Rookies or cheap veterens?
One thing that we are seeing in the NHL under the new CBA is that some veterens are going to have to accept minimum or close to minimum salary contracts if they want to remain in the NHL. Mariusz Czerkawski who signed with the Leafs for a paltry $500,000 is an example. The best Bryan Marchment could do is accept an invite to a training camp. Defenseman Brad Brown was forced to accept a 2-way contract. All this is because teams are limited by the $39 million salary cap. The ‘depth’ players are going to be forced to take league minimum wages.
But the rookie salary cap is $850,000. That could create a dilemma for teams that are close to the salary cap, such as the Leafs. A guy like Carlo Colaiacovo who signed his rookie contract under the old CBA might actually make $950,000 should he make the Leafs. But a guy like Marchment or Brown would probably make no more than $500,000. Is it possible that Colaiacovo could see more time in the minors because of this? Yes, quite possible, unless he can clearly outplay those cheap veterens. It doesn’t seem like a big savings but if you can do that at 2 roster spots you could save $800,000 over a year. That might allow you to bring a $2.5-3 million per year player in come trade deadline time since only that players remaining salary will count towards a teams cap, not his full year salary.
Now guys like Sidney Crosby or guys who play on teams who are well below the salary cap will not be affected. But the mid-late first round picks who still sign at or close to the rookie cap might find their progress slowed because of this. Players can also become unrestricted free at age 27, or after 7 years in the NHL which means someone starting his NHL career at 18 years old could potentially become an unrestrictied free agent at age 25. Because of these two factors is is quite possible that we will see fewer and fewer prosepcts, especially 18 and 19 year olds, being rushed to the NHL. Teams will likely try to save some cap space, save a year of unrestricted free agency (gaining a year of a players prime). A guy like Patrice Bergeron of the Bruins is a guy who might not have began his NHL career at 18 under the new CBA.