London Putting the Frenzy in Free Agent Frenzy

"I do not understand what you spend your money on." - Michael Scott
by Michael Oram | October 26, 2023, 1:36 PM ET

"Have you lost your mind, boy? Because I’ll help you find it!"

You’d be forgiven if you thought this was a quote from the American TV series The Office’s Stanley Hudson, but it was in fact London Monarchs fans responding to the team’s actions in free agency.

After sitting out the draft and trading away all their picks the team was obviously looking at the 2023-24 season as a win at all costs season. At all costs being the key there.

This combined with changes in free agency rules and an aging core created a perfect storm for the team.

First let’s look at how the draft impacted London’s moves in free agency. Starting last offseason, the team began shipping out picks in the 2023 draft to acquire players that have prominent roles on the current roster. Following this more picks were moved to add depth to the team. These were win now moves. The team was unloading future assets to shore up the roster that will hit the ice for the next few years. The focus of the team was clearly on a window of opportunity that was opening and one that won’t stay open for an extended period.

This window that has opened also speaks to the aging roster. The Monarchs have a veteran and established roster. Not many, if any at all, rookies will skate for the club this year. This means that no players are developing that can take on a core role in three to four seasons. Instead, there is a roster of players in and just beyond their prime. Those older players will start transitioning out of the league over the next few years. Notably among these players are Mark Stone and Matt Duchene. Again, this points to a window of opportunity that is open now but won’t remain open beyond a few seasons.

With these factors well known came the wildcard. Changes to free agency made the team’s path clear. There is a two to three window open now for the London Monarchs. Time to step through the window and start competing with the top clubs in the league. Prior to free agency the Monarchs had $40 million in the bank and a committed payroll of $92 million. That shouldn’t have been a problem financially. The team could recover the $92 million through gate revenue. However, the roster had significant holes and lacked necessary depth for a deep playoff run. The holes could be filled but the payroll would balloon, and, under the new rules, the team would be locked out of bidding on top talent next season. But they could bid now, and the new rules made it possible to secure top free agents beyond a single season. The three-year window to win was blown wide open.

Knowing that bidding on top free agents next off season was most likely not an option and knowing the team is primed to win, the Monarchs charged into free agency with key targets identified and a green light to spend whatever it takes to get them. And spend they did.

Arguably the biggest prize in free agency, John Tavares, was crowned a Monarch with one of, if not the, largest contract the SICHL has ever seen. $30 million per year for four years, a no trade clause, and a $20 million signing bonus was all it took to solidify the Monarchs down the middle of the ice. With Sebastian Aho, Jack Eichel, and now Tavares in the fold, London’s top three centres can go head-to-head with anyone in the league. Most importantly it gives London the ability to take on the Havana Revolution and their deep talent pool down the middle.

The Monarchs weren’t done there adding to their forward core. They also chose to bring back Blake Wheeler on a four-year $13 million deal.

There were also significant investments made on the backend. The team added Ryan Suter ($11 million for four years), Oliver Ekman-Larsson ($8 million for four years), and Trevor Van Riemsdyk ($8 million for four years) to its defensive corps. These additions give the team one of the deepest defence groups in the league and it will remain intact for at least four years.

Beyond this the team locked up goaltender Craig Anderson for his final year in the league giving the goalie $20 million and a no trade clause to hopefully lead the team to the promised land.

Now with only $9 million in the bank and a $172 million payroll the Monarchs have made their intentions clear. The team sees themselves in a position to bring home their first Continental Cup and have set themselves up for a series of three to four runs at glory. Management has done what it can do and has hitched all their wagons to this horse. There is no backup plan. There is no contingency. It is do or die for this group. Win now is the only option. As the preseason begins it’s time for the coaches and players to do their part. It’s time for the Monarchy to rise and put down the Revolution.

It's time to drop the puck.

"Hey! We've got sports games again." - Billy the bartender (Andy Bernard)

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