An increase in the NHL salary cap far from a sure thing

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Fehr.jpgWith all of this talk about teams making trades for salary cap
purposes and the hand wringing that is taking place over a team’s salary
situation, it’s important to note a few things.

First, we get all
over our salary information from CapGeek.com, what I feel is the best
source for cap information that can be found on the web. Secondly, all
of this talk about just how far under — or over — a team is relative
to the salary is using the same cap that was in place last season: $56.8
million.

That’s not going to be the same next season. Since we
don’t know exactly what the change will be we can only go by what the
cap currently is. So what will the change be?

The first option is
for the cap to be raised yet again — this time to $58.8 million. That
may not sound like that much, but that extra $2 million is a big deal
for many teams, and could be the difference between a league-minimum
entry-level player and a significant upgrade via free agency.

The
other option is more dire: the cap would actually drop by $200,000,
leaving a number of teams in a lurch. You would think that the cap going
up would be the ideal situation for all involved and especially the
players — not so, says
James Mirtle of the Globe and Mail.

Mirtle paints an
interesting picture as the NHL Players Association gets set to meet in
Chicago on Monday, as the players must vote on whether to raise the cap
without a formal director in place. Donald Fehr will be in attendance,
and there are many who think he’s the right man for the job, but some
say he may decide not to take the position if he sees another bout of
in-fighting within the union.

Says one agent, per James Mirtle:

“He’s
either going to take the position that he’s going to evaluate what
the players decide and that will affect in turn his decision, or he
will urge the players to take the [cap] escalator, extend the
[collective agreement] and then if they don’t go along with that vote,
he knows where he stands and he’ll check out,” said one agent who asked
to remain unidentified.

There’s no doubt that the NHLPA needs a strong
leader, and despite fears that Fehr taking the job would lead to another
lockout he’s experienced when it comes to helping rebuild a player’s
association — and the NHLPA is a mess.

So why would the players
not want to approve the spike in the salary cap? The issue, says Mirtle,
is escrow payments.

If the cap is raised and most teams spend to
that limit, then it’s likely that once again the NHL would outspend
revenues and the players will see another big chunk of change withheld
from their paychecks. If this is the overwhelming fear, then the players
will vote against the cap increase and teams will be forced to dump
salary and not spend as much in free agency.

This is where the
in-fighting comes in and where a director is most needed: the escrow
payments are effecting the players that already have long, expensive
contracts while the drop in the salary cap will seriously impact pending
free agents in a very negative way. Having a director like Fehr in
place would head off these issues at the pass and give the NHLPA the
stabilizing factor it so desperately needs; unfortunately he hasn’t
decided if he wants the job just yet.

Ultimately, it’s in the best interested of the NHLPA to vote for
the increase and extend the CBA, and it’s the consensus among the agents
that this is what is best for the players. Every season another round
of players become free agents and every year another group of players
benefits from the cap increase. Either the players can decide to be
greedy now, or decide on what is best for the NHLPA in the long run.

Holtby ‘wasn’t as sharp as he can be,’ says Trotz

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Presidents’ Trophy winners once again in the regular season, the Capitals once again face an uphill climb if they are to advance beyond the rival Penguins and the second round of the playoffs.

What began with a strong first period for the Capitals in Game 2, albeit without a reward on the score board, faded into a frustrating 6-2 rout, as the Penguins took a commanding 2-0 series lead as it shifts back to Pittsburgh for a pivotal Game 3 on Monday.

Braden Holtby was pulled after the second period. He gave up three goals on 14 shots, while his opponent at the other end, Marc-Andre Fleury was brilliant with 34 saves.

“He’ll tell you that he can be better. He’s a straight up guy and he will be. I was just trying to change the mojo,” said Capitals coach Barry Trotz of his decision to sit Holtby.

“I thought some of the goals, he wasn’t as sharp as he can be for us. He’s a game-changer for us. So when he didn’t change the game, I just looked to change the mojo a little bit there. That’s all. Braden’s our backbone. He has been all year. We’ve got to find some goals for him, too. We can’t just put it on Braden Holtby.”

Now in a deep but not insurmountable hole against the defending Stanley Cup champs, the Capitals reportedly held a players’ only meeting following this latest defeat.

