by Mike Chen on 09/04/09 at 02:49 PM ET
Ok, so the Phil Kessel-to-San Jose rumors are flying about now thanks to the Sharks’ cap-clearing moves last week. However, a simple look at numbers shows that a trade between the two teams is pretty much impossible without a third party getting involved.
Please recall that the trading of Christian Ehrhoff and Brad Lukowich to the Vancouver Canucks opened up about $4 million of cap space. That’s why everyone thought the trades were a precursor to something else. However, the Sharks promptly signed Torrey Mitchell, Brad Staubitz, and Thomas Greiss, which took up about half of that $2 million cap space. As it stands right now, the Sharks are hovering around the $54 million mark. That leaves them with about $3 million in cap space.
The Bruins, on the other hand, have about $1.5 million to play with thanks to buyouts of Glen Murray, Peter Schaefer, and Patrick Eaves, along with the $3.3 million signing of Derek Morris. However, this is a best-case scenario as it doesn’t factor bonuses in there (bonuses count against the cap); if all bonuses are achieved, then the Bruins are technically around $1.5 million over the cap—and that’s even without Kessel’s new contract.
(For anyone interested, those bonuses are for Milan Lucic, Blake Wheeler, and Tuuka Rask. So you can be pretty sure that the first two will achieve their bonuses. The latter? Not so much.)
Puck Daddy pinned the proposed Kessel number at around $4.4 million a year, or David Booth-style numbers. That simply doesn’t work with either team, which means that A) if the Bruins signed Kessel, they’d have to clear out space elsewhere and B) if the Sharks traded for him, they’d have to ship out salary in return, which the Bruins can’t take.
There are two caveats to this. First off, it’s important to remember that most teams don’t want to spend to the cap (if they’re allowed to by their internal budgeting) until the trade deadline. If you’re at the cap come October, then that really hampers your ability to do much during the season. Sure, you could jettison salary, but you’re playing from a position of weakness, and considering how chaotic the trade deadline salary additions are, it’s a place no GM wants to be in. Ideally, you’d probably want to start $3 - $4 million below the cap when the season kicks off, and that should allow you to comfortably absorb any pro-rated cap hit come February or March.
Second, don’t forget that Kessel is injured and won’t be able to return to the ice until December. That means that whichever team owns his rights can stick him on the long-term injury list, which essentially nullifies his cap hit until he can return. So let’s say in theory the Sharks trade for Kessel’s rights. They then have about two months to get rid of salary to accommodate Kessel before he’s activated.
Regardless of the situation, some third party will have to get involved in order for to Kessel to fit. From the Sharks perspective, I think it’d make cap sense to trade both Jonathan Cheechoo ($3 million cap hit) and Milan Michalek ($4.3 million cap hit). Yes, that’s freeing up more room than is necessary, but it allows for maximum flexibility and keeps an eye on the short-term and long-term roster—there are only so many top-six forwards you can field, and Patrick Marleau’s future is uncertain in that he could sign elsewhere next year or he could get extended should he have a good season without the captaincy. This scenario gets rid of dead (or injured) weight in Cheechoo and a greater offensive upside than Michalek while leaving flexibility for the trade deadline and the upcoming season.
Note that I’m not necessarily advocating that the Sharks go get Kessel. This just seems to be the most realistic scenario if it actually happened.
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