That famous quote, from the late screenwriter William Goldman about what makes for a hit movie, remains true for the hockey media world. Yeah, often we have a good idea what might happen. But mostly it’s: nobody knows anything. That, of course, includes moi.
Everybody is just kind of guessing when it comes to which NHL free agents will go where. The biggest fish, Artemi Panarin, remains in South Florida, at least judging by his Instagram account.
The optics, it’s true, don’t look good when it comes to the prospect of the Bread Man signing with the Avalanche. He’s sitting there in Florida throughout the free-agency courting week. If he were posting pictures of the Rocky Mountains, we would all probably feel a lot better about him signing a lucrative deal with the Avs.
As I’ve said before, Florida has advantages in signing free agents or retaining their own players. There is no state income tax in Florida. In Colorado, it’s 4.63 percent. In New York, it’s 8.82 percent. By signing with Florida, he saves that much in annual taxation. On $10 million a year, he pockets $463,000 more on an annual basis by signing with the Panthers than he would with the Avs. A half a million dollars is still, at last check, good money in this world.
I can’t reveal all my sources, but I still maintain that the Avs are a contender for Panarin. Yes, it seems like Florida is the leader in the clubhouse for now. But the Avs, I firmly believe, offer the best location for him. Denver is a much more fun place to hang out than Sunrise, Fla., I can personally vouch for that. If your idea of fun is an early-bird special at Chili’s, then Sunrise is the place for you. Not to mention, the Avs are a better team right now than the Florida Panthers.
Sure, Panarin makes either team better with his presence. But the Avs have a better near-term future than the Panthers. Period. If he wants palm trees and a lesser income tax, then Florida will be the place for him, and that’s the way it goes. The Avs will move on and be just fine. He’s a very good player, but he ain’t Wayne Gretzky.
Florida has $24 million in available cap space. The Avs have almost $39 million. The Avs can outbid for Panarin, probably, over the Panthers. They still need a goalie, with Roberto Luongo retiring Wednesday. They need to sign Sergei Bobrovsky, and they probably will. The Bob has never won a darned thing in this league, but he’s a free agent now, and NHL GMs always overpay for guys like him – then almost always live to regret it. That’s why people shouldn’t think it’s the end of the world if the Avs don’t get the Bread Man. Free agency really almost never works. What works is the draft, shrewd on-the-fly trading and, yes, maybe the occasionally smart free-agent signing. Otherwise, this league is a graveyard of bad free-agent contracts. (See: Marleau, Patrick, Toronto Maple Leafs)
Conor Timmins looked GREAT at Avs development camp. If he can overcome these last couple hurdles, he’s going to be a really good player for Colorado. My story on his first day, filed last night, is here.
Nice retrospective of Luongo’s great career, here.
I misinterpreted something I was told today, about Ian Cole. I was told he could “return” to the Avs by training camp. He might still do that. But, as the Avs corrected me a short time later, he won’t “play” again until December. The Avs said Erik Johnson also will NOT start the season on time, from his shoulder surgery. They say he will return “sooner” than Cole, but exactly when remains unknown.
Cale Makar and Tyson Jost are on something of a publicity tour on behalf of the Avs, for the outdoor game next year and other things. They will take batting practice at Coors Field Thursday at 4 p.m.
Here’s a good primer on the procedures should a team make an offer sheet on a restricted free agent.