Riding high off of the franchise's first ever Pacific Division (or any division) championship, the Phoenix Coyotes need an extended work stoppage the same way a claustrophobic needs to be trapped in a stalled, crowded elevator for a few hours. While everyone plays lip service to the fans, it's clear that neither side really cares about the fans and it's just a power play to determine who gets the best slice of the $3.3 billion pie (hint, it's not you and me).
But my favorite part of the lockout storyline thus far has been the almost blind hypocrisy of the owners stating through Gary Bettman that they are paying out too much money, while they simultaneously rush to sign players to long-term contracts for extravagant sums of money. It's the type of maneuver that Jon Stewart takes Fox News to task for frequently.
As the excellent folks at CapGeek pointed out recently, the owners have not exactly been running for cover waiting for the CBA to expire to "save" the game from the out-of-control player costs:
Teams have also spent more than $1.5 billion signing 177 players since July 1, 2012, the first day of free agency.— CapGeek (@capgeek) September 16, 2012
As Greg Wyshynski of Puck Daddy wrote on Thursday, there's a certain frustration that Bettman and deputy commissioner Bill Daly must feel when they see these contracts being signed. This all brings us to the point of this article which is to look at some of the largest contracts that were handed out over the past three months and mock and ridicule the owners crying for relief while digging their own graves.
The list is not complete (feel free to share more in the comments), but here are some of the more outrageous signings of both free agents and re-signings of players under contract from July 1 through September 15.
1. Nashville re-signs Shea Weber (14 years, $7,857,143 cap hit)
In one of the more memorable moments of the off-season, the Philadelphia Flyers signed Weber to what some might call excessive offer sheet and the Predators made the decision to match; a decision that many pundits agreed that they had no choice but to do. As a fellow sunbelt team, I love what the Preds have done, and respect the heck out of that organization and its fans. However, as with our beloved Coyotes, the franchise isn't going to be confused with the Maple Leafs in terms of their revenue stream; just check the Forbes valuation list. So the signing of Weber for a 14-year deal at a cap hit that exceeds the operating losses reported by Forbes for the franchise just might take the cake.
2. Minnesota signs Zach Parise and Ryan Suter (13 years, $7,538,462 cap hit each)
The Wild also made a huge splash in the free agency bonanza of 2012, signing the two most highly prized UFAs to identical 13-year deals. That both contracts exceed the reported operating losses for the team I'm sure is just another reason why the owners need to cure the evil being perpetrated by NHL players everywhere.
3. Dallas signs Ray Whitney (2 years, $4.5 million cap hit), Jaromir Jagr (1 year, 4.55 million), and re-sign Kari Lehtonen (5 years, $5.9 million cap hit)
The Stars have had some serious ownership issues in recent years, but new owner Tom Gagliardi seems committed to build on what was a surprisingly successful season despite narrowly missing the playoffs. The Stars also traded pest Steve Ott to acquire Derek Roy from the Sabres ($4 million cap hit), and need to re-sign RFA Jamie Benn. For a team that is operating at a loss according to Forbes, it's been an expensive summer in Big D.
4. Winnipeg re-signs Evander Kane (6 years, $5.25 million cap hit)
According to the Forbes numbers, the Jets finances weren't all rosy despite the sell-outs every night and the fervor created by having a team back after 16 years (operating income was -$5.2 million). And I think Kane is a terrific young player recording his first 30 goal season this year and only 21 years old. But as an RFA, this was a pretty rich extension that got in just under the wire.
5. Anaheim re-signs Cam Fowler (5 years, $4 million cap hit)
Fowler is still playing one more year under his entry level deal (that pays him $1.4 million), but he'll get a nice pay bump from the Ducks going forward. Not a bad day for the 20-year old d-man.
6. Carolina re-signs Jeff Skinner (6 years, $5.725 million cap hit) and signs Alexander Semin (1 year, $7 million)
I actually don't have big problems with these signings. Despite missing 18 games this past season dealing with a concussion, Skinner is a stud forward and only 20 years old, and Semin has a bad rep hanging over him despite being a pretty darn good hockey player with (theoretically) a lot to prove this year.
7. Edmonton re-signs Taylor Hall (7 years, $6 million cap hit) and Jordan Eberle (6 years, $6 million cap hit)
The Oilers are the first team on our list that actually operated at a profit last year according to Forbes, and they are using it to lock up two players that still were playing on their entry level contracts for a combined 13 years and $78 million.
8. Boston re-signs Milan Lucic (3 years, $6 million cap hit), Tyler Seguin (6 years, $5.75 million cap hit), and Brad Marchand (4 years, $4.5 million cap hit)
Again, the Bruins are making money according to Forbes, so good for them on investing in their future. Of course, they are also committed to paying $5 million to a goalie that won't be suiting up for them, so there's that. Jeremy Jacobs is one of the owners who is believed to wield the most power with the NHL (along with Philadelphia's Ed Snyder), so it's pretty entertaining that he authorized these three deals less than 10 days before the lockout, but that's the hypocrisy for you.
9. Phoenix re-signs Shane Doan (4 years, $5.3 million cap hit)
The fact that the NHL is authorizing this 35+ contract is certainly somewhat entertaining. As GMDM pointed out during the press conference, it's not as if Doan signed to a really sweet hometown discount deal; he's getting a raise of almost $1 million over his last contract. Of course, we all know that Doan was an essential signing for the Coyotes as he's the face of the franchise and losing him should never really have been an option. But in the face of the uncertainty surrounding the NHL finances and the entire lunacy of the Coyotes ownership, it's necessary to include his contract on our list.
Now, this isn't to say that I fully support the players in this lockout debacle. At the end of the day the two groups will still be filled with millionaires of varying degrees which isn't what can be said for 99% of the fans in the arena on any given night. And while the accessibility of the players on Twitter is refreshing (and for some of their agents even more so), it hasn't always helped sway my opinion of their stance. Allan Walsh in particular just makes me irate these days.
But for now, which team do you think has displayed the greatest hypocrisy in the free agency bonanza of 2012?