At this point, readers know my soft spot for Tomas Plekanec, who deserves to have had a Selke Trophy at this point in his career (and, in my opinion, he deserves the one they gave Ryan Kesler most of all).
I was going to wait until he signed an extension to feature these cards, but as the Montréal Canadiens' annual golf tournament is coming and players are starting to arrive on the South Shore, Habs players who are already here (Pleks spent the summer training with the team's staff) are starting to receive media attention, and The Turtlenecked One, with his pending UFA status up in the air, has started fielding questions about his contract status.
How many times does he expect to have to answer these questions if he doesn't sign soon? A thousand. And how many talks has his agent had with the team? Zero. But he would like to re-sign and finish his career with the bleu-blanc-rouge, the team that drafted him 71st overall in 2001.
What would be a reasonable cap hit for one of the top-5 two-way centers in the league who is about to enter regression, as he turns 33 in October? A reasonable way to look at it is to understand the CBA: contracts signed after age 35 carry huge penalties in the event of injuries (particularly the type of injuries that lead to retirement), as well as for sending veterans in the minors. Which means there are two options for Habs GM Marc Bergevin: a two-year contract leading to the next negotiation which would lead #14 to his final pre-35 contract, or a long-term deal that will lead him to retirement.
Plekanec made $5M per season in his last deal, a six-year pact in which he posted first-line numbers while playing with third-line checking wingers for most of that run.
The first option would be more costly (essentially paying full value for both years for a player who has proven to still be in his prime, scoring 26 goals and posting 60 points last season, so around $6M per), while the second would offset some of the cost with an expected decline that will possibly lead him to finishing as a third-line veteran center if it goes the way I see it, with a five- or six-year deal, leading him to age 37 or 38. I could see the salary structure going from $5.5M to $3.5M over a six-year deal, with a full no-trade clause kicking in at year 3 as the salary starts to decrease, ensuring he retires as a Canadien if he wants to. Six years, $28M, for a $4.67M average.
Now that that's settled, here's a trio of cards that took me a while to connect, from Upper Deck's 2013-14 Series 2 set (#GJ-TP of the UD Game Jersey sub-set):
I first pulled the white one a year and a half ago in a box I'd purchased with a friend. Then I pulled the blue one in a repackaged pack of multi-brand cards, so at this point I figured there had to be red ones as well, and they were probably easiest to find. It turns out the white ones (matching the picture on the card) were the most common among my contacts, but I did manage to secure the red one right before the playoffs started last year, in exchange for a few Team Canada cards I had laying around.
Obviously, I feel like I won that trade, regardless of my giving away Patrice Bergeron, Ryan Getzlaf and some promising youngsters such as Samuel Morin in return (because those were regular-issue cards, unsigned or anything, and they'll help a fellow collector out with their own set-building).