Wednesday, June 24, 2015


In the world of professional sports and guaranteed contracts, it’s always amazing to me when I see a team get chastised for not taking advantage of a loophole or some contract language to get out from a bad deal.  The Philadelphia Phillies are in a situation where they will have to pay Chase Utley $15-million next season if he reaches 500 plate appearances.  He’s halfway there with 90 games to go, but manager Ryne Sandberg has stapled his .179 rear end to the dugout bench and critics are saying if Utley’s healthy enough to reach his 500 plate appearances, the Phils shouldn’t hold him out.  I couldn’t disagree more.  Utley, even if he was hitting .279 isn’t worth $15-million next year.  Players use ‘opt out’ clauses all the time to either hold their current team hostage for a larger payday, or allow other teams to make offers in the hope of securing a longer, more lucrative contract.  But, when teams use similar language to get rid of someone; they are branded as treating the player unfairly and, for some reason, it’s unethical to plant someone on the bench so he doesn’t reach the required amount of playing time for the player option to kick in.  The reality is that if Utley was good enough to be playing, the Phillies would have no problem finding a trading partner or else use him themselves.  My bet is that he does not get to 500 plate appearances, he becomes a free agent, and a different team will roll the dice on him with a one year contract for, considerably, less than $15-million and, to me, that’s the way it should be.  Update – Utley hit the DL today.

Minnesota Wild goaltender Devan Dubnyk is set to become a free agent as he seeks north of $5-million a season on a multi-year contract.  Dubnyk wasn’t even in the NHL at this time last year.  He had bounced around from team to team and was very close to having to find another line of work.  However, he showed to be a competent netminder with the Arizona Coyotes through the first half of the season and then was traded to goalie desperate Minnesota at midseason and he ended up being the best in the league.  The Wild, at the time, were destined to fire their coach and were an outsider contender for the Connor McDavid sweepstakes.  But, Dubnyk was a workhorse and posted a 27-9-and-2 record to go along with a 1.78-GAA.  I hold Dubnyk, personally, responsible for Winnipeg having to play their butts off down the stretch just to sneak into the playoffs.  In the playoffs, Dubnyk was a more Dubnyk-like 4-and-6 with a 2.53-GAA.  In a salary cap world, paying him $5-million a season for several years could be suicide. 

If you think about it, why would NHL teams pay any goaltender huge money?  The supposed best in the league have never won a Stanley Cup (Carey Price and Henrik Lundqvist).  The other top goalies missed the playoffs this year (Jonathan Quick and Tukka Rask).  Corey Crawford is not, generally, considered to be a top five goalie but he has two Stanley Cups.  Crawford, also, lost his number one job in the first round of the playoffs and, barely, got it back and looked like he was going to mess his pants in the league final too only to regroup and turn in three awesome games at the end against Tampa.  Ben Bishop isn’t bad, I guess, but he can’t stay healthy.  He’s bowed out of the playoffs two years in a row and is also prone to back breaking goals.  To me, the current state of NHL goaltending is that of streaks and it’s not conducive to spending a lot of money on it.  Top defensemen and top forwards, usually, stay the same from year to year.  But, you can’t convince me that Devan Dubnyk, Andrew Hammond, Cam Talbot, Jake Allen, and Marc-Andre Fleury will rank as the top statistical goalies next year.  It, actually, wasn’t that long ago Fleury was considered to be a flop and a liability to his team.  That just goes to show you how volatile the position is.

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