Puck Daddy Countdown: No guarantees for Henrik Zetterberg

Has Henrik Zetterberg played his last game? (Getty)

6. Arbitration

One of the things that’s stupid about arbitration in the NHL is that every time you hear “The team came in at $1 million and the player is asking for $3 million,” you can feel good about betting your entire life savings on “The arbitrator’s going to give him $2 million.”

A lawyer on Twitter with a locked account who I’m therefore not going to link to said there’s a pretty simple reason for this: If an arbitrator goes in one direction or the other — that is, if the player or team makes a compelling case for their number — the side that “loses” has the power to fire that arbitrator. If you split the difference, nobody’s happy and everyone is simultaneously.

But that kinda takes all the intrigue out of the arbitration process, and really makes you wonder how on earth Jacob Trouba’s took six damn hours. The artifice of it is appalling — why not just come up with your numbers and split the difference right away — but that’s all billable hours I guess.

Anyway, it’s stupid.

5. Overvaluing your own players

So the Canucks re-signed Troy Stecher the other day to a two-year deal with a $2.325 AAV, which sounds just about right I think. But the way that worked out for Canucks fans, you’d think they just got the steal of the century. Oh my god Troy Stecher, wow he’s great!!!

And it’s like, “Is he?”

Don’t get me wrong, he seems like he’s fine. But he doesn’t really move the needle in terms of, say, underlying numbers and he has a grand total of 35 points in 139 career games and he’s already 24 years old.

This is one of those things where he was highly touted coming out of college (probably a little too highly) because he scored a good (but not massive) amount on a very good team. This is a guy who averaged less than 19 minutes a night and was basically used as the sheltered No. 4 defenseman on a Canucks team with Mike Del Zotto as the No. 2, so you tell me how good he is, really.

The answer seems to be “not very.” Don’t get me wrong, it’s good to have useful depth players and he’s definitely one of them, but lower-end middle-pair defenseman seems to be his quality level, if you even want to call him that much, aren’t the kinds of guys you should be celebrating if you’re even moderately well-run. The Canucks are of course not moderately well-run, so fair play there, but does it really serve you to get your hopes up about a guy who can’t even crack this Canucks team’s top-three? I feel like probably it doesn’t.

4. Zetterberg?

Seems like there’s not a lot of info out there right now about whether Henrik Zetterberg — who very quietly had 11 goals and 45 assists in a lost season at age 37 — is going to play next season, which is weird.

I know everyone wants to give all due caution with respect to his health and, yeah, he’s 38 so that’s pretty old for a hockey guy of any quality, let alone one who probably doesn’t want to just be a token addition because of Who He Is.

But still, it’s weird that we might have seen Zetterberg play his last game (in the NHL at least) to literally no fanfare. Imagine if he just kinda retires? That would be bizarre.

(By the way, did you know Zetterberg doesn’t have 1,000 career points? He’s only at 960. Now granted, 22 other guys over 37 have scored 40 in a season in the lockout era, nine of them more than once.  Zetterberg is absolutely good enough to do that. If he can stay actually play and his team doesn’t totally crap out on them. Neither of those things seem like guarantees. Bummer.)

3. Getting your hopes up

Speaking of the Canucks, there sure seems to be a lot of talk about whether Quinn Hughes, who apparently dazzled at rookie camp, will bail on the University of Michigan to sign with Vancouver before the season starts.

I could see it going either way, to be honest. I don’t think Hughes would struggle at the NHL level because of what he did at Worlds and how he plays a very modern game. But at the same time, what would he play in the NHL, like 15 or 16 minutes a night? At Michigan he would probably play more like 25-plus, get top power play minutes, all that kind of stuff.

It’s an interesting question as to what’s better for his development in the long run, but if it’s me making the call here I don’t try to sign him despite the local pressure. Let him make that decision if he wants to but I’m not leaning on him at all.

Zach Werenski, a guy I’ve compared Hughes to a lot (not just because they both went to Michigan), went back for a second season and now he’s really good. Would he have helped in a doomed season in Columbus a few years ago? I dunno, but probably not. Hughes is in the same boat. Why burn a year of his ELC when the team’s gonna stink?

2. Making a comeback

All this stuff about “Jaromir Jagr isn’t sure about an NHL return this season but it probably won’t happen” is some very “no kidding” stuff. The Flames bounced him, no one was interested because he was injured after that.

He says it’s his goal to make it back and I believe him, but he’s 46 and might not be able to stay healthy. Might be the end of the line, at least in North America. That, too, is a bummer.

1. The waiting game

The other thing I don’t like about arbitration is how spread out it is. That’s done for logistical reasons, obviously, but there are a few guys whose numbers will be really interesting if the process gets that far.

Brandon Montour today can maybe make a case for a decent chunk of change.

Jason Zucker on July 28 will be fascinating.

I wanna see that Cody Ceci number on Aug. 1 for a real solid laugh, probably on both sides.

Kevin Hayes on Aug. 2 and Mark Stone on Aug. 3 are two guys I bet get super lowballed by their teams.

And then on Aug. 4, that William Karlsson hearing could be hysterical.

Again, that’s all “if it gets that far,” which it so often doesn’t. But those are the guys where I’m really hoping it gets that far.

(Not ranked this week: Unsigned veterans.

And speaking of unsigned free agents, one of the things I always think sucks at this time of year, but which definitely makes sense from a team perspective, is when a guy like Toby Enstrom has to sit around all summer waiting for the phone to ring. These are guys who can play a bit but probably isn’t worth a huge multi-year deal or anything, and clubs just take a ton of caution with them.

Like obviously it behooves a team that has use for an early-to-mid-30s player to just give him a training camp invite in September, because it’s not like there’s a line of employers around the block for him. And it’s not just Enstrom, because there’s always a handful of guys who can meaningfully contribute but it’s easier to just give them a PTO and, maybe, a $1 million, one-year deal.

But for those guys? No good.)

Ryan Lambert is a Puck Daddy columnist. His email is here and his Twitter is here.

(All statistics via Corsica unless otherwise noted.)