After telling NHL general managers to take a “business as usual” approach despite CBA uncertainty, commissioner Gary Bettman dropped some interesting tidbits to reporters including The Globe & Mail’s James Mirtle.
Despite the rather elementary – almost flippant – delivery of his response, Bettman’s take on next season’s salary cap certainly seems interesting:
On the salary cap going up over the summer before a new CBA comes in: “Revenues continue to grow so you know how the system works. Revenues grow, the cap grows.”
That probably seems painfully simple, but one of the worries heading into the new CBA negotiations was that owners may try to dial back the salary cap. That might still be the case, but it’s promising to hear Bettman say that the cap is likely to rise.
What he didn’t discuss was the salary cap floor. One interesting (and one would assume, at least slightly less contentious) possible debate for the CBA talks revolves around the possibility of “relaxing” the minimum amount a team must spend to be cap complaint. The higher ceiling is fantastic for the Chicago/Pittsburgh/Detroit’s of the NHL, but smaller market teams often struggle to spend enough to stay in the game.
If you take Bettman’s quote as a totally accurate prediction, one would guess that the floor would follow the ceiling’s lead – and make lower-budget teams continue to strain with it.
As with all of this talk, we’ll ultimately just need to wait and see. Yet with big-ticket players like Shea Weber set to hit the unrestricted free agent market, things could be a lot more fun if teams are allowed to spend big.
(Well, they might not end up that fun for the Nashville Predators, but still.)
The Washington Capitals seem like one of the big “winners” of the 2011 off-season. Tomas Vokoun’s budgetary loss was their gain. They turned an uncomfortable situation with Semyon Varlamov into two high-end draft picks. Maybe GM George McPhee paid a little too much for certain players, but there’s the feeling he added a lot of useful pieces to the puzzle.
That last part might be the sticking point, though. It seems like the Capitals keep over-paying for one player in particular: Troy Brouwer. McPhee raised some eyebrows when he traded Washington’s first round pick (26 overall) in 2011 for Brouwer, although it must be noted that it was clear the franchise didn’t see much in this year’s draft. That would have been fine, but the team also gave Brouwer a massive raise today, signing him to a two-year deal worth a whopping $4.7 million.
On paper, Brouwer seems like a very nice fit for Washington. The rugged forward often skated on the Chicago Blackhawks’ top line, opening up space for Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane while scoring 36 points in 2010-11 and 40 in 2009-10. Of course, he did that at the bargain price of $1.025 million per year; now he’ll get a ransom of $2.35 million per season.
Maybe that’s actually a reasonable deal in this crazy spending climate, but he might not be the right move for Washington. The Capitals’ current cap commitments are now at about $66 million, putting them about $2 million above the $64 million ceiling (according to NHL Numbers). Washington doesn’t need to panic about getting back under yet, but they should at least be concerned, especially since prized restricted free agent Karl Alzner could be headed toward salary arbitration.
It looks like McPhee and the Capitals might walk a salary cap tight rope this summer. If there’s two new contracts that look the most of out order, they might be Brouwer’s deal and Brooks Laich’s $4.5 million per year contract extension. There have been some murmurs about Tom Poti’s $2.875 million cap hit being removed in some way (retirement, trade or submerged in the minors?), but it’s likely that the Caps would need to move another contract if they want to retain Alzner as well. Moving some combination of Eric Fehr ($2.2 million), Jason Chimera ($1.875 million) and John Erskine ($1.5 million) might end up being the antidote for Washington as well.
Either way, the Caps are going for broke in 2011-12. Who knows if it will actually work, but it’s already making an interesting NHL off-season that much more intriguing.
While it’s far from official – TSN reports these numbers based on what teams and agents are being told – today’s salary cap estimates are probably leaving richer teams sighing with relief while poorer clubs are reaching for the antacids. Those reports indicate that the 2011-12 salary cap ceiling will be $64 million while the cap floor will be $48 million.
The salary cap maximum was $59.6 million for the 2010-11 season, so this would mark a $4.6 million increase in cap space. To give you a little context regarding which teams will be delighted by the move, here are the five teams with the most salary already committed to next season (according to CapGeek.com).
Note: cap numbers have been rounded to two decimals.
1. Philadelphia: $58.97 million committed
2. Calgary: $56.39M
3. Pittsburgh: $56.39M
4. Chicago: $54.29M
5. San Jose: $52.34M
While the Flyers will experience a tight squeeze as they attempt to fit Ilya Bryzgalov under their salary cap and decide what do to with Ville Leino, every half million counts. Most of those other big spending teams will look to tweak more than restructure their teams, although that might not be the case with the expensive and inefficient Flames.
On the other end of the spectrum, here are the five teams who need to spend the most money to hit the $48 million cap floor (also according to CapGeek.com).
1. Florida: $18.29 million committed
2. Carolina: $31.08M
3. Phoenix: $31.57M
4. Colorado: $32.15M
5. Winnipeg: $35.94M
As you can see, general managers from around the NHL might want to keep Panthers GM Dale Tallon on their speed dial if they’re looking to dump salary this summer. If TSN’s numbers are correct, Florida will need to add almost $30 million in salary to meet those minimum requirements. They have just 11 roster spots covered, with expensive but talented goalie Tomas Vokoun likely walking out the door.
We’ll pass along official updates whenever they come along, but don’t feel ashamed if you start imagining all the moves your favorite team(s) can make. That’s one of the few saving graces of a long, hockey-free summer.