Tag: salary cap analysis

Edmonton Oilers v Dallas Stars

Stars should learn from Sabres’ free-spending blunders


Times have been pretty lean for the Dallas Stars franchise ever since Tom Hicks spread his (former) sports empire a little too thin. The impact of those times can be seen in the often-barren stands during games that aren’t against marquee teams like tonight’s match with the Pittsburgh Penguins (currently on NBC Sports Network).

This statement will probably raise some eyebrows considering box office woes and a playoff drought, then: the Stars have done a lot of right amid all their marketplace struggles.

With Brad Richards’ robust contract off the books, the Stars’ roster is a model of efficiency:

  • All-Star-caliber forward Loui Eriksson is making a bargain $4.25 million per year through 2015-16, easily on my short list of the best deals in the league.
  • Kari Lehtonen is one of the most leaned-upon and valuable goalies in the NHL, yet he’s making a relative pittance at $3.55 million cap hit-wise.
  • In a league full of expensive blueline collections, the Stars’ highest paid guys are Stephane Robidas and Trevor Daley at a reasonable $3.33 million per season.
  • Mike Ribeiro might float here and there and Brenden Morrow hasn’t been healthy this year, but they’re still two quality forwards who are making exactly what they should be.
  • Joe Nieuwendyk’s off-season moves have been deft strokes of bargain basement genius.

Michael Ryder has been a fantastic fit in a straightforward sniping role. Eric Nystrom will be a villain in Pittsburgh after his hit on Kris Letang (more on that very soon), but he’s been a huge waiver wire steal. Sheldon Souray, Vernon Fiddler and even Radek Dvorak have all been useful-to-fantastic here and there.

Room to improve

Naturally, things aren’t perfect in Dallas or the team wouldn’t be in another tooth-and-nail struggle for the playoffs.

That cheap defense will get more expensive when Alex Goligoski’s $4.6 million cap hit kicks in and they need a little of everything in that area. Jamie Benn will cost a ton of cash to re-sign after a gutty, impressive All-Star season. One way or another, the Stars need to find a way to re-gain the hearts of fickle Dallas sports fans.

(My suggestion: make everyone wear Mike Modano masks!)

Keep the trigger finger from getting too itchy

Still, hopefully having a more stable ownership situation won’t equal the kind of spending sprees that GM Joe Nieuwendyk has skillfully avoided in his underrated time in Dallas.

Nieuwendyk and new owner Tom Gaglardi need only to look to Terry Pegula’s ill-fated shopping frenzy as evidence that you don’t have to spend all that new money in one place.

Breaking down the Michael Cammalleri-Rene Bourque deal


It’s official, the Montreal Canadiens shipped Michael Cammalleri to the Calgary Flames for a package that includes Rene Bourque. Here are the exact details, straight from NHL.com:

Flames receive:

Goalie Karri Ramo
2012 fifth-round pick

Canadiens receive:

Forward Patrick Holland
2013 second-round pick

The on-ice impact

I’d venture to say that Holland and Ramo are a wash in the grand scheme of things. You cannot totally ignore a nice upgrade in draft picks, but ultimately this trade will most likely be viewed as Bourque for Cammalleri.

Cammalleri has two 30+ goal seasons and two more 20+ goal seasons as he’s in the middle of his ninth NHL season (seven of which could be considered “full”). He’s a point-per-game playoff performer (32 in 32 games), with his heroics in the 2010 playoff run providing the most compelling evidence. Cammalleri also has familiarity with the Flames franchise; he produced a career-best 82 points in 2008-09, his lone campaign in Calgary.

Bourque has produced at least 21 goals in his last three seasons including two consecutive 27-goal outputs. He hasn’t shown the same total points ceiling, however; Cammalleri has two 80+ point seasons while Bourque peaked at 58 in 2009-10.

Contract considerations

Cammalleri carries a $6 million cap hit through the 2013-14 season. His salary matches his cap hit this season while he’ll be paid $7 million in the following two seasons. Cammalleri is 29 years old.

Bourque’s $3.33 million cap hit expires after the 2015-16 campaign (check out his salary breakdown at CapGeek.com). Bourque turned 30 in December.

