Kukla's Korner Hockey
by George Malik on 02/24/13 at 06:52 AM ET
The longer this season goes, the more I've been reminding my fellow Wings fans that the salary cap is going down from $70.2 million to $64.3 million this summer. It's probably going to stay at that level for some time as the NHLPA's share of the NHL's hockey-related revenues drops to 50% and stays there.
As such, even Detroit's $18.3 million in cap space, per Capgeek.com, becomes a tight fit despite the fact that the Wings are already $7.79 million under the current cap, with players like Valtteri Filppula, Jimmy Howard, Damien Brunner, Danny Cleary, Drew Miller and Ian White as their unrestricted free agents-to-be, and players like Brendan Smith, Brian Lashoff, Joakim Andersson and Gustav Nyquist coming off their entry-level deals.
Not everyone is going to be back in Detroit, and as the cap's upper limit drops by $5.9 million and remains stable, even restricted free agents-to-be can't anticipate the same kinds of raises that they would have seen had the cap remained at its current level--and for many star players, this summer portends a long wait to take a severe pay cut to play somewhere else.
To some extent, I believe that this summer's round of amnesty buyouts--which will take place in June--may be of more importance than listing this summer's free agents-to-be, because some of the league's top players will be bought out because their contracts are either deemed expendable or cost prohibitive going forward.
We're really going to see a dispersal draft to some extent, with more impact players likely to either re-sign with their rights-holders or to find themselves in an uncomfortably bear-like market sometime after July 1st.
The New York Post's Larry Brooks believes that one of those players might be Brad Richards, and while even Brooks admits that he's being presumptous by suggesting as much, his argument behind such a suggestion is sound:
There is every chance Richards, who has struggled in essentially every aspect thus far and most notably in pace, will find his game along the way and render the issue moot. There is every chance Richards, whose confidence is shaken if not shot, will regain the swagger that has disappeared in his game (and in his team’s as well, by the way).
If not, though, if the first third of the season is prelude to the remainder of 2012-13, then the 31-year-old center’s heavily front-loaded nine-year, $60 million contract that runs through 2020-21 will be placed on a slide for microscopic inspection, as if dispositive evidence in a murder case.
The Rangers, as currently constituted, will have approximately $10 million of space to fill five roster spots next season. That includes three positions reserved for restricted free agents Ryan McDonagh, Derek Stepan and Carl Hagelin. That leaves the club with limited maneuverability regarding moves not only over the summer, but this season as well if they include adding players with contracts that run into next year.
This makes it much more likely than not that the Rangers would execute their final amnesty buyout this summer rather than next, when the cap cannot go down and conceivably will go up.
The numbers tell us Marian Gaborik, carrying a cap hit of $7.5 million through next season, would be a candidate, except other essential numbers say No. 10 not only leads the Blueshirts in goals, as usual, but is sixth in the NHL in goal-scoring since he came to the Rangers in 2009-10 (fourth in goals per game).
Richards’ cap hit is $6.67 million per for six more seasons. The cap-recapture penalties on front-loaded contracts such as his mean the Rangers would be punished severely if the 32-year-old pivot were to retire before the end of his deal. A normal course buyout down the road would burden the Rangers with three seasons of between $6 million and $7 million of dead cap space.
Continued with quips about injuries, Dan Boyle as another buyout candidate and a bit about Rick DiPietro.
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Paul Kukla founded Kukla’s Korner in 2005 and the site has since become the must-read site on the ‘net for all the latest happenings around the NHL.
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