Salary cap effects of Nicklas Backstrom's new deal


backstromnew.jpgEarlier today it was announced that the Washington Capitals signed their star center Nicklas Backstrom to a 10-year, $67 million contract. Previously I had detailed the fact that the team will be going into the summer with a ton of flexibility but the signing of Backstrom could be a make-or-break moment for their long-term chances.

As many have said on Twitter and elsewhere, Backstrom’s contract was a great value … at least from a cap hit perspective. Personally, I have some misgivings about all these “lifetime” contracts, but there’s no doubt that getting Backstrom for that little is brilliant. Here’s an updated version of the salary cap outlook I provided last time. Figures are taken from the invaluable

2010-11 cap commitments as of today (some amounts were rounded up to keep it simple):

Forwards (7 of required 12): Ovechkin (9.54); Backstrom (6.7); Semin (6); Knuble (2.8); Laich (2.06); Chimera (1.875); Steckel (1.1); Bradley (1)

Defense (5 of 6): Green (5.25); Poti (3.5); Erskine (1.25); Carlson (846K); Sloan (700k)

Goalies (1 of 2): Varlamov (822k)

Cap Space: About $13.35 million

Cap Space if they add Karl Alzner: About $11.675 million

Cap Space with Alzner and Michal Neuvirth: About $10.86 million

Some analysis after the jump.

theodore.jpgSo, the Capitals are in a fantastic situation to improve their team. They could either decide to go with a young goaltending duo or go after a free agent goalie such as Marty Turco or Evgeni Nabokov. They will need to fill 5 forward spots (including perhaps a second line center) although they could some fill spots with minor leaguers. Once they flesh out their roster, they could consider going after a shutdown defenseman or maybe even make their offense more ridiculous.

The team has a couple wildcards as well. I’d be surprised if Jose Theodore came back to Washington, but you never know. George McPhee might decide to bring him back, especially if he would take a pay cut. Another interesting factor is Michael Nylander, who really isn’t on the team to avoid his $4.875 million cap hit. Could his contract rear it’s ugly head?

It should be an awfully interesting summer for the Capitals. The way I see it, they have the opportunity to transform themselves into a promising-but-disappointing regular season wonder into a possible dynasty if they make the right decisions. They’re moving in the right direction so far.

Oilers go captain-less, name four alternates instead

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Edmonton’s made a fairly significant shift in its leadership group.

The big news is the Oilers won’t have a captain this season, as Andrew Ference will relinquish the “C” he’s worn for the last two years.

Ference will, however, remain part of the group and wear an “A” as part of a four-man alternate captain collective, one that also includes Jordan Eberle, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Taylor Hall.

The news of Ference being removed as captain doesn’t come as a huge surprise. The veteran d-man is a well-respected leader, but isn’t expected to be in the lineup every night this season.

The decision to go without a captain, though, is something of a surprise, especially given what new head coach Todd McLellan endured during his final season in San Jose.

The Sharks’ captaincy issue — stripping Joe Thornton, then going with four rotating alternates — was an ongoing problem, something that players, coaches and GM Doug Wilson had to repeatedly address until it blew up in spectacular fashion.

That said, the circumstances in Edmonton are quite different.

It’s believed the club’s intentionally keeping the captaincy vacant, on the assumption that Connor McDavid will evolve into a superstar and, subsequently, the club’s unquestioned leader.

Finally, McLellan noted that with Eberle currently sidelined, a fifth Oiler would be added to the leadership group — veteran forward Matt Hendricks, who will serve as a temporary alternate.

Brandon Sutter didn’t have the greatest preseason

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When Brandon Sutter was acquired by the Vancouver Canucks, GM Jim Benning called the 26-year-old a “foundation piece for our group going forward.”

Sutter was quickly signed to a five-year extension worth almost $22 million, more evidence of how highly management thought of the player.

Fast forward to yesterday, when Benning was asked the following question:

“What does it say that you made the trade for Sutter, you called him a ‘foundation’ player, and it took him until the final night of the preseason to find a spot (with the Sedins) on the wing, which isn’t his natural position?”

Here was Benning’s response:

“Well, [head coach Willie Desjardins] wants to try that out, he thinks that’s going to be a good fit. At various times, the Sedins played with wingers with speed, with [Ryan Kesler], who could get in on the forecheck and had a good shot. Sutter brings some of those qualities, too.”

While all that may be true, Sutter was not signed to play the wing; he was brought in to play center, specifically on the second line. He finished the preseason with zero points in five games. And as mentioned, he’ll start the season on the wing, not his natural position.

Meanwhile, youngsters Bo Horvat, 20, and Jared McCann, 19, had outstanding camps and are expected to start the regular season (tonight in Calgary) centering the second and third lines, respectively.

Though Sutter did finish the preseason with 12 shots on goal, up there with the most on the Canucks, it’s fair to say he did not look like a “foundation” player.

“I haven’t seen him play his best,” Desjardins said last week. “I see a guy who’s big and a good skater and who understands the game real well, but just hasn’t got that involved.”

Now, we are only talking about the preseason here. New players often take time to get comfortable. Perhaps playing with the Sedins can provide Sutter with some confidence.

“I know he’ll be there and I totally believe that,” said Desjardins.

But it hasn’t been the best start, and if it wasn’t for the encouraging play of the youngsters, it would be a far bigger story in Vancouver.

Related: Canucks roll the dice on rookies, waive Vey and Corrado