To Sign or Not to Sign - Part Two

Continuing our look at the free agent class for the Wild, today we will take a look at the three UFA defensmen. The names are familiar. Two are infamous with fans, one is a hero of sorts. What happens with these three players will send a clear signal to the fans and the league as to what direction this team is headed. Will the new GM hold on to a defenseman that fasn detest more than anyone in team history, but who had a solid season? Will the new GM hang onto a failed offense-from-the-blue-line experiment? Finally, will the new GM offer a deal to a guy who has fought back from a horrific injury and showed he still belongs in the NHL?

Make the jump, and we will discuss Martin Skoula, Marc-Andre Bergeron, and Kurtis Foster.

(According to Cap Central, the Wild have just over $43 million in salary cap hit taken up next season. The cap is expected to stay right at the $56 million mark for next year, leaving the Wild roughly $13 million to work with.)

Martin Skoula


Martin Skoula

#41 / Defenseman / Minnesota Wild

6-3

226

Oct 28, 1979



GP G A P +/- PIM PPG SHG GWG GTG SOG PCT
2008 - Martin Skoula 81 4 12 16 -12 10 0 0 0 0 55 7.3

Clearly the most reviled player on the roster, Skoula has had his share of mishaps, and generally at critical or high profile moments. Every Wild fan worth a salt remembers Marty tripping on the blue line, falling down while standing still leaving a NY Ranger all alone to score from five feet away from the net, errant passes, and any number of times he had the chance to be physical and instead got deeked out of his breezers.

Skoula was part of the Willie Mitchel trade, and many fans had high hopes for him. He was a recognizable name, but many did not know why. Turns out he is infamous around the league for the mishaps described above.

What he means to the team:

Skoula's worth as an NHL defenseman is debatable, with those who believe he is useless, and those who feel he is a solid third pairing d-man. His worth to a team, and a fan base is less tangible. He serves, if nothing else, as a scapegoat. He can always be blamed for a mishap, a goal against, or a loss. A way can certainly be found to blame him for the strife in the Middle-East if you give me enough time.

What is gained by a re-signing, what is lost if he walks:

The only thing I see as a positive should Skoula re-sign is the scapegoat returns. Maybe a new coach can teach him to be physical and protect the goalie, but it is doubtful.

Nothing is lost if he walks. Nothing at all. It would actually be a God send if another team makes him an offer. He still, somehow, has a solid reputation throughout the league. Skoula leaving would open up a spot for any number of possibilities. Someone from Houston could come up and get a shot. Maybe Cuma comes up from juniors.

Skoula leaving would be one of the best moves a new GM could make in both PR, and on-ice production. Who becomes the scapegoat after that? Only time will tell.

Should they (and will they) make an offer?

They should not. There are few players on the roster that I would say an offer should not even be made too. Heck, I even admitted they should try to re-sign Gaborik. Skoula needs to go, and they should not even make an offer, for fear he might take it.

Will they? Most likely they will put something on the table, but not enough for him to take. I hope.

How much should the offer be, and for how long?

I will say again here... THEY SHOULD NOT OFFER HIM A DEAL.

However, right now he makes $1.8 million a season. He has a ton of experience under his belt, and there will be a team willing to offer him somewhere in the $2 million a year range for two or three years.

Mike Gillis, if you are reading, make him an offer. Excellent player. $5 million a year range, easy.

What are the chances of this happening?

The odds of Skoula wearing Iron Range Red next season are slim. Again, back to the new GM, any UFAs have got to be skeptical of a return. With Skoula's history of mishaps, an awfully high salary for a third pairing blueliner, and the fact that the fans HATE him, the new GM will be hard pressed to find a reason to consider a Skoula return.

 

Marc-Andre Bergeron


Marc-Andre Bergeron

#47 / Defenseman / Minnesota Wild

5-10

197

Oct 13, 1980



GP G A P +/- PIM PPG SHG GWG GTG SOG PCT
2008 - Marc-Andre Bergeron 72 14 18 32 5 30 7 0 3 0 140 10.0


Also known as "Queen MAB" and "The Great Gazoo," Bergeron was brought in to bring some offense from the blueline, something the Wild sorely lacked in 07-08. He filled the role fairly well, but the fact that he is a horrible defenseman does not bode well for him. He is small, not physical at all, and unusable on the penalty kill. A new coach and GM could free Kim Johnsson up from his defensive mind set and put him back into an offensive role, something he excelled at before coming to Minnesota. If that is the plan, MAB is as unneeded as Martin Skoula.

