Today was an unheralded but important day of the offseason. It was the deadline for teams to issue qualifying offers to any restricted free agents. According to the section 10.2 of the current Collective Bargaining Agreement, teams had until 5 PM EST on June 25 or the first Monday after the draft - which is June 25. The section then lists the parameters for how much the qualifying offer has to be as well as the kind of offer.
Heading into this offseason, the Devils had five restricted free agents. As reported this afternoon by Tom Gulitti at Fire & Ice, the Devils have issued qualifying offers to three of them: defenseman Mark Fayne, left winger Vladimir Zharkov, and defenseman Matthew Corrente. The other two, forward Kory Nagy and goaltender Timo Pielmeier, will become unrestricted free agents since they were not qualified. Given that Pielmeier has signed a deal with the Landshut Cannibals of German second division earlier this month, I doubt he'll be picked up by anyone. Kory Nagy was judged to be not needed; he might get a minor league deal somewhere. Either way, I wouldn't expect either to remain in the Devils' system.
So what does it mean for the other three players to be qualified? Let's discuss it after the jump.
In addition to securing the player's rights, it also sets a minimum of how much they'll get. Per the CBA, that's dependent on how much they made last season. Since Mark Fayne made $555,000 last season, the qualifying offer must be 110% of that amount. That means the offer was at least $610,500. Fayne will probably get much more than that since he's proved to be a top-four NHL defenseman over the last one and a half seasons. In any case, there wasn't going to be any doubt that he would get a qualifying offer. The real surprise is that he has undergone wrist surgery and will need 3-4 months to recover. That puts his status for the start of the 2012-13 season somewhat in doubt. It's too early to be seriously concerned about that, though.
The other two qualifying offers are a little more intriguing. Vladimir Zharkov was qualified last year and signed a a one-year contract worth $577,500. He signed for less than his actual offer from last summer, so he took a small cut to stay. It's an open question whether he'd sign another deal, though. In this post about the news at NJ.com (Aside: which has some slightly different numbers on the qualifying offers. For example: $610,000 isn't 110% of $555,000), Rich Chere brought up the possibility that Zharkov may go to the KHL to play in 2012-13. Lou wasn't sure, but the fact they still qualified him means they think he has some value in the organization. I think Zharkov would make a fine fourth liner; he didn't get a real chance last season after proving himself in 2009-10 and 2010-11. If he still sticks around in North America for another season, then I hope he'll get a fairer shot of showing what he can do in New Jersey.
The third qualified player was Matthew Corrente. Like Zharkov, he had to be qualified last summer and ultimately took a cut to stick around in the organization. He didn't play in New Jersey at all last season, and his prior experience was only played 34 games in the NHL - and not all of them were at defense. In what we've seen, he's been used in limited action and his tendency of getting physical has led to either injury (e.g. breaking his hand in a fight) or penalty (68 PIM). He didn't exactly show he belonged in the best league in the world. From Lou's comment to Chere about Corrente playing fine when healthy, it seems that he still thinks he has a future. While he was injured for most of last season, I can't say I see it. That said, I see no harm in keeping a now minor-league veteran around for another year.
The larger impact of these decisions is that the Devils will commit some money and contracts for next season. With Zharkov and Corrente qualified, the team will at least have their rights. I think they have a shot in training camp to prove they belong at the next level, though I'm admittedly more confident in Zharkov than Corrente. Still, they can be kept in the minors; I think they'll each be given a two-way deal like last summer. Fayne is different, however. We know Fayne's going to be a regular on defense next season. I don't think the contract limit is a concern at this juncture. The important question left regarding all three qualified players is how much of a raise they want to give Fayne. Kevin's post on that matter (and the resulting comments) is a good piece to understand what Fayne has brought to the table as a defenseman. Whatever number they decide upon will impact how much money they'll have to re-sign pending UFAs and/or go after other UFAs next week. Since that's up in the air, the team will likely proceed with some assumed number within their planned budget as they make other offers.
And they have to do it concurrently. While a lot fans and media are focusing on whether the team will re-sign Zach Parise, the pending UFAs, Fayne, and their respective agents feel they are just as important. That said, what do you make of the decision to qualify Fayne, Corrente and Zharkov? Are you surprised that the Devils qualified the latter two players? Do you think either Corrente or Zharkov will have a real chance to make the New Jersey roster next season? As for Fayne, how much do you think the Devils should offer him? Please leave your answers and other thoughts about today's decisions in the comments. Thank you for reading.