The NHL Salary Cap Is Here To Stay
Game recaps, notes from Board of Governors meetings, Flyers hire Chuck Fletcher as GM, latest trades and more from a busy Monday in your NHL morning coffee headlines.
NHL.COM: Tampa Bay Lightning winger Nikita Kucherov extended his points streak to 10 games with a goal and three assists in a 5-1 victory over the New Jersey Devils. Brayden Point had a goal and two assists.
The Nashville Predators edged the Buffalo Sabres 2-1 to hand the latter their third straight loss. Kevin Fiala snapped a 1-1 tie with a third-period goal.
With Connor McDavid ailing and out of the lineup, the Edmonton Oilers fell 4-1 to the Dallas Stars. Brett Ritchie had a goal and an assist for the Stars.
Winnipeg Jets center Mark Scheifele, Arizona Coyotes goaltender Adin Hill, and Florida Panthers left wing Jonathan Huberdeau are the NHL’s three stars for the week ending Dec. 2, 2019.
The Philadelphia Flyers hired former Minnesota Wild general manager Chuck Fletcher as their new GM. Fletcher takes over from Ron Hextall, who was fired last week.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: I’ll have a look at Fletcher’s possible immediate plans later this morning in the Rumors section.
SPORTSNET: NHL commissioner Gary Bettman projected the salary cap for next season could reach $83 million.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: That would be another healthy increase in the cap, jumping $3.5 million over the current $79.5 million ceiling. The finalized figure will be announced by late-June.
If, as expected, the Board of Governors approves the addition of Seattle as the NHL’s 32nd franchise later today, it’s expected their first season will be 2021-22.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: It’s expected the KeyArena in Seattle won’t be ready to go until November 2020, which would explain the rationale behind pushing their inaugural campaign to the following season. It would also remove a key piece of leverage away from the NHLPA should they opt to take the early out from the current CBA next September. The league probably doesn’t want to risk a potential labor war potentially messing up the debut of their new franchise.
Bettman also said the league has informed the NHLPA that it needs to know by next month if they’re willing to sign off on a World Cup of Hockey tournament in 2020. “For the last year and a half, two years, we’ve been anxious to anchor plans for a World Cup but for whatever reason, the players’ association hasn’t been prepared to do that,” said Bettman.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The reason being the players prefer the Winter Olympics over the World Cup of Hockey. Still, if the NHLPA agrees to take part in the tournament, it could mean they won’t exercise their early-out from the current CBA next September. Fingers crossed, kids!
STLTODAY.COM: The St. Louis Blues placed defenseman Alex Pietrangelo (hand), winger Robby Fabbri (separated shoulder), and forward Alexander Steen (concussion) on injured reserve. Pietrangelo and Fabbri could be sidelined until at least Christmas while Steen is listed as day-to-day.
TSN: Toronto Maple Leafs winger William Nylander said he was told by GM Kyle Dubas he wouldn’t be traded as long as Dubas is running the Leafs. Nylander and the Leafs recently ended a lengthy contract standoff.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: I don’t doubt Dubas was sincere and Nylander undoubtedly believes him. But Nylander lacks no-trade protection until the final season of his new six-year contract. A lot can happen over that time period to change Dubas’ mind if he remains the GM over that period.
Speaking of the Leafs, they traded forward Josh Leivo to the Vancouver Canucks for forward Michael Carcone and temporarily loaned defenseman Travis Dermott to their AHL affiliate to make room for Nylander. Dermott’s expected back on their roster later today.
TRIBLIVE.COM: The Pittsburgh Penguins traded winger Daniel Sprong to the Anaheim Ducks for defenseman Marcus Pettersson.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Both trades saw their clubs swapping young players who weren’t working out, with their new teams hoping the change of scenery improves their respective performances.
MLIVE.COM: Detroit Red Wings forward Tyler Bertuzzi received a two-game suspension “unsportsmanlike conduct and roughing on Colorado Avalanche forward Matt Calvert.”