What he means to the team:

He does bring offense from the point, there is no question there. However, his defensive stats are terrible, and if a defenseman cannot play defense, why not make him a wing? He is not a leader (at least there are no reports saying so), he played just 15:33 of short handed hockey all season.

His value to the team is completely from the offensive side of the puck.

What is gained by a re-signing, what is lost if he walks:

Re-signing Bergeron gives a signal that the team is moving in an offensive direction. As stated above, he has little or no ability on the defensive side of the puck, so the only thing gained by bringing him back is offense from the blue line. If this season is any indication, that is not enough.

If he walks away, the same arguments can be made as were made for Skoula leaving.It frees up $1.25 million or better, frees up a spot for a new defenseman, and gives the new coach and GM some room to tinker with the style of play. In short, not much is lost if he walks.

Should they (and will they) make an offer?

I would say they should make an offer, but likely will not. I think the offer should be enough to be respectful, but not enough to make him sign. Sometimes, the politics of simply making an offer, no matter how unacceptable to the player, go a long way with other players who may be sought after.

How much should the offer be, and for how long?

Depending on what happens on July 1st, MAB could still be valuable to the Wild. If the new GM puts together a team, and a coach is willing to pair a solid defensive defensman with MAB, he still has some small value.

The offer should be no more than $1.5 million a year, and for no more than two years. (Please note I do not advocate re-signing him.)

What are the chances of this happening?

I don't think I ever put forth an actual suggestion above, so the chances are hard to give.

The chances that MAB returns are slim. As said several times, the new GM will want new players, as will a new coach. Players such as MAB, who serve no penalty killing role, are brutal to have on the roster. Put them in a key spot such as the blueline, and that brutality becomes almost criminal.

Kurtis Foster


Kurtis Foster

#26 / Defenseman / Minnesota Wild

6-5

220

Nov 24, 1981



GP G A P +/- PIM PPG SHG GWG GTG SOG PCT
2008 - Kurtis Foster 10 1 5 6 7 6 0 0 0 0 10 10.0

 

What he means to the team:

Foster has shown he wants to be a leader on the team, or a team. He does interviews willingly with media of all kinds, he practices hard, he speaks up in the locker room, and he leaves everything he has on the ice. He fought back from one of the worst injuries a hockey player can suffer, not knowing if he would ever walk again, let alone skate.

His worth to the team is intangible. He is a fan favorite, and he is still young. He has the potential to be an excellent two-way defenseman, and has an absolute cannon of a shot. Six points in ten games after coming back show he belongs in the NHL.

He is definitely one of the top five defenseman on a team with some very good defensemen. He deserves a spot on the second pairing, but on the Wild cannot get around Burns, Schultz, Johnnson, and Zidlicky.

What is gained by a re-signing, what is lost if he walks:

This is tricky. The incoming GM needs a show of good faith to the fans. Foster would be a good person to go with for that sign. Foster is loved by the fans, and the storyline is undeniable. He is also an excellent defenseman. Re-signing him brings back an up and coming star, and gives him the confidence that only this franchise can give him.

Should he be allowed to leave, the Wild are going to miss him, and they will pay for it in spades. His shot will come back to haunt them at some point. The loss of another fan favorite for nothing would also be a bad idea.

Should they (and will they) make an offer?

Should they, yes. Will they, yes. They can get him, and they can get him relatively cheap.

How much should the offer be, and for how long?

Let's say you take the $1.25 million a year you are paying Bergeron and just shift it to Fozzie. Make it for either one or two years. One year if you feel he is not as good as he appears he can be, two years if you are unwilling to risk that he is, in fact, as good as he looks to be.

What are the chances of this happening?

The chances of Foster returning are good. He is young, he is good, and he is cheap. He allows the team to focus on the offensive side of the puck with the big money.

Today's Lesson

In today's lesson, we continued the lesson from yesterday. Unless there is a good reason to bring a player back, the new GM will likely have no inclination to do so. Change is in the air, and the incoming boss has no loyalties to anyone on the roster. This is not his team, and he will want to make it his team. With only the five UFAs, he will have little chance to make much of a splash, so you can almost count on the fact that he will use those five spots to his advantage.

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