Actually, I'm not into mind altering substances - never really has been my thing. What, you ask am I talking about... Well yesterday Tarik El-Bashir posted on his blog some quotes from Tomas "Flash" Fleischmann's agent about the status of Flash's contract negotiations. Here's the excerpt I found most incredulous:
"We would like to make progress but we're not there yet. Evans (as in Rich, Fleischmann's Vancouver based agent) added. Keep in mind any contract that goes beyond one year takes into account [unrestricted] free agency and trying to value what free agency is worth a year away from it."
So I look at that quote and I think a couple of things as I reflect back to the last year of Flash's performance and also consider that last year a far better European (actually Russian) Wing, with a much longer track record and a much higher value to the team, ended up signing a one year deal rather than try and wrestle about what he might be worth in free agency with GM George McPhee. I also look to guys I might consider in a similar boat to Flash from last summer and the closest I can come to is Maxim Afiniganov, though I'd put Afiniganov as a much more consistent and proven NHL performer than "Flash." Considering that the Capitals gave Fleishmann his league/CBA mandated qualifying offer as an RFA today so that would be a salary of ~$761,250 (a mandated 5% raise) for the streaky, inconsistent, 26 year-old, developing, not very physical, Czech wing; it will be bizarrely interesting to me, as well as a real commentary on the overall thinness of this of season's RFA crop if any other team is willing to make a much better offer sheet and pay the Capitals the compensation picks required to pick up Fleischmann. Last season Fleischmann scored a total of 23 goals and 28 assists for 51 points in 69 games played but was only +/- + 9 and tended to score in a very "streaky" and undependable manner. On the other hand Maxim Afiniganov who was signed as a UFA by a far less talented Atlanta team as a UFA from Buffalo for a a salary and cap hit of $800,000 as a 30 year old, 10 year NHL veteran who ad previously scored over 20 goals a season three other times in his career and had a total of 24 goals and 37 assists in 82 games is again an Unrestricted Free Agent and can be picked up without providing his current team any sort of compensatory draft picks.
So, do I see Fleischmann getting any significantly better, multi-year offers this off season? Short answer, no. For those who feel Flash might get more money because he is the possible answer for the needed second line center on the Capitals, my reaction is two thoughts - 1) I don't think so, and 2) I sincerely hope not. Flash is absolutely NOT a natural center. He's just not defensively responsible enough to be that guy, even as a third line center. There were just too, too many times when he had that spot in the lineup where he lost track of the guy who on the opposing team who either a) ended up with a goal, or b) a primary assist. In the end, if you're going to try and put a guy from the existing group of Capitals' forwards in that spot - the answer is straight forward - his first name starts with Brooks and his last name ends with Laich. There's nothing wrong with "Flash" as a sniper, the issue is that on the Washington Capitals today as a wing - Flash is like the number 8 forward - and yes I know that overall last season he was the 7th most prolific scorer. I can count and read statistics. However would you honestly consider putting Flash in front of: 1) Ovechkin, 2) Semin, 3) Knuble, 4) Laich and 5) Fehr on a list of Wings? I wouldn't. As for a list of last year's centers would you put him in front of 1) Backstrom, 2) Brendan Morrison (before he tired at the end of last season), 3) Eric Belanger or for that matter 4) David Steckel on one of his good nights? I wouldn't.
So where's that leave "Flash"? On the Capitals I think it leaves him as a properly compensated, third line winger at between $750,000 and $800,000 guy. Are there other teams where he's worth more - sure. However, if I'm one of their GM's do I make an offer sheet to him and pay the draft picks in compensation or do I talk to GMGM and see if I can pick him up in a more cost effective fashion? In this market and given that last season was his best season ever, being I'm cheap I will tell you I don't know but the compensatory picks sure seem like a lot for a frugal, cap smart guy to fork over for Fleischmann.
I actually think the Capitals have more options and can shape/form a more durable, stronger, two way team without Fleischmann than with him. So as I've been saying if I'm GMGM I make the Qualifying Offer and then I deal him after I sign him if need be. As far as I'm concerned Rich Evans is being an agent and talking up his client when he says: "In my mind, he was one of their top guys when [Alex Ovechkin] was out [hurt]." Well, okay Rich I understand you have a job to do and you get overpaid to do it so I'll forgive you for the overstatement. However, look at your client's last season objectively and here's the realities as far as offensive numbers go he was seventh on a strong team. As far as being on the ice for defensive situation - that was a rare occurrence for a LOT of reasons. As far as being a dependable go to guy - no value there at all his performance was the same as it's always been streaky and inconsistent. Oh and he did all this while getting WAY TOO MUCH ice time. Personally, it's time to send a massage to the team that even the teacher's pet(s) aren't sacred. Flash has been given every chance and then some to excel. He hasn't been bad but he hasn't been excellent either. It's time to move him to a team that is willing to give the Caps fair value for him as on many other teams he has a chance to be a second line winger. On the 2010 - 2011 Washington Capitals, with the current talent base up front, that should not be the case.
So to Rich Walsh and Tomas Fleischmann, I say here's your Qualifying Offer, now let me get back to negotiating a contract extension with Eric Fehr. NEXT!