With things having quieted down on the free agent front after a wild couple of days, the smoke is starting to clear and some teams are starting to see that their salary cap situations require some attention. Two of the biggest movers this summer have been the Buffalo Sabres and Washington Capitals. With all of those additions made to the roster via trades or signings, it comes at a price where they may have sacrifices to make elsewhere.
According to NHL salary tracking site CapGeek, the Capitals have the highest payroll in the NHL with $63,755,128 spent and the Sabres are second with $62,995,357 gone. The Caps have two important restricted free agents left to get signed while the Sabres have four. With the salary cap set at $64.3 million something’s got to give.
In Washington, they’ve got newly acquired Troy Brouwer and defenseman Karl Alzner still to get signed. While Brouwer’s deal could be inexpensive, Alzner may require a long term deal to keep him locked up. He and defensive partner John Carlson combined to be the Caps best defensive unit last season and with both guys having some offensive touch as well, Alzner’s value to the Caps is high. Who the Caps could find ways around on their roster to get under the cap enough to get them signed, however, isn’t quite so easy.
Checking in with CapGeek again there are some players who could be slotted out to make life easier. The obvious player to pick out is Alexander Semin. Semin will make $6 million next season and the hot and cold play he exhibits during the year and the maddening offensive zone penalties are enough to make any coach crazy. Of course, his offensive abilities are rare and the Capitals need his goal production.
There’s also forward Eric Fehr to consider. Fehr makes $2.2 million against the cap and now has Joel Ward and Troy Brouwer to compete with for essentially the same role on the team. Defenseman Tom Poti has two years left at $2.875 million against the cap on his contract and he’s been injured since last season. The Caps could get him back on to Long Term Injured Reserve to get the cap freedom they’re looking for.
In Buffalo, their answers to the cap fix may start with one they steal from Calgary last season. The Flames were able to send forward Ales Kotalik and his $3 million cap hit to the AHL to get that cap hit off the books. With the forward positions all spoken for with 13 forwards under contract, they may need Kotalik at the NHL level, but with three important defensemen (Andrej Sekera, Mike Weber, and Marc-Andre Gragnani) and a backup goalie (Jhonas Enroth) to get signed, sacrificing Kotalik may be needed. Forward Jochen Hecht and his $3.525 salary could also be someone to point to to be moved. Perhaps not necessarily to the AHL but to another team in need of a solid depth forward.
The more sneaky move for Buffalo to get their three defensemen signed could be to move a guy that’s already established. Shaone Morrisonn ($2.075 million) or Jordan Leopold (two years, $3 million per) could be attractive to other teams as a trade possibility and while Darcy Regier likely favors keeping Leopold, with Sekera and Weber waiting to be signed, they could make Morrisonn irrelevant.
For both general managers George McPhee and Darcy Regier, they’ve got tough decisions ahead and that’s all part of their job. It’s never personal when moves get made for clearing cap space, it’s always business. That might not mean much to the players that have to face the salary cap wrath, but if this summer has taught us anything it’s that the business cuts hard both ways.