Three defensemen, three different situations, all restricted free agents not currently in their respective teams’ training camps. So while they are all in the same Ocean, they are all in different boats. Take a look at each one individually.
May 12, 2013; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; Toronto Maple Leafs defenseman Cody Franson (4) carries the puck against the Boston Bruins in game six of the first round of the 2013 Stanley Cup Playoffs at the Air Canada Centre. Toronto defeated Boston 2-1. Mandatory Credit: John E. Sokolowski-USA TODAY Sports
Perhaps the biggest question surrounding Franson is why he didn’t file for salary arbitration, for which he was eligible. Twenty-two players filed, and all 22 settled their contracts before the hearing. I guess Franson thought that he would reach a deal, but him and his agent should not have taken that chance, knowing the salary cap situation that the Leafs were in. Now, the music has stopped and although there might still be a chair for him in Toronto, it will be a hard, armless seat instead of a nice leather office chair. If he had filed for arbitration, he would be in camp with a one or two year deal that, given his great numbers last season, should have been very acceptable. So now he sits, allegedly wanting a one year deal to get into camp and then he can file for arbitration next year, while the Leafs want to get him under contract for 2 seasons. At 26, this will be his 4th NHL contract and after a (82 game pace) of 55 points, I don’t blame him for wanting to cash in, and don’t understand his not using the arbitration system to his advantage.
May 4, 2013; Los Angeles, CA, USA; St. Louis Blues defenseman Alex Pietrangelo (27) handles the puck in game three of the first round of the 2013 Stanley Cup playoffs against the Los Angeles Kings at Staples Center. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports
Coming out of his entry level deal, the 23 year old has finished 4th and 14th in the past two seasons in Norris Trophy voting. He has seen what similar defensemen such as Drew Doughty have signed for in a similar situation, and he wants to be paid accordingly. Meanwhile, the Blues are pushing toward a P.K. Subban-like bridge deal for a couple of years. It’s Pietrangelo’s prerogative to sit and not take the Blues’ offer, but not only is he hurting his team, but his chances of playing for Team Canada in the Olympics in February. He is by all accounts a virtual lock for the team, but if he doesn’t play, he can’t show his value and the brass will look elsewhere. That probably strenghtens the Blues’ case as well, and they can afford to play hardball and make Pietrangelo meet their terms.
May 24, 2013; Pittsburgh, PA, USA; Ottawa Senators defenseman Jared Cowen (2) looks to clear the puck against the Pittsburgh Penguins during the third period in game five of the second round of the 2013 Stanley Cup Playoffs at the CONSOL Energy Center. The Pittsburgh Penguins won 6-2 to close out the series. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports
Which brings us to the Senators Jared Cowen. While his upside is virtually high, he has played only 90 NHL games and is coming off a major hip injury. While this didn’t deter the Senators from tabling an 8 year, $28M offer, I can’t really blame Cowen for turning it down. That is a long time to be locked in at what he feels will be lower than his potential market value. While some would argue that a bird in the hand (or $3.5M) is better than 2 in the bush (the potential for injury or failure to reach potential), you have to admire the self-confidence displayed by the big blueliner that he will develop into a high-calibre player. Meanwhile, by not reaching an agreement, he is missing out on a lot of very important development time, and the chance to start earning his future deal. He has had 2 major injuries in the past 5 years, and he still needs to get caught up from them.
So there you have it. Three players, three reasons for not being in camp, and three players that for whatever reason seem to think it is wise to wait for their offer. All three were avoidable, with Franson having the opportunity to file for arbitration and negotiate off that. Cowen and Pietrangelo have had offers, but for whatever personal reasons have chosen not to accept them. All will be affected in the short term, and possibly extending to the long term.
Whatever advice they aare getting from their inner circle, its time to start looking at the bigger picture and do what is best for the players now, before its too late.