Jul 272006
 

I am going to be busy with other stuff the next few days so updates of the salary cap commitments will be a bit slow or non-existant. Things should be back to normal Monday when I hope to get everything back up to date. Thanks for your patience.

Jul 222006
 

Just wondering what everyone thinks are the best and worst off season moves made so far this summer. Here are some of mine.

Best Moves (in no particular order):

-Minnesota trading for Pavel Demitra. Minnesota needed offense and Demitra will provide that and can also make the players around him better.

-Nashville signing Jason Arnott. $22.5 million over 5 years is a lot of money but Arnott is the kind of 2-way player that will fit into the Predators lineup nicely and he’ll provide some nice leadership for Nashvilles younger players.

-Atlanta signs Steve Rucchin. Rucchin is no Marc Savard but he is a solid leader and great on the faceoffs. He’ll certainly help the Thrashers reduce the number of goals against.

-Calgary trades for Alex Tanguay. The Flames were very deep on defense but desperately needed some additional offense. Ideally they would have gotten a playmaking centerman but Tanguay is an excellent addition in his own right. Finally the Flames have someone to help out Iginla on offense.

Bad Moves

-Kings signing Scott Thornton for 2 years at $1.5 million per year. Nothing against Scott Thornton because he plays a role and does a decent job at it but that is a lot of money for a 35 year old 3rd line winger.

-Ottawa signs Martin Gerber for $3.7 million per year for 3 years. That’s a lot of money for a goalie who was 18th in goals against average and 17th in save percentage who floundered in the playoffs and who has just 114 games of NHL experience. He has shown spurts of excellence (as in the Olympics) but overall he seems to be just an average goalie. All that money goes to Gerber and yet the goalie with the 3rd best goals against average and 8th best save percentage still sits out there on the open market (Legace). And Hasek would have returned to Ottawa for about $3 million per year less.

-Tampa trades for and signs Marc Denis for 3 years and $8.6 million. Tampa seems to think that Denis will resolve their goaltending woes but Denis is only marginally better. His 3.25 goals against average and .900 save percentage are nothing to write home about. And Manny Legace is still sitting out there on the open market with no where to go.

-Minnesota signed Kim Johnssonto a 4 year $19.4 million deal. Yikes!! That is a big commitment to a guy coming off a concussion riddled season. Johnsson is a good defenseman but I am not sure even a healthy Johnsson is worth that kind of money.

So, what do you all think? What are the best and worst off season moves?

Jul 182006
 

I thought for a bit that maybe, just maybe, the Islanders had finally decided to act like a professional franchise and get rid of Mike “I’ve never made a good trade” Milbury (sort of) and replace him with a qualified general manage as well as hire a qualified coach. But today we find out that that was just a joke and the franchise is yet again a poorly run franchise destined to live in the world of mediocrity (I’m being generous). For whatever reason the qualified GM, Neil Smith, has left the franchise whether it was his decision, the teams decision or some kind of mutual decision. And the new GM? Last years backup goalie. Yup. Last years backup goalie is the new General Manager. I really don’t know what else to say. I’m stunned. I’ve got nothing against Garth Snow. I am sure he is a smart guy, but can he really run a team just removed sitting on the end of the bench as backup goalie? It just stuns me that a successful businessman such as Charles Wang continues to make such foolish decisions.

Jul 182006
 

With the signing of Peca as well as youngsters Wellwood, Bell, Colaiacovo, and Jay Harrison over the past couple of days it seems most of the Leafs off season moves are now complete. There may be some tweaking here and there but for the most part I think what you see is what you get. So, where does that put the Leafs? In the playoffs I think.

Last season the Leafs had two significant problems. They gave up too many goals (10th worst in the NHL) and though they finished 9th overall in goals scored, they struggled to score goals at even strength. This summer they clearly focused on the first of those problems but I think that despite not adding a big name goal scorer they may have helped the second problem as well.

Last year Ed Belfour and Mikael Tellqvist struggled for consistancy and that was a huge part of the Leafs demise. When Aubin came in and played quality goaltending towards the end of last season the Leafs were nearly unbeatable – Aubin had a 9-0-2 record.

The first significant move was made to shore up the goaltending by adding former rookie of the year Andrew Raycroft. Last season Andrew Raycroft had a horrible season but he was downright awesome in his rookie season. Which Raycroft shows up will go a long way to determining how much success the Leafs have this season but I am optimistic. I think with the year off a lot of players struggled to get back in the groove and for Raycroft that was compounded by injury problems. A tandem of Raycroft and Aubin could be a huge boost for the Leafs.

The next moves the Leafs made was to shore up the defense. Gone are Klee, Berg, Khavanov and others and in are Pavel Kubina and Hal Gill. Kubina plays a solid all-round game and would be a #2 defenseman (or better) on most other teams and Hal Gill is a solid defensive defenseman. Rounding out the top six will likely be Carlo Colaiacovo who is ready for a break out season and Ian White who played great last summer. Other options include Jay Harrison, Brendan Bell, Staffan Kronwall and Andy Wozniewski.

