As arbitration hearings start in the NHL today, only one Washington restricted free agent has yet to be re-signed. Left winger/center Tomas Fleischmann, along with team capologist Don Fishman, Fleischmann’s agent Rich Evans and possibly an NHLPA representative will meet July 28 in Toronto in an attempt to work out an acceptable contract for both sides.
The other two Caps that filed for arbitration, RW Eric Fehr and D Jeff Schultz, re-signed with the team about two weeks ago. Fehr, coming off his best statistical season (21G-18A-39P-+18 in 69 games), signed a two-year contract worth a total of $2.2 million per year. Schultz had a record-breaking season of his own, leading the NHL in plus/minus with a +50 and setting a team record in the process. Schultz also collected 3G-20A-23P, a personal best. His contract is four years and worth $11 million.
With these statistics in mind, is re-signing Flash, who had a career season just like Fehr and Schultz, a good idea in the long run?
Fleischmann appeared in 69 games and scored a career high 23 goals and 51 points. In an interview with the Washington Post’s Tarik El Bashir, Evans said that Fleischmann, who earned $725,000 last season, deserves at least $2.75 million. The Caps currently have around $8.5 million in cap room to make moves or resign players. With players like G Jose Theodore, C Brendan Morrison, and RW/LW Scott Walker unlikely to return, general manager George McPhee has some room to work with. The question is whether or not $2.75 million should be given to a player that shows both flashes of brilliance (no pun intended) and long stretches of streaky play.
Most of the evidence presented during the case is, well, arbitrary. Here are some of the things that both sides will look at:
– The player’s “overall performance” including statistics in all previous seasons.
As stated before, Flash had his best season last year. Based solely on statistics, Fleischmann has emerged as one of the Capitals’ silent assassins. While opposing teams put the focus on Alex Ovechkin, Nick Backstrom, Alex Semin and Mike Green, Fleischmann has made teams regret those decisions, having scored a total of 56 goals in a Caps uniform. Flash has become a go-to guy in shootouts and can make the pass as well as fire the shot.
– Injuries, illnesses and the number of games played.
Fleischmann has been fairly consistent during his first full seasons with the Caps, playing 75 games in 2007-08 and 73 in 2008-09. Minus his blood clot/deep vein thrombosis that kept him out of the first 11 games of last season, Fleischmann has not missed considerable time. He sat out of three games in December 2008 with a lower body injury and six games from pneumonia in January 2009. Health is not a concern when it comes to Flash.
– The player’s “overall contribution” to the team’s success or failure.
It really is a matter of “on” and “off” when it comes to Flash. After returning from his blood clot last season, Fleischmann scored 14 goals in his first 25 games. Yet, he only scored nine goals in his last 44. With so much depth at wing, coach Bruce Boudreau moved Fleischmann into center, where he originally thrived, but ultimately struggled. He made his debut at the position in Montreal on January 5 and continued to shift between center and winger throughout the season. His face-off percentage was a mere 43.1% for the year, but Boudreau used him primarily as a “jump start” for when the NHL’s highest scoring offense went stagnant.
Also, with Morrison walking and the status of Eric Belanger unknown, the Capitals need Fleischmann’s experience to anchor the second or third line. The Caps have Brooks Laich, David Steckel and Boyd Gordon to fill out the middle, but possible call-ups such as Keith Aucoin, Mathieu Perrault and Jay Beagle all have a chance to make an impact.
With everything above taken into account, it will be interesting to see how the negotiations go between Fleischmann and the Capitals. It wouldn’t hurt to lock him up for a few more years, where he can continue to grow and find the position that will allow him to thrive. Only time will tell.