Saturday, September 22, 2007

A Word on the Fisher Resigning

I know I'm late to the party on this one, but I thought it an appropriate time to offer my opinion on Fisher's new long-term contract.

To preface, it is difficult not be a huge fan of Fisher and what he brings on the ice, in the dressing room, and to the city. Many make the argument that he's the best third liner in the league, and I have trouble disagreeing. Though he has struggled with injuries for the entirety of his NHL career, never playing a full season, there is never a question that he gives every ounce of effort when on the ice, and plays through pain as much as any player in the league when the situation requires it. Were the salary cap not a consideration, were I in Bryan Murray's position I'd give the 27-year old a blank check and ask only that he do us the favour of making the contract life-long. I won't for a second pretend that I am anything but enthused at the prospect of seeing Fisher in a Senators jersey for the next five years, and I am equally happy to see such a selfless player rewarded both financially and temporally for his sacrifice over the past eight years.

However, the Senators operate in a league which has a mandatory budget in place. In such a league, the salaries allotted to the role players need to be as carefully considered as those allotted to the stars. It is excessively easy to point to the struggles of the Tampa Bay Lightning and the difficulty they have encountered in having a significant portion of their cap wrapped up in three star players, providing little room for satisfactory depth players (and the above-league-minimum contracts they require).

Still, there is an equal risk in overpaying for these vaunted role players, Mike Fisher among them, whose overinflated salaries can cause the loss of difference makers like Dany Heatley. It should be noted that Fisher's $4.2 million contract alone, will not mean the difference between keeping or losing Heatley, nor, certainly, will it mean the difference between the Senators being or not being competitive. However, it can become an awfully slippery slope. First Fisher makes $4.2 million because he has plenty of heart, and is loved in the city, and makes every night difficult for the opposition; next, Sami Pahlsson becomes the highest paid player on the Anaheim Ducks because he brings the same qualities and then some? Chris Kelly makes the same as Fisher because, despite his relative lack of physicality, he has a superior mental knack for the game to Fisher, and brings the consistency in conditioning lack Fisher lacks? Cody Bass gets a Dustin Penner-level offer sheet in three years time? You keep rewarding the thankless role players, and eventually there is no room for them in a salary cap world, nor the star players.

Fisher will be earning just under 10% of the Senators cap next season, with the expectation that he will be a second line player. He will be given the opportunity to play with Daniel Alfredsson, or perhaps a star UFA picked up should Heatley orbit out of the Senators' price range. He will inevitably miss 15 or more regular season games, and other players will be required to take his place for nearly 20% of the season. His injuries should not be held against him, as they come as a result of the fearless game he plays, but they are a factor nonetheless. Fisher has never eclipsed 50 points, however he has never had a full season of playing with capable offensive players (though, as the Senators 4th forward in terms of ice time and leader of the second power play unit, he has been given opportunities in terms of ice-time to make things happen). He is 27-years old, in his prime, and one would be overly optimistic to assume that he will explode offensively at this point, even given the opportunity to play with star linemates like Alfredsson; still, stranger things have happened and it would be unwise to suggest it impossible.

I hope that Fisher earns every penny of his contract; I hope that he shines in his role as second line center and provides the missing depth offense our team has so desperately needed in the post-season. I hope that Fisher's market level contract does not interfere with the signing of players who really make the difference on this team - the 50 goal scorers, the 100-point playmakers, the 30-minute defensemen. It probably won't. But what if we have to pay market value for a 22-year old top 4, physical, offensive defenseman capable in playing in all 3 situations? A 25-year old skilled, speedy playmaker who puts up similar goal totals to Fisher and plays a more pivotal role on the penalty kill than some of the best defensive players in the game? A 23-year old sniper who could very well hit 30 goals this season? A 27-year old defensive player who can play on any line, with any type of player, in any situation, and not look an inch out of place? Every player mentioned above is coming up for a contract next season. Many observers are banking on discounts from these players to keep the team together. If not, they're banking on poor seasons from these players to keep their values down.

It's a slippy slope, and suffice it to say, I don't envy Bryan Murray.


TJ said...

I don't think you will find a person in Ottawa who doesn't love Fisher, and that includes the Leaf fans, so I really hope he can live up to this contract.

With that being said, based on his previous outings he did not deserve this much money. On the open market he likely would have gotten it, but usually a player resigning will get a smaller payday. I was hoping for something in the 3-3.5 range, so this kinda blew me out of the water.

Signing Fisher should have been the teams 3rd priority after Heatley and Spezza, so I am naturally disappointed that he came first and at such a relatively high price tag .

Here's hoping he can fill the second line role, because god knows EVERY year in Ottawa we are looking for a legitimate 2nd line centre...and now we are paying Fisher like one.

No One Remembers #2 said...

I agree with everything you wrote.

Thanks for the comment.