The problem last year on defense is that while Berg, Khavanov, Klee, etc. are serviceable defensemen they are not 20 minitutes per game type of defensemen and that required McCabe and Kaberle to get over worked. Kubina and Gill are 20 minute per game defensemen (or more in Kubina’s case) and that should help out both McCabe and Kaberle as they can play 25 minutes per game instead of 28-30. With Kubina and White both being more than capable of anchoring the PP and Kubina and Gill both being more than capable of killing penalties the McCabe-Kaberle duo can spend less time doing that (both played >40% of their time either on PP or on PK) and more time playing even strength hockey. This should be a boost to the Leafs even strength offense. Kubina, Colaiacovo and White should also all produce more offense from the defense than last years crew.

Up front the only significant addition was Mike Peca while the Leafs lost Lindros and likely won’t re-sign Jason Allison. Between them they only played 99 games so really it is more like they lost just one player and a bit. But between them they lost a fair amount of offense, particularly on the PP where Allison was extremely valuable. It will be up to young Kyle Wellwood to jump into the role of second line center, improve on his good rookie season and mitigate many of the losses of Allison and Lindros. Peca meanwhile will have the role of shutting down the oppositions top player as well as being a top penalty kill guy and this is something the Leafs never really had last year. Kilger, Wilm and others do a good job at that but Peca should be that much better.

So, as it stands now, this is the likely lineup for this upcoming season.

Darcy Tucker-Mats Sundin-Alex Steen
Alexei Ponikarovsky-Kyle Wellwood-Jeff O’Neill
Chad Kilger-Mike Peca-Nik Antropov
Pohl-Stajan-Ondrus
Belak

McCabe-Kaberle
Kubina-Gill
Colaiacovo-White

Raycroft
Aubin

Stajan still needs to be signed and Ondrus and Pohl will compete with Erik Westrum, Jeremy Williams, Aleksander Suglobov and Bates Battaglia for the fourth line roles. Belak will likely play the versatile role of rugged winger and 7th defenseman as required.

The two keys to success in my mind are:

1. Can Raycroft and/or Aubin provide top tier and more importantly consistant goaltending.
2. Can Wellwood step up his game into a true second line center in order to offset some of the offense lost in Allison and Lindros. A 65-70 point season would be nice.

If those two things happen and the rest of the team remains relatively injury free I think this is easily a playoff team and one that could possibly do something in the playoffs.

(Note: It would not surprise me if JFJ is looking to move some of those young defensemen for another young scoring forward. A package of one or two of those defenseman with Stajan and/or Antropov might net a nice young skilled forward in return.)

Jul 122006
 

Ok, I have finally ocmpleted the salary cap commitment tables for all 30 NHL teams. You can view these by clicking on the links in the menu to the left. I plan on keeping these as up to date as possible as the off season goes on and as trades and fre agent signings occur. I make no guarantees that the numbers are 100% accurate but they are accurate to the best of my knowledge. If you notice and mistakes please either comment to this post or send me an e-mail at david@hockeyanalysis.com. If you have any other questions or comments also feel free to post a comment to this post or drop me an e-mail.

One thing to remember when browsing through these tables is that the numbers are not a players actual salary but rather the salary cap hit fromt he players contract (usually the average annual salary over the term of the contract). These numbers do differ from some of the numbers you see on other sites such as tsn.ca and nhlpa.com.

Jul 092006
 

I have finished the eastern conference salary cap commitments as well as the northwest division. I have tried to keep them up to date as signings and trades happened but I may have missed a few. If I have, please let me know. I hope to get the other two divisions done in the next few days.

Jul 082006
 

In the new Salary Cap era general managers are going to have to do some interesting accounting to get the maximum benefit of salary cap dollars as they can. The GMs who do the best managing of the salary cap should have the biggest advantage. I say should because money didn’t help the Rangers in the pre-cap era. So far we have seen a couple tricks used.

1. Sign young players to long term deals with escalating salaries. An example of this is the contract that Rick Nash signed in Columbus last year in which General Manager Doug Maclean got widely criticized for. The deal was a 5 year, $27 million dollar deal paying Nash $3.5 million in 2005-06, $4.5 million in 2006-07, $5.5 million in 2007-08, $6.5 million in 2008-09 and $7 million in 2009-10. What Maclean was criticized for was giving so much money to a young player and yes, it was definitely a risk because he only really had one good season. But the risk could pay off big time down the road because they will be getting a star player on their roster for a salary cap hit of something much less than most other star players will. In 2009-10 he might be an MVP candidate making $7 million but the salary cap hit will only be $5.4 million. That extra $1.6 million if spent right could allow the Blue Jackets to added some depth to their roster which in my mind is vastly overlooked in terms of importance. Carolina didn’t win the Cup because they had a bunch of superstars, they won because they had depth. Edmonton didn’t win the west because they had several superstars, they won because they had depth. The Nash signing means that down the road the Blue Jackets might have the possibility of having both stars and depth. It’s a risky move but if Nash develops as everyone expects, it could be a smart move.

