So I've been doing a lot of reading this morning into the salary structure of our team. When things like the Edmonton game start happening I look into the future; it's better than getting bitter. One glaring thing that really bugs me is most of the good we are seeing this year is coming from the bottom salaries on our team. At the top, all I see is underachieving. This was especially frustrating while getting thrashed 7-0 last night. Without further ado, here is Scott Howson's poorly thought out mess he left us with:
- R.J. Umberger - At a ridiculous $4.7 million per year through 2017. Really? We have to put up with this mediocrity until 2017? I feel like this was Howson's last big f*** you before getting fired. The initial signing was a bit of a disappointment, and we reward him for that with a 5 year extension. I don't care where he played in college; did you see his "breakaway" in the Montreal game? Boone Jenner right now is already a better player. Buyout Amount: $9 million in total at a $1.5 million a year cap hit until 2020.
- James Wisniewski - Again, until 2017 we pay Wiz a whopping $5.5 million a year. He has the highest salary on the team by someone not named Gaborik/Bob. He has never, I repeat NEVER finished a full NHL season without getting hurt. The closest he came was four years ago when he played a less than impressive 69 games with a -5 rating. These are not what you might call top flight defenseman numbers. It still boggles my mind that he fleeced the Jackets into this signing. Ryan Murray has made him look bad all year. At 29 years old, he has still not figured out how to receive a pass without letting it leave the zone. Wiz makes more money than Alex Pietrangelo; what's wrong with this picture? I have a hockey rule of thumb: if you're on your 5th team before you're 30, you suck. Buyout Amount: $20 million at 2 years of $2 million, 1 year of $4 million, and 3 years of $1.5 million until 2020
- Jack Johnson - Oh Jack, you're off to your worst season ever. Please accept this check for $4.3 million dollars until 2018 please. The constant argument that's made for him, and I think this is ridiculous is that he is a big minutes defenseman and that's super valuable. Agreed, the guy has some serious stamina but to me that is 23 minutes a game where there is a gaping liability out on the ice. Through 21 games we have 5 points and a pitiful - 9 rating. My fellow fans, once again I ask really? 5 more seasons of this? All he has ever done in the NHL is allow goals to be scored while he's skating. Just because you play a lot of minutes does not put you anywhere near that P.K. Subban and Zdeno Chara category. The common thread in those two of course being that they don't have a career - 99 rating. Buyout Amount: $10 million at an average 1.3 million a year through 2021.
- Fedor Tyutin: Now I'll be the first to say his skill is in question for sure, but at least Tyutin has been coming to work everyday for a long time now. Their is something to be said for staying healthy and longevity. Even still, $4.5 million a year until 2017 is a hell-of-a-lot for what we're getting out of him. We heard all this chatter when we got him about how he was a huge blue line upgrade and would compete on the power play; that's just not true. He is a reasonable stay-at-home defender with decent passing skills and an okay shot. Most days he is still a turnover machine who gets really lazy with the puck at all the worst times. I guess I have a soft spot in my heart for him because he's been here so long, but by no means should he be in our top 5 salaries. Buyout Amount: $12 million in total at an average cap hit of 1.5 million a year through 2021.
My point being, those four players account for 37% of our team payroll going forward and 27% is wrapped up for a LONG LONG time in perhaps 3 of the least responsible defenders in the league. Any hockey fanatics out there, do you see an escape plan from Howson's cap dumpster-fire he left us with? Obviously Marian Gaborik (who Jarmo/JD have been smart enough to not give an undeserved mega-deal) is the real elephant in the room in this present financial discussion, but at year's end he is going to be let go or resigned at an extreme discount from what he gets now . That should free up some serious space next season.
However, In the next two off-seasons we have to resign : Ryan Johansen/Tim Erixon (both to non-rookie deals this time), Derek MacKenzie, Blake Comeau and potentially Sergei Bobrovsky again. In addition, Cam Atkinson, Brandon Dubinsky, Matt Calvert and Mark Letestu are a little further down the line. I'm certainly not saying that all of those guys will stay here as we have some serious prospects to consider in the next couple years. And believe me, the likes of Alexander Wennberg, Kerby Rychel and Marko Dano all excite me quite a bit; but doesn't that incoming talent deserve a better standard than to see these four guys are what Columbus believes is worth the most money to them? Not one of them has earned a paycheck this year on a consistent basis. Even with Wiz and the high point total, there's no stat for misplaying the puck. If there was he in particular would be cringe-worthy. And James, there are other parts to the game of hockey than having your stick in the air waiting for a point shot. You're not good enough to be Erik Karlsson.
This is absolutely not JD's fault; a regime change of this kind takes time. Furthermore, I know we can't predict the next couple off-seasons because anything could happen. But when I see people on this board talking about : "We should trade Umberger/ Johnson / Wiz / Tyutin for prospects", I ask myself and now you, WHO DO YOU THINK IS GOING TO MAKE THAT TRADE!!! It's easy to suggest such things but you could call Philly right now and propose: "We will give you Umberger back for a 6-pack of Bud Light and a Jimmy John's sandwich", and Paul Holmgren would hang up on you. Things rarely go the easy way. I want to know from you guys what the solution to this problem is in a realistic way that could actually happen. Please no "Lets package them for Steven Stamkos" comments, we'd be extremely lucky to sell the whole lot for Nail Yakupov and his bad attitude.