A look at some recent notable NHL news.
Los Angeles Kings GM Dean Lombardi is turning into a sharp critic of the NHL salary-cap regulations. Earlier in the season Lombardi criticized the league’s slow response toward allowing him to clear suspended defenseman Slava Voynov’s cap hit to free up space to replace the blueliner. Now, the Kings GM is unhappy over the Canadian dollar’s effect upon the salary cap.
Lombardi’s complaint over the Voynov situation was justified. His beef with the cap, however, is merely a GM who’s put himself into potential cap jeopardy.
Everyone knows fluctuations in the Canadian dollar will affect the cap. Lombardi had no complaint when the “loonie” spent several recent years at par with the American dollar, resulting in steadily increasing salary-cap limits, which he happily kept pace with.
Yes, it’s expensive to maintain a championship roster, which I’ll touch base on shortly in this piece. However, management must ensure it invests wisely in its talent, showing as much foresight as possible regarding potential cap fluctuations. Lombardi gambled on the cap continuing to rise. It’s a gamble he could lose this summer. How much, and for how long, remains to be seen.
If the sudden decline of the “loonie” hurts Lombardi’s efforts to juggle his cap for next season, he’s got no one to blame but himself.
Have to chuckle when I read the LA Kings and Carolina Hurricanes don’t intend to buy out overpriced forwards Mike Richards and Alexander Semin.
Those teams won’t announce any intention to buy out those players leading up to the trade deadline, otherwise efforts to move them will fall to pieces. No one will show any interest in acquiring via trade a player they can sign cheaply in the off-season.
But don’t kid yourselves, folks, Richards and Semin will be bought out during the final two weeks of June 2015. Their declining play and expensive contracts makes them almost impossible to move, unless the Kings or Hurricanes are willing to pick up part of their contracts or include a good young player or a high draft pick in the deal. I don’t expect those clubs to get that desperate.
Unfortunately for the Kings and Hurricanes, there’s no more compliance buyouts, meaning these cashouts will take a bite out of their respective payrolls. Still, they’ll be cheaper than carrying their full salaries for another season.
Fears of a lower than projected salary cap next season has brought attention to the fact a couple of Stanley Cup contenders (the defending champion Kings and Chicago Blackhawks) could be weakened after this season when they’re forced to shed salary via trades.
Yes, the cap punishes success but apparently that was worth risking by NHL owners a decade ago whey they killed a season to get a three-tiered cap system. Many of those same team owners were around to kill off half a season two years ago to reduce the players share of revenue and impose contract term limits.
When the NHL owners succeeded in implementing and maintaining their precious salary-cap system, they didn’t seem fully cognizant of the consequences for successful teams, particularly those built largely around young talent.
It’s increasingly difficult to manage a cap payroll when icing a championship contender. Players improve and seek raises, but room must also be made to retain the established stars. And as the pay raises increase, the less cap space there is for everybody.
Eventually, it reaches a point where the championship team must shed salary. The Blackhawks did so in 2010 and will again this summer. The Boston Bruins felt the bite this season, forced to trade away invaluable defenseman Johnny Boychuk to become cap compliant. And the defending champion Kings will feel it this summer.
When the Kings won their second Stanley Cup in three seasons, and the Blackhawks two in four seasons, there was talk of those clubs becoming dynasties, or as close to dynasties as NHL teams can get under a salary cap. But as we’ve seen, it doesn’t take long for a club on the verge of a dynasty losing that opportunity because it’s too expensive to maintain a championship lineup.
Hearing lots of talk over how Montreal Canadiens goalie Carey Price has overtaken sidelined Nashville Predators netminder Pekka Rinne in the race for this season’s Vezina Trophy.
In recent weeks Price was outstanding. He had back-to-back 1-0 shutouts last week against the New York Rangers and Washington Capitals. Rinne, prior to his knee injury on January 13, was looking like the runaway favorite for the Vezina but Price’s performance is impressing many observers.
Howeer, don’t rush to crown Price the Vezina winner just yet. Rinne was superlative before his injury, and if he quickly returns to form he could once again dominate the Vezina talk. At the very least, this season’s Vezina race seems down to Rinne and Price.