2. The other strategy which we have seen utilized a few times this summer is the exact opposite. That is signing older players to longer term contracts in which the pay decreases over time. Bryan McCabe signed a 5 year $28.75 million dollar contract for an annual average of $5.75 million. That $5.75 million average is the salary cap hit. But in fact, according to the NHLPA website, Bryan McCabe is set to earn $7.15 million this season. Now I haven’t seen a break down of what McCabe is getting paid each season but if we assume that his contract is symmetrical (i.e. the average of the first and last years is $5.75 million) then his final year under the contract he would get paid $4.35 million. So what is the big deal about that? Well, what if McCabe’s play degrades significantly over the course of the next four years and the Leafs decided to buy out his contract? The buyout rate is 2/3rds of the remaining salary spread over twice the number of years remaining on the contract. So if McCabe’s final year of the contract was bought out the price tag would be 2/3 of $4.35 million or $2.9 million. That $2.9 million would be spread out over 2 seasons for a salary cap hit of $1.45 million. Had his contract paid him $5.75 million in the final year the buyout costs would be 1.92 million for 2 years. Not significant but not peanuts either. The other advantage of doing this is that the player (though not in McCabe’s case since has a no-trade clause) can more easily be traded to a smaller market team without salary cap issues down the road since smaller market teams are more worried about not going over their internal budget rather than not going over the salary cap.

Jul 042006
 

Today Steve Simmons has a column outlining the Leafs salary situation. What is interesting is the number mistakes listed in it. Mistakes that are completely avoidable and show completely how little homework Steve Simmons does. Man, that guy has a cushy job. He can be a complete moron while writing and talking about sports and get paid for it.

He has John Pohl listed as **John Pohl 450,000 with ** meaning “Unsigned forwards who have limited ability to increase salary” Well a quick visit to the Maple Leafs website would indicated that Pohl is not unsigned but rather that he was signed to a 2-year contract last week. Maybe he missed it because it was disguised as an offficial press release. Maybe the Leafs don’t consider him worthy of being called a member of the ‘press’ either and stopped sending him the releases.

He has Chad Kilger listed at $1.2 million which does appear to be his salary this year but in terms of salary cap commitments the cost is the average of the contract and every media report I have seen indicates that he signed a 3 year $2.7 million contract which works out to a $900,000 average salary for a $900,000 salary cap hit.

He has Andrew Raycroft listed as being signed to a $1.38 million contract but according to the NHL.com website as well as the NHLPA.com website he is still listed as a restricted free agent.

He has Ed Belfour’s salary cap hit listed as $750,000 but I believe the hit to be the full $1.5 million this year and not 750,000 this year and next.

And I am still not convinced that he has the Domi buyout costs correct. It is either $1.25 million this year or $416,000 this year and next depending on which section of the CBA takes precedence. From reading the CBA I believe it should be $416,000 this year and next but Simmons interprets it as $610,000 this year and next (half Domi’s salary this year, the other half next year).

Steve Simmons isn’t the only member of the media who doesn’t seem at all itnerested in doing some homework he is just the worst. Now you know why I spend the time creating accurate (as good as I can get anyway) salary commitment lists (see menu to left). The Leafs salary commitments can be viewed here.

Jul 032006
 

This Chris Pronger to Anaheim trade today is an interesting one. My initial reaction is that the Oilers got burnt on this trade but after thinking about it, I am not so sure that Anaheim did all that great either. When trading a star player if you don’t get a star player back I tend to think you lost the trade. I am not sure Edmonton got the star player back. Between Lupul, Smid, and the draft picks they potentially picked up some pretty good players, but the same could be said for Boston in the Thornton trade and most people consider that a bad trade. Superstar players are hard to get, Joffrey Lupul’s are much easier. That is why it is a bad trade for Edmonton.

But before we all jump on the Anehim for the Stanley Cup band wagon (I can hear Pierre McGuire drooling over the Ducks already) let me say that I am not convinced that two superstar defensemen are the right way to build a team. The last 2 Stanley Cup champions had no superstar defensemen on their team but rather had depth. The west champion Oilers had Pronger, but also had excellent depth on defense with Staios, Smith, Bergeron, Spacek, Greene, and Tarnstrom. The 2003-04 west champion Calgary Flames also had excellent depth on defense but no superstar 2-way defensemen. Anaheim’s current defense looks like this:

Niedermayer-Pronger
Beauchemin-O’Donnell
Dipenta-Vishnevski

Aside from Niedermayer and Pronger that isn’t a very good defense. There aren’t many examles of teams with two star defensemen to compare Anaheim with but I will bring up the example of Chara and Redden in Ottawa and MacInnis and Pronger in St. Louis of a few years ago. Neither of those teams had much playoff success and both of those teams had better offenses than Anaheim looks to have. New Jersey and Detroit both had success with multiple star defensemen but both of them also had excellent depth on defense. In the salary cap era teams won’t really be able to have both multiple stars and depth and I believe it is better to have the good depth on defense than have a couple star defensemen.

Anaheim will have a good team next year but I am not yet convinced they are a top Stanley Cup contender despite probably having 2 of the top 3 defensemen in the NHL (Lidstrom being the other).