Exploiting the Big Spenders and Trolling for Deals

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Ottawa has handed out a few extensions and raises lately, and is still trying to sign Marc Methot and Bobby Ryan. If they can get those two under contract, and with new deals due to Mika Zibanejad, Eric Condra, Alex Chiasson, Mark Stone, and Mark Hoffman next season, you might actually see Ottawa crawl out of the bottom five salaries in the NHL. Barely.

But even with this bump in expenditures, Ottawa’s biggest advantage remains its extra cap room and what one presumes to be additional revenues due to the massive regional television deal recently signed with TSN.

A look at Capgeek shows a few teams over the cap. Can Ottawa exploit their unenviable situation and try to pry a useful player away from them in a salary dump? Let’s take a look at the menu.

Philadelphia Flyers

They’re currently about $5MM over the cap, though most of that will disappear once Chris Pronger’s long-term injured relief kicks in. That hasn’t stopped new GM Ron Hextall from doing the typical Philly thing and retooling his roster in a fundamental way. The appetite is always there in Philly to clear cap space for the next season-defining move. Who might be the next Flyer on a long-term deal to find themselves shipped to a small-town market?

Matt Read – $3.625MM per for four more years – Read seemed poised to become a core player for Philly in his rookie season, but a couple of underwhelming follow-up seasons show him rounding out into a 20-goal, 50 point player. He’s also already 28. But his salary is reasonable, especially when you’re seeing 50 point guys commanding $4MM+ on the open market and the cap is only going up.

Sean Couturier – $1.750MM per for two more years – This is more like it. Couturier has the pedigree, the possession stats, and is only 21. His best years are ahead of him, and he’s due a raise on his modest deal. The fact that he doesn’t have a high ceiling in terms of point production might make him expendable in Philly, where they always seem to be swinging for the fences.

Luke Schenn – $3.6MM for two more years – sure, he’s underperformed, but Luke Schenn has only ever played in big markets with intense pressure. Maybe playing in a smaller market as a second-pairing player with modest expectations would provide the conditions to help him become an effective, reliable defenseman.

Chicago Blackhawks

This team is in real trouble next season. They’re already $2.2MM over the cap, and the huge extensions to Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews haven’t even kicked in. Even if they let useful depth defenseman Johnny Oduya walk, the extension to even more valuable Nick Leddy and blossoming power forward Brandon Saad will probably eat up the savings. They probably need to move at least one fairly big ticket forward.

Patrick Sharp – $5.9MM per for three more years – there was a rumour out there months back that Ottawa could move a package of Lazar, a depth roster player like Greening, and Gryba to Chicago in exchange for Sharp. While losing a prospect like Lazar would be a challenge, Sharp has scored over 30 goals four times, and would provide an elite scoring complement to the lineup, relieving some of the pressure on Bobby Ryan. They’d have to give up a lot to get him, and his limited NTC might nix the deal, but it’s a tantalizing thought.

Andrew Shaw – $2MM per for two more years – Shaw is only 23 and already has a 20 goal season under his belt. He’d complement Ottawa’s young team, though we already have our share of undersized, bottom six centers. Would Shaw be redundant, or an upgrade?

Tampa Bay Lightning

Can we talk about how overrated Steve Yzerman is as a GM? Sure, he’s transformed his roster, but only because he’s spent enormous, ridiculous amounts of his owner’s money doing it. This isn’t smart, nuanced decision making; it’s rebuilding a team with a jackhammer and a shotgun. He’s handed out big term and big dollars to everyone from Ryan Callahan to Valteri Filppula, from Matt Carle to Anton Stralman. This team is going to be absolutely screwed in a season or two when they need to extend Brett Connolly and Steve Stamkos, and a year after that when they need a new contract for Jonathan Drouin and Victor Hedman. They have so many middle-of-the-pack players signed to $4M+ deals, and they’re already $2MM over the cap.

Victor Hedman – $4MM per for three more years – doubtful that they’d move this cornerstone defenseman, but Stralman, Carle, and newly acquired Jason Garrison are all making big money and have no trade clauses (because of course they do). It would be an absolute coup to see Hedman playing on the same line as Karlsson.

Ondrej Palat – $3.333MM per for three more years – he’s only 23 and scored 23 goals last year. A promising winger with respectable possession stats to boot. He’s cheap for his production and potential, but an obstacle if you’re a GM like Yzerman who’s hooked on handing out five year deals at $4MM-$5MM per.

Boston Bruins

They’re only a million or so over the cap, and about four of that is going to come off the cap when Marc Savard goes on long term injured reserve, but they’re heading into renegotiation hell next season with David Krejci and pretty much their entire defensive corps needing new contracts. In fact, Boston is only a couple of seasons away from heading into real decline, all starting with the fact that Zdeno Chara is already 37.