PHT’s take

The Flames acquired a more talented player and likely extinguished any thought that they might go into a rebuilding mode soon. Cammalleri has shown that he can be an elite sniper and Calgary will pay accordingly.

Bourque makes the Canadiens a bigger team and represents a significant price cut for a roster soaking with bad decisions. From a hockey standpoint, this seems like another shaky move, but at least this one holds the rare distinguishing point of saving them some money. (Unlike, say, trading for Scott Gomez.)

The corporate spin

Habs GM Pierre Gauthier shrugged off the idea that Cammalleri’s comments were a catalyst for the trade, instead emphasizing that the team needs to score “harder goals” rather than fancy ones. Gauthier explained that part of the reason the trade was made tonight was because Bourque is closer to concluding his recent suspension. There might be some fact to both general managers’ claims that the trade has been discussed, but you’d have to be naive to assume that Cammy’s critiques had nothing to do with this.

Flames GM Jay Feaster provided this press release:

“Mike Cammalleri is a dynamic player who enjoyed great success playing in Calgary,” stated Flames General Manager Jay Feaster. “We believe Cammalleri will help our offensive production, solidify a second scoring line, bolster our power play, and bring another strong veteran voice to our room. We are confident that a return to Calgary will be good for Mike and good for our continued pursuit of a playoff berth.”


OK, so it looks like a win for Calgary in a vacuum, but a big risk at the bank. What do you think, though? I acknowledge the urge to say that both teams lost – to some extent, that’s true – but if you had to choose a winner, which GM made out better?

Zack Kassian hopes to make Sabres’ roster, walk the line between physical and illegal hits

Zack Kassian

There will be plenty of debate about the wisdom of the Buffalo Sabres’ spending spree, but when it comes to the makeup of the teams’ fleet of forwards, there should be little question that the team leans more toward finesse than last season. From their skilled set of wingers to new acquisition Ville Leino and rehabbed center Derek Roy, the team might lack a bit of sandpaper – especially since rugged defensive players such as Mike Grier and Rob Niedermayer are no longer on the roster.

His future might not look as bright until the salary cap dust settles, but one forward who might try to fill that physical void is polarizing prospect Zack Kassian. The 13th overall pick of the 2009 NHL Entry Draft has become notorious for his thunderous – and some might say, dirty – hits, particularly two blows that earned him suspensions.

Kassian admitted that he regrets the hit he landed on Matt Kennedy that earned him a 20-game suspension in his first game with the Windsor Spitfires in 2010. He believes that the negative attention from that check on Kennedy bled into the decision to suspend him for what he believes was a clean hit during the 2011 World Junior Championships.

One can debate the validity of Kassian’s claims, but it’s likely that he will make an impact in Buffalo sooner or later. Again, the Sabres need to sort out their cap issues – they’re currently about $3.6 million above the ceiling. Once they do, Kassian could bring an intriguing mix of size, physicality and scoring prowess to the table at an affordable $875K cap hit … if he can manage to avoid getting suspended.

Kassian will try to make the Buffalo Sabres out of training camp next month, but even if he is unsuccessful, logic suggests he will end up in uniform at some point this season. He has so much of what the Sabres seem to need, with a low salary cap hit off the ice and the lurking promise of a massive hit on the ice.

“I need to play with an edge, but I have to make sure I don’t cross that edge,” he said Tuesday. “With all the skill Buffalo has, I think they need some grit and definitely some people that are hard to play against to give those skilled guys some room. I feel like I can fill that job, and hopefully, I can do it sooner than later.”

The Sabres picked Kassian 13th overall in the 2009 NHL Entry Draft, and they have seen their prospect earn nationwide exposure in Canada for reasons both good and bad. He has been a Memorial Cup champion and a member of Canada’s national junior team, but he has also briefly been the star of junior hockey’s most wanted list.

It’s likely that Kassian will be on the Sabres’ radar until he makes a prolonged impact at the NHL level, but he’ll also get plenty of attention from officials who are aware of his lower moments. If Kassian can find a way to bring that edge without going over the line, he’ll be a serious asset for Buffalo. That might be a big if, though.