Some decisions are exceptionally easy to make. My attire each day is usually selected after carefully evaluating which items of clothing have the fewest buttons, and when choosing a nice spot for a Saturday evening dinner with that special someone, Hooters is typically an unwise selection.
Tampa Bay’s re-signing of Eric Brewer before the hulking defenceman became an unrestricted free agent on July 1 falls somewhere in that vast wasteland of easy decisions.
Lightning GM Steve Yzerman (or WHY-Zerman) secured Brewer for the next four years at a cost of $16 million. An official announcement was made Friday afternoon confirming earlier reports, and Damian Christardo of the St. Petersburg Times pegged Brewer’s cap hit at roughly $3.85 million.
Brewer was the only major piece of Tampa’s blueline set to test the open market this summer. That’s set to change drastically one year from now, when both Brett Clark and Pavel Kubina are UFA’s, and Victor Hedman’s rookie contract expires.
The workhorse of a unit that felt the absence of Pavel Kubina late in the playoffs, Brewer led the Lightning with an average of 25:36 in ice time per game. He also led the team in blocked shots, and tied Ryan Malone with 43 hits.
With Yzerman now able to scratch Brewer from atop his priority list, he has roughly $23.2 million left against the cap to sign two goalies, five forwards, and four defencemen. The clear priority remains Steven Stamkos, Tampa’s restricted free agent superstar who’s confident that a deal is forthcoming.
That deal will likely lead to the departure of Sean Bergenheim, the forward who quickly emerged in the playoffs after scoring eight goals and 10 points over an 11-game stretch. Although Bergenheim’s outburst may have been impressive, he also became a breathing, skating statistically anomaly. He scored nine goals over Tampa’s 16 playoff games after scoring just 14 in his 80 regular season games. In six NHL seasons, Bergenheim’s highest goal total is 15, making his sudden scoring frenzy in May an even greater outlier.
Yzerman is the NHL’s newest Yoda executive, and he’s quite wise to the ways of the force. He will not be fooled by the untrained Jedi who uses his sorcery to create deception, aiming to achieve a short-term monetary gain. This is undoubtedly why Christardo also writes that Steve Y has met with Bergenheim’s agent Todd Diamond (quick aside: every agent should be named Todd Diamond) and they remain in a stalemate.
Diamond and Yzerman have said the sides, basically, agreed to disagree on what Bergenheim should be paid. But Yzerman said he is keeping the lines of communication open.
“I’d hate to just give up on him,” Yzerman said of signing Bergenheim before July 1, when he becomes unrestricted.
Ted Purcell should also gain higher billing on Yzerman’s pecking order than Bergenheim. The 25-year-old is an RFA, and in his first full NHL season he scored 17 goals and 51 points.
Throw in UFA Simon Gagne–who indicated his strong desire to stick around a few weeks ago–and his cap hit of $5.3 million last year, and Bergenheim’s chances of wearing Tampa’s simple yet sexy new uniforms next year takes another blow. There’s a strong possibility that both Gagne and Bergenheim will have to find employment elsewhere, but if it comes down to a decision between the two, Bergenheim is the clear loser.