Brad Marchand – $4.5MM per for three more years – hard to imagine Marchand playing for anyone other than the Bruins. (Maybe the Flyers?) But he’s exactly the kind of player you move in situations like this. He’s making big money and is about to exit his prime, but he can still be an effective complementary player on any team’s roster.

Johnny Boychuk – $3.366MM per for one more season – already mentioned in a pie-in-the-sky article suggesting a trade of Edmonton’s Nail Yakupov for Boychuk, but he’s a solid shutdown defender who’s due a raise on a team who doesn’t really have the space to give it to him. If Boston has to choose between Boychuk and Dougie Hamilton, who’s younger and has a higher ceiling, Boychuk might be expendable.

15 thoughts on “Exploiting the Big Spenders and Trolling for Deals

  1. Pingback: NHL Ponzi scheme; exploiting teams over salary cap; Nieuwendyk hired by 'Canes (Puck Headlines) - Curated News, Rumors and Headlines - FourLeagues

  2. All of this is based on the idea that the Ottawa Senators are willing or even capable of spending more than the cap floor, which they are very publicly not.

    • Second paragraph: “…and what one presumes to be additional revenues due to the massive regional television deal recently signed with TSN.” I’m presuming that money is paid out on the deal in phases, increasing Melnyk’s ability to spend.

      • Maybe that will bring them from losing money to breaking even but it still isn’t going to lead to taking on a bunch of salary. Melnyk would probably like to recoup some of the $94 million he’s lost so far.

        • Well, this is a bit of a rabbit hole of a discussion, because I don’t believe operational losses are the same as overall loss of value, and owners should be expected to go into debt while the underlying value of their franchise accrues, but that’s neither here nor there. The point of your comment is that my post assumes he has money to spend when he doesn’t, and I agree. I just thought it would be more fun to write than an article saying “Our owner is broke so nothing is going to happen.” It’s a bit of speculation. I’m not pretending to be a journalist who only covers the facts here. Plenty of that out there already.

  3. Misguided hysterics over team spending aside, can anyone think of a situation where a team in cap trouble moved the kind of guys you’d want to have on your team long-term? Last time Chicago was in trouble, it wasn’t Kane or Toews that got moved, but Brian Campbell, who supposedly had an unmovable contract. And while Campbell is a good defenseman, his cap hit is disproportionate to his contributions.

    This kind of speculation is always fun, but teams without cap space don’t magically give up their core players–so there’s nothing to “exploit.” They dump their overpaid guys who aren’t part of their core roster. Senators fans are ready to burn Colin Greening at the stake for being that type of player. If the Sens were to offer cap relief to other teams, I have to believe the giddy euphoria over spending some money, any money, would be quickly replaced with a seething, nihilistic fatalism over the team’s direction once fans realized exactly the kind of players the team was getting.

    • Well, I don’t think the guys I’m proposing here, except for maybe Patrick Sharp, are core guys. I don’t think Chicago would trade Toews or Kane, for example. I also think it’s telling that Campbell was signed by the previous regime in Chicago (and to the guy who signed him, now in Florida). There are situations where big money players become available.

      All that to say…you’re right. The core stays the core. But some of these guys might have just been squeezed to the periphery by circumstances.

      • I definitely understand what you were going for in the article, but to include Sean Couturier on the list seems like a pretty big joke. The Flyers resisted trading him about a dozen times – and now that he is becoming one of the top defensive centers in the league with all that offensive upside, they would get rid of him because and what would be his below market cap hit? For his restricted years?

        • Yeah, I actually struggled with whether or not to include him. Ultimately I did precisely because he seems to always be on the block. (I remember when Ottawa was trading Ben Bishop a straight up Bishop for Couturier trade was floating around, though again, it’s just a rumour.) Maybe that was the previous regime and this one is way more enamoured with him?

          • I just think from a monetary standpoint – which is what your article is about – he wouldn’t be the one to leave. Brayden Schenn might have been a better option to include (would anyone even want Luke?) because they could probably get some picks back for him at least.

          • Actually, he’s never been on the block. Other teams fans seem to always want him to be on the block. Big difference.

      • No doubt that there are situations where big money players become available. I just think the reason those guys become available is because they’re not exactly the kind of players a team with cap space like Ottawa would want to exploit.

        I get that everyone wants Ottawa to spend, but, like, for what? Guys like David Clarkson? I mean, if you can find a way to sucker the Flyers out of Couturier, you do that, because he’s an upgrade on Legwand–but mostly, I’d rather see Ottawa spend money wisely than spend money period. I think the approach of finding guys like Turris and MacArthur and using our money to retain them is a more realistic approach to building a long-term contender.

        Poach a young, potential cornerstone player from a cap-strapped team? Yes, please. But those just usually aren’t the kinds of guys that usually become available on cap-strapped teams.

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