After failing to open the scoring in an otherwise dominant first period, Washington surrendered three goals in the second, as the Penguins broke it wide open with their transition game, led by two great plays from Sidney Crosby.

“We can’t get frustrated. I think that would be our biggest mistake is to get frustrated right now,” said T.J. Oshie, before expanding on the meeting between the players.

“It was things that people need to say and things that some people need to hear. We were very together with what we said. I don’t need to go into details. Sometimes in our game … you need to hear from your teammates more than your coach. And tonight was one of those nights.

“It was the players in here and what was said is what needed to be said.”

We’ll find out Monday if what was said actually has any impact on the ice.

Penguins rout Capitals to take commanding series lead

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The Washington Capitals are in trouble. Against the Pittsburgh Penguins.

Again.

Despite a dominant first period, at least in terms of shots on Marc-Andre Fleury and puck possession, the Capitals saw this game go sideways in a hurry during the second period, on the way to a 6-2 loss to the Penguins in Game 2.

Washington is now in quite a hole, trailing its nemesis 2-0 in this second-round series.

Last year, Matt Murray stymied the Capitals. Though it’s only been two games this year, Fleury has stepped up in the absence of the injured Murray and given the Penguins solid goaltending and frustrated a dangerous Capitals lineup.

After withstanding the storm of pressure from the Capitals in the first period, the Penguins broke this game open with a trio of second-period goals. It started with a shorthanded goal from Matt Cullen, and later continued with a beautiful goal from Phil Kessel and then Jake Guentzel‘s sixth goal of these playoffs.

That led Barry Trotz to take Braden Holtby out of the game, after he gave up three goals on 14 shots, putting in Phillip Grubauer to begin the third period. The Penguins continued the onslaught.

For the Penguins, there are some injury concerns to keep an eye on.

Patric Hornqvist left the game in the first period after blocking a shot around his foot or ankle. He didn’t return. Ron Hainsey had to go to the locker room late in the third period after taking an Alex Ovechkin shot up around the head.

Game 3 goes Monday in Pittsburgh.

‘I wasn’t good enough,’ says Lundqvist after double OT loss to Senators

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The task wasn’t impossible, but certainly daunting.

The Ottawa Senators needed five goals on Henrik Lundqvist just to send Game 2 into overtime.

The Rangers goalie had been spectacular for most of this post-season entering Saturday’s contest, but the Senators, led by a sensational four-goal performance from Jean-Gabriel Pageau, found a way to break through for a 6-5 double overtime win to take a 2-0 series lead against New York.

They did so on just 34 shots through almost 83 minutes against Lundqvist.

“I wasn’t good enough,” said Lundqvist, per the New York Daily News. “Coming up with the extra save there in the end, that’s my job. Even though it’s tough plays on deflections, I’ve got to find a way.”

On three occasions, the Rangers held a two-goal lead. That includes with under five minutes remaining in regulation. They even had a pair of shorthanded goals. But they couldn’t hang on, as Pageau scored twice in the final 3:19 of regulation to record his hat trick.

That set the stage for the eventual winner, as he beat Lundqvist over the left shoulder with a shot from his off-wing on a two-on-one rush.

With the Senators in control, the series returns to New York for Game 3 on Tuesday and Game 4 on Thursday.

“We played well enough to win this game, there’s no question about it,” said Lundqvist. “It’s really tough to lose this one. Clearly they’ve gotten the bounces here in the first two games.”

Capitals’ Holtby begins third period on the bench, Grubauer takes over in net

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Braden Holtby began the third period of Saturday’s Game 2 on the bench, giving way to Philipp Grubauer.

The Washington Capitals fell behind the Pittsburgh Penguins 3-1 after two periods, with Holtby allowing three goals on just 14 shots. It will be interesting to hear the reason for this decision from coach Barry Trotz following the game.

The Capitals had dominated on the shot clock, but gave up a pair of quick goals to fall further behind Pittsburgh in this game, while trailing in the series 1-0.

Phil Kessel — on a great play from Sidney Crosby — and Jake Guentzel scored 3:10 apart to give Pittsburgh a two-goal lead.