement clause. Dammit. Either way, let's say that they are elite players until they hit 34. That is still five years at $5.25M plus they could then morph into the veterans that feast on easy opposition. Kind of like hockey playing Woodersons. Given their history, they aren't likely to just fall off the face of the earth.

What would Brian Burke Do?

He'd kick an ass or two probably but what might Burke do about the Leafs this summer? That's obviously a common refrain these days but the general sense is that no one has a clue. Where can we look? How about his most successful stop: Anaheim. When Burke left the West Coast for the Vatican Earl Sleek ran a week-long look at Burke's work with the Ducks and his entry on his roster-building philosophy is worth re-visiting.

Lesson One: If you want depth, don't acquire depth players; instead insert talent at the top of your roster.

This was the one that most caught my eye when Burke was hired. If the Sedins came to town they'd instantly bump everyone down the roster. Man Grabs Lemon did pretty well against top opposition last year but imagine how well they could do facing off against the second tier players? Most of the predictions for this year's opening night roster have Stajan leaving but what if he was playing on the third line instead of being forced to try to carry the second line?

Lesson Two: Shelter your kids – It’s good for them and it’s good for you.

Earl gives a good recap of how the Ducks sheltered guys like Getzlaf and Perry under Burke and that continued this year with Bobby Ryan. I don't think anyone could argue with the results. Last year the Leafs lead the league in games played by rookies by a mile. Obviously the kids only develop in as much as they are put into the tough roles by why not give them the best chance at success? Getting the Sedins instantly takes the pressure off of all of the young offensive players to produce immediately. Tlusty can spend another year in the AHL, this year's pick can take his time getting ready, and guys like Blake and Hagman get some veteran help.

Lesson Three: Be true to your players and they’ll be true to you.

This might make the Leafs an attractive option for the Sedins. Burke has already shown his confidence in them through his draft day manoeuvrings to land them and Nonis gave them the keys to the team.

Lesson Four: No Long-Term Deals ... Flexibility = Positivity!

So this probably rules out Burke lining up to sign the Sedins to a 12 year contract. While it does bring their salary cap down to a great number he might not be comfortable having them on the roster beyond season 5 let alone 8, 9, or 10 because there is so much uncertainty as to what the next CBA may contain or what the cap might resemble in the future. This is also a man that is against offer sheets as well so he might be hampering himself by ruling out some options. In the near term this move would give the team cap flexibility but how long does Burke plan on being in Toronto? Is he willing to make a move that will pay off for the duration of his current five year contract but that might handicap his successor or even Future Burke?

Personally, I can be convinced that this is a deal that the Leafs can do. Injuries or retirement would take the deal off of the Leafs' books and if worst comes to worst a buyout past the useful years would essentially be a pittance. Is this something that Burke might do? There are some indications that he might but so far the man has done his best to be inscrutable other than announcing that he wants Tavares and that the Leafs are going to the playoffs next year. This would certainly help...

So what would you PPPers do? Can you stomach the thought of seeing the Sedins shuffle around at 38 years old? or do you think that they are the kinds of players that can contribute well into their 30s? Are the first five years worth it?