Wednesday, July 28, 2021

Dougie Hamilton Autographed Card

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As expected, Dougie Hamilton cashed in as the major piece available in free agency today, signing a seven-year, $63M deal (worth $9M per) with the... New Jersey Devils, who now have two offensively-minded right-shot defensemen making over $9M, with P.K. Subban already in the fold.

The Devils will be Hamilton's fourth NHL team, after being drafted by the Boston Bruins (9th overall in 2011) - then-coached by Claude Julien, who has a tendency to have his GMs get rid of the good, young talent on his rosters, a fate Tyler Seguin and Phil Kessel also shared during his stint in Beantown - then traded to the Calgary Flames in a large deal only to be dealt to the Carolina Hurricanes in a blockbuster move after three seasons in the C Of Red. That's four teams that recognize his all-world talent at creating offense, three of which didn't think was enough to convince them to keep him. We know Julien views raw talent as "uncoachable", but what of the other two teams?

For starters, the Flames sent the Canes Hamilton, a promising prospect in Adam Fox (this year's Norris Trophy winner) and middle-six grinder Micheal Ferland for stop-four defender Noah Hanifin and first-line winger Elias Lindholm, which in retrospect may seem lopsided but did fill two immediate needs for them with Fox being a project that could have not ended up working - and in fact did not become who he is now with the team he was traded to.

As for Carolina, they are entitled to think that Hamilton's underlying elite possession numbers were at least partly the result of playing alongside Jaccob Slavin, perhaps the league's best shut-down defenseman - and that could very well be true, too, but Hamilton surely had his say in that as well. I'm not saying I would have paid him that much money (he's overpaid by $1.5M in this economic context mixed with a flat cap, in my opinion), but I would bet on him being my top-pair right-shot defender for the next five years and would have been willing to tack on two extra years just to make sure I get him, yes.

The Hurricanes seem intent on giving the impression that they will low-ball everyone on their team not named Rod Brind'Amour, from waiting until Sebastian Aho signed an offer sheet elsewhere a couple of summers ago to letting go their only good goalie of the past decade this summer after squabbling over half a million with Alex Nedeljkovic and now lettin gHamilton walk for nothingafter a failed postseason run. They're deep enough on defense that they may not feel it as much, though, and they're probably betting they already have his replacement in Jake Gardiner, who has been relwegated to a lesser role since signing with the team as a free agent ahead of the 2019-20 season.

The Devils will be Hamilton's third consecutive red uniform, and here is what he looked like in one of the many Hurricanes home garbs, on card #436 from the 2019-20 O-Pee-Chee collection by Upper Deck:
You'll notice a sharp difference between this blue-sharpied signature and the one I featured last January; it's the sign of a player becoming confident in his star status mixed with the autograph requester being an overweight, out of shape, bearded man in his late thirties/early forties, so the player's not even trying to scribble his name anymore and thinks it'll stop me from making a profit off the sale of the card. Except I don't sell the cards I put up here (bur he doesn't know that).

Saturday, July 24, 2021

Pavel Buchnevich Autograph Card

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The New York Rangers made waves yesterday by trading 26-year-old Pavel Buchnevich to the St. Louis Blues for Samuel Blais and a second-round pick; I've read a lot of nonsense online about how the Rangers got fleeced in the deal, essentially giving up a first-liner for a bottom-six forward and a pick that will at best be a plugger - but that is simply not true. Blais often played on the Blues' top unit, making space for Ryan O'Reilly and David Perron to create plays, and was a heart-and-soul member of the 2019 Stanley Cup-winning team. Buchnevich, on the other hand, finally played up to his offensive potential, posting a career-high 48 points in just 56 games - two more than he had put up in 68 games in 2019-20 - just in time to cash in on a four-year deal worth $5.8M per season; he was arbitration-eligible and could have gone to free agency next summer.

That's deifnitely top-6 money, and he's definitely a top-6 talent, but some Blues fans may be asking too much of him to fill in for injury-depleted former star winger Vladimir Tarasenko - prime-level Tarasenko was elite, whereas Buchnevich's upside is a one- or two-time All-Star "at best" (it's still pretty freaking good on a team that won a Cup recently and has hardware winners).

Both teams will get what they want out of this trade,but chances are the Rangers have a better shot at feeling like they got more than expected, whereas the Blues may end up 115% underwhelmed compared to what they felt they were obtaining.

Here is Buchnevich on one of my favourite themed sets, the Signature Pucks sub-set from Upper Deck's 2018-19 Trilogy collection, wearing the Rangers' classic white (away) uniform and featuring a silver-sharpied autograph on a minuscule puck embedded in the card itself:
That level of penmanship is rare nowadays. This card once had a book value of roughly $15, it now oscillates between $40-50.

Friday, July 23, 2021

Seth Jones Jersey Card

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Only weeks after Seth Jones let the Columbus Blue Jackets know that he wouldn't re-sign with them past this next season, the team found a taker for his services in the form of the Chicago Blackhawks, who are making a push for the playoffs for the 2021-22 season. The Hawks have also seemigly re-signed him for $9.5M per season (edit: confirmed, $76M over 8 seasons), hoping they get the Norris Trophy contender from 2019 instead of the sub-par performer from this past season - and I think they did.

