The most informative posts today, as usual in the hockey world, came from insiders Pierre Lebrun, Elliotte Friedman and Bob McKenzie. Another frequently mentioned name on that list, Craig Custance, also wrote an excellent post, but his contained one detail in particular that would change the dynamic of how hockey teams operate.
We’ll start with that detail, and get to a few other interesting tidbits farther down.
From Custance (paywall):
The league’s proposal includes a clause that says all years of existing contracts longer than five years will be charged against the cap regardless of whether or not a player is still playing. If that player is traded, the new team takes on his cap hit, but if he retires, the cap hit reverts back to the team with which he originally signed. That means teams like Chicago, Detroit, New Jersey, Philadelphia, Vancouver and others who signed players to ultralong deals won’t be able to shake them off the books even if the player is retired or traded.
For example, if Roberto Luongo is traded to Florida in two weeks, his $5.3 million cap hit travels with him to the Panthers. But that’s a deal that extends until 2021-22, so let’s say Luongo plays five more seasons and retires at the age of 38 — a very reasonable long-term plan for the goalie. The Canucks are still hit with a salary cap charge for four more years.
How about that little nugget?
That means that if you’re the Philadelphia Flyers, and Jeff Carter and Mike Richards decide in seven years to (presumably) buy a cottage together somewhere and call their careers good, the Flyers – not the Kings – would have the remaining years of their deals added to their salary cap because they signed them.
Of course, most of these long-term deals (where retirement before completion is a risk) dip steeply at the end so it may not hurt that bad, but still: if you’re a salary cap team, and suddenly a guy your team (maybe a different GM) signed to a long-term deal a decade ago retires, you suddenly have to make room for that cap hit. As Custance notes, in the case of Zach Parise, if he chooses to call it good at 38 after banking beacoup bucks, the Wild would be on the hook for three years at $7.5M regardless of if he’s still on their team or he retires from somewhere else.
I don’t particularly care for that. Part of being a good GM is managing your cap, so if you’re suddenly saddled with numbers you hadn’t planned on, you’re in an awfully tough spot. I suppose in a number of years Luongo’s measly million dollar seasons aren’t going to kill anyone. But a guy like Parise certainly has the power to do that.
(UPDATE: After a further review, I’d agree with @67Sound, who mentioned: “As I understand it, VAN wouldn’t be stuck with Luongo’s measly salary if he retires; it would be his sizable cap hit.”)
The owners’ proposal includes a clause that would allow teams to trade cap space — for players, not picks — and retain salary in trades.
Each would have a limit of $3 million. So a money-crunched club could trade up to $3 million of cap space to add to their rosters. The Leafs, in theory, could trade Phil Kessel to L.A. or Florida, and as part of the deal pay up to $3 million of his salary.
Brushing aside the Kessel example – an odd choice – there’s certainly advantages here for a couple groups. One, a team like Montreal Canadiens who would be able to say “Look, we’ll pay $3M of Scott Gomez’s salary if you take him,” which would free up $4.357M in cap space for them (Gomez earns roughly $7.357M annually) that could be better used. Gomez, at that number, suddenly isn’t viewed as the most useless human – value to dollar – in the NHL. Maybe you package him with someone else to get a team to do it.
Also, a team like the Chicago Blackhawks (after they won the Cup in 2010) could trade a third or fourth liner (or a couple of them) for three million extra cap dollars, which may have allowed them to retain more of their top-end talent after they won the Cup.
This could get fun. Lot of wheeling and dealing to be done with some extra wiggle room. And hey, if you’re the Islanders or Coyotes, hells yes we’ll give you unused cap room for a player.
More from Custance, emphasis mine:
The payroll range is interesting. With the assumption that HRR remains flat, that puts the floor at $43.9 million, the midpoint at $51.9 million and the ceiling at $59.9 million (though again, the transition ceiling will be at $70.2 million). So that means a few of these teams that we thought might have to scramble to get to the salary cap floor are actually in good shape. Both the Islanders and Coyotes are over $50 million right now in payroll. Where it gets interesting is next season. We don’t know what revenues would be, but the transition rule disappears and that means teams will have to work off a salary cap in the low 60s.
In an earlier paragraph, Custance mentions that teams would be allowed a season at the current salary cap of $70.2M. That means the Canucks don’t have to rush to trade Luongo, the Flyers don’t have to hack salary, and so on and so forth, given that the proposed season would start in like, two weeks.
But as he mentions above, the cap would take a significant cut after that.
All in all, lots of interesting tidbits in the new proposal. I’ll do my best to keep you abreast of what the NHL wants to keep, and what it wants to cut.