NHL.COM: The Los Angeles Kings claimed forward Brendan Leipsic off waivers from the Vancouver Canucks.
Updates on Artemi Panarin, Alex Edler and Sam Bennett, plus some salary-cap speculation, in your NHL rumor mill.
HIGHLIGHTS FROM LATEST “31 THOUGHTS”
SPORTSNET: In his latest “31 Thoughts” column, Elliotte Friedman believes Columbus Blue Jackets winger Artemi Panarin could be next to follow “John Tavares’s free-agent setup.”
SPECTOR’S NOTE: In other words, Panarin’s not going to re-sign with the Blue Jackets and will instead meet with several other interested clubs in late-June before deciding on July 1 which one he’ll sign with. Friedman recently suggested the New York Rangers could be a serious contender for Panariin’s services.
TSN’s Pierre LeBrun, meanwhile, speculated over Panarin “pulling an Erik Karlsson” by not signing a contract extension through a trade, turning the winger into a playoff rental and thus adversely affecting his trade value.
LeBrun believes Panarin wants to go to a big-market club such as one of the New York teams, Tampa Bay or in L.A. For now, he believes the winger wants to focus on helping the Blue Jackets this season and then cashing in elsewhere in the offseason.
I don’t see the Blue Jackets trading Panarin while they’re a playoff contender. However, if they fall out of postseason contention before the Feb. 25, 2019 trade deadline I think they’ll move him to the highest bidder.
Friedman reports Vancouver Canucks defenseman Alex Edler has made it clear he doesn’t want to leave Vancouver. His contract expires at the end of this season. Friedman said the Tampa Bay Lightning expressed interest in Edler a year ago. “Someone’s going to want him as a rental, even if he returns to British Columbia next year,” said Friedman.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Edler has a no-trade clause in his contract and could waive it if Canucks management tells him they don’t intend on re-signing him. Perhaps he’ll also agree to become a playoff rental if he gets assurances from the Canucks that they’ll bring him back next summer.
Friedman said Calgary Flames forward Sam Bennett has attracted interest from several clubs over the years, including “Anaheim, Montreal, Philadelphia, and Tampa Bay.” Despite Bennett’s struggles, Friedman isn’t convinced the Flames will trade the youngster, citing his age (22) and concern he could blossom elsewhere.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Friedman also mentioned Bennett’s potential and the Flames’ reluctance to move him last week. As I’ve said before, their patience isn’t endless. Bennett’s a restricted free agent with arbitration rights next summer. If he fails to improve this season I can see them entertaining offers come June.
Friedman also reports the NHL provided 2019-20 salary cap estimates at last week’s Board of Governors meeting. They ranged from $81.4 million to $85.4 million, depending upon the NHLPA’s escalator clause.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: This isn’t a rumor but it’s worth keeping in mind for future trade/free agent speculation over the course of this season.
Latest on Jack Eichel, Coyotes re-sign Christian Dvorak and more in your NHL morning coffee headlines.
THE ATHLETIC: John Vogl reports Jack Eichel is ready to lead a locker room of new faces following a summer of change for the Buffalo Sabres. Eichel believes the additions of veterans Patrik Berglund and Vladimir Sobotka will bring a good element to the club, while Jeff Skinner and Conor Sheary will improve the Sabres’ speed and skill.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Sabres played without a captain in 2017-18. Eichel could become the top candidate for the role this season.
ARIZONA SPORTS: The Coyotes yesterday announced they re-signed center Christian Dvorak to a six-year, $26.7-million contract extension. The annual average value is $4.45 million and takes effect in 2019-20. While the big raise and lengthy term for a player with only two years and 70 points on his NHL resume, Coyotes general manager John Chayka believes Dvorak will continue to improve.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Dvorak put up decent numbers in his first two NHL campaigns, averaging 35 points per season. If the 22-year-old blossoms as a two-way center this deal will turn into a long-term bargain for the Coyotes. If he doesn’t, this contract will become fodder for Chayka’s critics.
