Today was an important day in the offseason for NHL teams. At 5 PM EST, NHL teams were required to submit qualifying offers for restricted free agents. Any restricted free agent who was not tendered a qualifying offer and not going to team-elected arbitration will become an unrestricted free agent on July 1.
The New Jersey Devils had 11 restricted free agents (RFAs) on the books per Capgeek going into this offseason. As Tom Gulitti reported earlier today, everyone of them except for Anssi Salmela and Zach Parise has been tendered a qualifying offer. A qualifying offer doesn't mean the player will be re-signed, just that his rights will be owned by New Jersey going into free agency. Right now, only Salmela will become an unrestricted free agent this Friday unless he re-signs with New Jersey beforehand. This is especially pertinent in the case of Alexander Vasyunov, whose agent confirmed to Gulitti that he will spend the 2011-12 season with Lokomotiv Yaroslavl in the KHL.
Don't freak out over Parise not getting a qualifying offer. Since he's been elected to go to arbitration by the Devils, he doesn't need to be given a qualifying offer. Section 10.2(a).iv in the collective bargaining agreement justifies this decision. Parise will still either come to an agreement with the Devils on a contract before their arbitration hearing or go to arbitration and be a Devil for this coming season. In effect, only Salmela not being qualified is of particular note - he'll be an UFA on Friday unless he signs a deal before then.
What does this mean for the Devils? Quite simply, a lot of bodies on the roster. Let's talk about it after the jump.
I'm a little annoyed at the number of qualifying offer the Devils gave out today.
I figured that those who spent most of the season down in Albany would be qualified and possibly retained on two-way deals. Namely defenseman Maxim Noreau whom the Devils traded for David McIntyre, goaltender Jeff Frazee, forward Steven Zalewski, forward Nathan Perkovich, and Vasyunov. I'm perfectly fine with the Devils qualifying Vladimir Zharkov, who I believe is a fine fourth line winger in the NHL. What gets me is that while the Devils seemingly chose Matt Taormina (and possibly Noreau) over Anssi Salmela, they also decided to qualify both Mark Fraser and Matthew Corrente.
I don't get it. Corrente and Fraser are essentially the same defenseman. They are physical, their positioning and decision making on defense is suspect, and they bring very little offense to the table. They are third pairing defensemen at best; and so there's no reason to try and keep both of them unless one of them will be dealt away in a later transaction.
I'm also annoyed by the fact that now with the signing of Jay Leach in mind, the Devils can have up to
15 16 defenseman in their system. There is no need for this many defenders to be on professional NHL contracts. Teams cannot have more than 50 players under contract. Right now, the Devils look to have 41 (Vasyunov won't play in NJ or Albany next season, but his rights will stay on this list) before adding additional free agents. The total will be exacerbated when there is the possibility of adding Adam Larsson (I don't think he should be here for 11-12, but I can't rule it out), the possibility of re-signing the team's key unrestricted free agent Andy Greene (who knows how that is going), and Lou mentioning to Gulitti that they could still re-sign Salmela.
I know Lou doesn't want to show his hand, but if he goes out and looks to re-sign a third pairing defenseman like Salmela on top of keeping Taormina and Noreau who can probably handle a third pairing role, then I have to question what he's intending to do. For roster purposes - both in terms of the the contract list and the lineup - I don't see the need to keep them all. It's not like I hate Salmela (or Fraser or Corrente), but the Devils don't need this many third-pairing-at-best caliber players on either roster. Especially when they have others with potential looking to break through to the NHL roster in 2011-12.
Speaking of business factors, what does this all do for the salary cap? Nothing right now, that will come when there is an actual signing. As noted earlier in this offseason, while each individual qualifying offer may not seem like much, it can add up in a hurry. The total of all nine qualifying offers is $5,520,800. While not all nine will be in the NHL, the total cap impact will likely sum up to be about a million or so assuming players accept the salary offered in the qualifying offer and doesn't demand and/or receive a raise. I don't a team can sign a player less than the tendered qualifying offer. Thankfully, the salary cap is set at $64.3 million and most of these players will be in Albany for this coming season; so the Devils should have enough space remaining for Zach Parise and other signings. To reiterate: until contracts are officially signed and submitted to the league, the cap isn't a concern just yet. Today just sets up what will probably happen over the next few days.
I will say that I think today's qualifying offers should be curtains for Tyler Eckford, Olivier Magnan-Grenier, and Rob Davison in the organization. They are definitely not needed as possible depth for New Jersey (which is stretching it at best for these three) or playing on a very crowded Albany blueline. The Devils have too many defensemen in their system as-is, they don't need to add anyone. I really do think there has to be some sort of trade or other transactions coming in the future. If only to reduce the stockpile of defenders in the Devils organization and free up part of the roster.
What do you make of the Devils' decision to tender nine out of ten possible qualifying offers for their restricted free agents? Are you annoyed as I am with the decision to qualify Fraser and Corrente? As well as with just the sheer number of defensemen on the roster? Do you also think there has to be deal or other transaction coming? Please leave your thoughts and feelings on this matter in the comments.