Thursday, June 22, 2006

Not re-signing Scott Thornton is a big mistake

The AP just reported that the Sharks have declined the option to resign Scott Thornton for the 2006-2007 season for 1.7 million. Interesting quote in the article:

"It's not every player you do this for, but I have a lot of respect for him," Wilson said. "This gives him time to check out his options."
Thornton is 35. I hope the Sharks don't actually think that they are doing him a favor. I'm not saying that Thornton isn't a good player, or that his career is over. I found an unofficial list of NHL salaries for last season, and a did a quick search to see what other players are making between $1.6M and $1.8M last year. Thornton made $1.71M, and that was the size of his option. Here's the list:
  • Sean Burke
  • Mark Denis
  • Manny Fernandez
  • Brett Hull (since retired)
  • Mike Johnson
  • Filip Kuba
  • Jamie Lagenbrunner
  • Robin Regehr
  • Dwayne Roloson
  • Dick Tarnstrom
  • Donald Brashear
  • Mike Comrie
  • Mathieu Dandenault
  • Viktor Kozlov
  • Paul Mara
  • Jaroslav Modry
  • Sean O'Donnell
  • Cory Stillman
  • Colin White
It's a long list, so there's lots of possible comparisons here. If I were starting a team, and I had to rank these players by who would help me the most, I think I would only take Thornton over Sean Burke, Viktor Kozlov, and Donald Brashear. So the idea that the Sharks didn't exercise his option for his own good is patently ridiculous. He will not get $1.7M someplace else.

All that being said, the Sharks should have picked up his option for two big reasons.

1. He's Joe Thornton's cousin. Hockey has more relatives in the sport than any other, and lots of times those family bonds are strong. I'm not sure how close Joe is with Scott, but I do know Joe was living in Scott's house after he was traded to San Jose. Look at Scott Neidermayer- he went to the Ducks so he could play with his brother. Cutting Scott lose can only hurt the relationship the Sharks have with Joe- it cannot help.

2. He's a great role player and a fan favorite. There should be no sacred cows, but a lot of fans were pissed when we let Mike Ricci go, me among them. The fans, after all, are the ones that (primarily) pay the salaries. Why not take the option, put him in training camp against the youngsters, and trade him to a team making a playoff run if it doesn't work out? The Sharks are nowhere close to the salary cap here, one that will be raised to $44M for 06-07.

There's only one (poorly disguised) reason why the Sharks let him go- because they didn't want to pay him. And now Doug Wilson has put even more pressure on himself to get some decent free agents. You can't raise ticket prices by 10%, get rid of popular players, and make no signings in the offseason. Not if you don't want to get drilled in the press.


Jeremy said...

If you wouldn't pay Scott, do you think that other teams will? Seems like Wilson is saying "If you can get more than 1.7, go for it." I wouldn't be surprised to see him back with the Sharks next year (family discount, plus roots down discount).
Interesting list you had. I came across one regarding free agents. The guy that maintains it seems to be on top of things. Check it out:
Anyone else going to be following the draft?

Mike said...

I guess he could be back with the Sharks, but I think still the message isn't that "we want you to make as much money as you can" as it is "we don't think you're worth $1.6M, and we're not going to pay it."

I have seen that guys list, it's pretty cool. Who are you salivating after for the Ducks?

As for the draft, it's a slowyear this year, with no obvious Ovechkin or Crosby. I think Phil Kessel is a good story. Jordan Staal could end up being better than his brother. I know the Sharks have #20, and if they don't draft one of those two guys, I won't know him from Adam.