UNITED STATES HOCKEY HALL OF FAME: Nashville Predators general manager David Poile, former NHL player and coach Gordon “Red” Berenson and former NHL referee Paul Stewart are among the 2018 class of inductees into the US Hockey Hall of Fame. Natalie Darwitz and Leland “Hago” Harrington round out this year’s class.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Congratulations to this year’s inductees. The ceremony will take place in Nashville on Dec. 12.
TSN: Travis Yost explored salary-cap allocation among the 31 NHL teams for 2018-19. On average, each clubs allots “$42 million for forwards, $22 million for defencemen, $7 million for goaltenders, and about $9 million in unallocated cap space.”
LE JOURNAL DE MONTREAL: Former NHL defenseman Enrico Ciccone will be a candidate for the Quebec Liberal Party in the next provincial election. In recent years, Ciccone was a sports columnist on radio and television.
Since the NHL returned from a season-killing lockout in 2005, the parity among its teams has become increasingly apparent.
On Jan. 8, The Athletic’s Pierre LeBrun took note of this trend, citing the closeness of most of the league’s 31 teams in this season’s standings. That included seven clubs that were outside the postseason picture in 2016-17 hold playoff berths this season.
He also observed two clubs that did well last season (Edmonton and Ottawa) were near the bottom of the standings, the back-to-back Stanley Cup champion Pittsburgh Penguins were fighting for a playoff spot while the expansion Vegas Golden Knights sat atop the Western Conference.
LeBrun cited the impact of the NHL salary-cap since its imposition in 2005. He believes “near-complete parity is here to stay,” a view shared by Penguins general manager Jim Rutherford.
The league approves of that level of competitiveness. Commissioner Gary Bettman told LeBrun the system was intended to give every team a shot at not just reaching the playoffs, but also winning the Stanley Cup.
Not everyone, however, is a fan of this system. On Jan. 13, the New York Post’s Larry Brooks declared the NHL has confused parity with mediocrity. He blames in part the salary-cap system for harming the product.
Brooks considers the league’s attempt at parity to be a failure. To make that case, he points out 16 franchises – Minnesota Wild, Calgary Flames, New York Islanders, Toronto Maple Leafs, Florida Panthers, Edmonton Oilers, Vancouver Canucks, Winnipeg Jets/Atlanta Thrashers, Philadelphia Flyers, New Jersey Devils, Buffalo Sabres, Columbus Blues Jackets, Dallas Stars, Colorado Avalanche, Carolina Hurricanes and Arizona Coyotes – missed the postseason for a number of years and/or struggled to advance past the opening round of the playoffs since the implementation of the cap system.
The salary cap does make it difficult for successful teams to keep their rosters intact. The high cost of doing so can result in teams being forced to trade away stars it cannot afford to re-sign or watch them depart via free agency. It can also create situations where so much money is tied up in top talent that there’s insufficient cap space to maintain adequate depth throughout a roster.
A closer look at the teams on Brooks’ list, however, reveals those clubs were more the victims of management error than of the salary-cap system. Their follies have been well-documented – some more than others – since 2005 and remain painful memories for their fans.
Many of those clubs had little management stability. Since 2005-06, the Avalanche, Jackets, Flames and Oilers all had four different general managers. The Leafs and Panthers have each had five. The Stars also had five if you include the co-management of Brett Hull and Les Jackson.
Two of the teams on Brooks’ list (Carolina and Vancouver) advanced to the Stanley Cup Finals, with the Hurricanes winning the Cup. The Canucks haven’t won a round since 2011, but from ’06-’07 to ’11-’12 had five 100-point seasons and were regularly among the top teams in the Western Conference.