Usually, defensemen already have hardware on their mantle before they start earning upwards of $100K per game, but this offseason is special, with the Seattle Kraken expansion draft and most GMs having prepared for it by having little over the minimum number of players to protect under contract and preferring to push their re-signings to between the amateur draft and the start of free agency; those that didn't traded away fairly big names (such as Ryan Ellis), at times for a decent return, but sometimes for literally nothing. I believe the top tier defensemen will all sign around $8-9M, one of them might fall to half that, which is where the good shut-down defenders will also range, and there will be an awful lot of $1M deals with lower-tier guys and veterans aiming for that elusive Stanley Cup betting on themselves on a short contract. That's what a flat-cap world mixed with a lot of buyouts coupled with players not getting qualified will do - it creates a perceived elite class, the middle ground disappears and those who wait too long end up on bad teams or with bad deals out of sheer lack of cap space.

Jones comes in as a household name to replace the departed Duncan Keith, who was 11 years older. The Hawks now have cost certainty for that top spot on D until he turns 35, which is when defensemen start regressing - a perfect time for a contract of this magnitude to end; perhaps the salary cap will even have increased a bit starting in the middle of the deal. Chicago will also be able to build around him, using players that will complement his skills for the duration of his prime, and their cap situation is clear (and healthy) after the Keith trade and Brent Seabrook's cap hit on Long Term Injured Reserve.

Here he is as a rookie, freshly drafted by the Nashville Predators - fourth overall, behind Nathan MacKinnon, Aleksander Barkov and Jonathan Drouin - and wearing their terrible white (away) Reebok uniform on card #RM-SJ from Upper Deck's 2013-14 Series 2 collection and Rookie Materials sub-set:
It features a blue jersey swatch from a rookie photo shoot.

Friday, July 16, 2021

Richard Panik Autograph Card

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Once considered a reliable middle-six forward who was good for some 35-40 points per season, Richard Pánik's production has fallen off in recent years, partly because he played on bad teams like the Arizona Coyotes and Detroit Red Wings, but perhaps also because when he signed as a free agent with the Washington Capitals, he was mostly seen as depth and insurance, seeing his ice time fall from 15 minutes per game in Arizona to just a little over 12 in Washington because he didn't get to fill in for anyone injured on the second line.

At the trade deadline, he was part of a package the Caps sent to the Wings to acquire power forward Anthony Mantha, and he was flipped to the New York Islanders earlier today in return for defenseman Nick Leddy, in a move impacted by the upcoming Seattle Kraken expansion draft.

Playing away from the puck is not his strength - he's more of a Thomas Vanek-type, with decent speed, good hands and a good shot - so I'm not sure how he'll fare on a team managed by Lou Lamoriello and coached by Barry Trotz, but if anything, he can get flipped to yet another team if it doesn't work out. I have a soft spot for Leddy, so I'll say the Wings win this one.

Here is the former second-rounder (52nd overall in 2009, a Tampa Bay Lightning selection) wearing the Coyotes' burgundy and black home uniform, on card #SOTT-RP from Upper Deck's 2017-18 SP Authentic collection and Sign Of The Times sub-set:
It features a blue-sharpied on-card autograph, including his jersey number (14) tagged at the end.

Monday, July 5, 2021

Duncan Keith Jersey Card

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Colour me baffled once again by Edmonton Oilers GM Ken Holland, who traded promising young prospect Caleb Jones and a third-round pick to the Chicago Blackhawks for the totality of Duncan Keith's remaining two years, $5.53M cap hit and all. Keith had shown a desire to play in Western Canada or with the Seattle Kraken, which left just the Oilers, Calgary Flames and Vancouver Canucks as possible suitors, and the Canucks and Flames were reportedly not interested. It seemed like Hawks GM Stan Bowman had his hands tied, but he may actually have been in possession of pictures of Holland in the same position that he didn't want to see released to the public.

Don't get me wrong - I LOVE Duncan Keith. He's a first-ballot Hall Of Famer, a two-time Norris Trophy winner (in the Nicklas Lidstrom era no less), and a three-time Stanley Cup Champion whose Conn Smythe performance in 2015 was the most dominant performance I've ever seen by a skater during a playoff series - more so than Chris Pronger and Erik Karlsson's failed Cup runs, more than any forwards I remember (which admittedly, because I was too young and only started paying serious attention to hockey in the Spring of 1986, doesn't include Wayne Gretzky's two Smythe-worthy performances although it does include Mario Lemieux's).

But he's 37 and will turn 38 later this week, he has been trending downwards for eight seasons, with the last four being particularly painful in terms of possession statistics, though his "real" stats in 2018-19 were pretty good. Which means the Oilers should have gotten the Hawks to at least retain a couple of millions for each season, or half his salary in Year One and none for the last... anything, really.

Keith is no longer the first-pairing defenseman he used to be, he will have to get sheltered minutes with someone who can both keep up with and help him (fix his mistakes). There are rumours Ryan Suter, Keith Yandle and others might get bought out; perhaps waiting on these options to present themselves would have diminished the price paid or improved the return.

But let's harken back to when no one knew the heights he would reach after being drafted in the second round (54th overall) four years prior, on card #RT-DK from Upper Deck's 2005-06 Series 2 set and Rookies Threads sub-set:
It shows him wearing the Hawks' classic red jersey, with a matching swatch (possibly from the same photo shoot).