Some were once-dominant franchises (Devils, Avalanche, Stars, Canucks) that took too long to engage in necessary rebuilding until it was too late. Some (Coyotes, Oilers) relied too heavily on young, inexperienced talent. Others (Leafs, Flyers) invested in expensive veterans leaving little cap room to bolster their depth.
The other fourteen NHL teams during that period, meanwhile, managed to work within the system to varying degrees of success. Some, such as the Chicago Blackhawks and Pittsburgh Penguins, better than others. Of course, those two clubs are feeling the pinch this season as limited cap space and the departure of key veterans catches up with them. Indeed, both could face a long decline after nearly a decade among the league’s dominant franchises.
The NHL’s system isn’t perfect. It’s challenging even for well-managed teams to maintain competitive rosters and certainly doesn’t prevent bad management decisions. It has undoubtedly played a role in the parity currently seen among the 31 franchises.
Still, there’s no denying that savvy management can at least maintain a reasonably competitive franchise over a lengthy period within a salary-cap system.
Game recaps, salary cap updates, Flames not for sale and more in your NHL morning coffee headlines.
NHL.COM: Artemi Panarin collected a career-high five assists as the Columbus Blue Jackets overcame a 2-0 deficit to defeat the New Jersey Devils 5-3.
Malcolm Subban made 41 saves backstopping his Vegas Golden Knights to a 4-3 victory over his brother P.K. Subban and the Nashville Predators. Reilly Smith tallied the only goal in the shootout for the win.
Gustav Forsling’s overtime goal lifted the Chicago Blackhawks to a 3-2 win over the Buffalo Sabres, snapping the Blackhawks’ five-game losing skid. Forsling also collected two assists in this contest.
Matt Dumba scored in overtime as the Minnesota Wild edged the Anaheim Ducks 3-2, giving the Wild their third victory in four games. Jason Zucker netted a goal and an assist for the Wild.
Third-period goals by Matt Niskanen and Tom Wilson carried the Washington Capitals to a 4-2 win over the New York Rangers. Capitals center Niklas Backstrom had a two-point performance in this game.
TSN: NHL commissioner Gary Bettman projects league revenue for 2017-18 will reach a record $4.84 billion US, meaning next season’s salary-cap ceiling should rise to somewhere between $78 million to $82 million.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: There’s talk it could ultimately settle at $80 million. That would a significant increase over the current $75 million ceiling and will bring significant cap relief to clubs with over $60 million already invested in next season’s cap payroll. The official figure will be announced next June.
SPORTSNET: Calgary Flames co-owner Murray Edwards said the club isn’t for sale, but there are currently no plans to meet with the city of Calgary to resolve its dispute over the construction of a new arena. Earlier this week, Edwards told the NHL Board of Governors he wasn’t optimistic over the club’s chances of getting a new venue.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Edwards and company might not be selling the Flames. However, that doesn’t mean they can’t move the franchise if the city of Calgary refuses to bend to the team’s demands over who picks up how much of the construction costs for a new arena. With Seattle and Houston emerging as viable options for NHL franchises, don’t be surprised if we start hearing ominous rumblings about one of these cities becoming a new home for the Flames.
SUN-SENTINEL.COM: Florida Panthers forward Aleksander Barkov’s absence from the lineup is likely to be brief. Barkov was sidelined after being struck in the jaw by Winnipeg Jets defenseman Jacob Trouba on Thursday. He’s listed as doubtful for today’s game against Colorado but is expected to return to action on Monday against Detroit.
SPORTSNET: Former Montreal Canadiens defenseman Andrei Markov feels he was disrespected by Canadiens general manager Marc Bergevin during last summer’s contract negotiations. Markov said Bergevin scarcely spoke with him, using a “take it or leave it” attitude with his contract offers.
NBC SPORTS: Hey, hockey fans! Now you can bid for a chance to own Al the Octopus during the Joe Louis Arena auction, which begins today and runs through Dec. 16.