Now that the NHL has won the arbitration award based on “salary cap circumvention” with the Kovalchuk situation, they are ready to tackle the rest of the league. A year (and perhaps in a few occasions more than a year) ago, specific contracts were approved by the league and now the league has decided to reevaluate those contracts to determine if they too circumvent the salary cap.
In case you haven’t already heard, the Maple Leafs have broken off negotiations with prospect Bill Sweatt, acquired in the Versteeg trade from the Blackhawks. In a statement to the Toronto Sun, Burke explained that the club would rather keep a spot on the 50 contract limit open than continue discussions with Sweatt. As the talks continued to stall, the Leafs likely turned and upped their offer to Marcel Mueller, whose ELC contract value sits at $1.12 million. Sweatt is likely looking for a figure close to Blake Wheeler’s $2.825 cap hit as a 4-year college free agent, which is a steep price to pay for a player with speed but limited offensive upside.
Even with news breaking this afternoon of Ilya Kovalchuk’s new $60 million contract extension (potentially) with the New Jersey Devils, this 2010 free agency period has been one of the most uneventful and slow-developing offseasons in recent memory. The reason being? Despite a mediocre at best free agent group, there simply isn’t enough money to pay these guys what they’re probably worth. As one unnamed NHL General Manager put it last week: “The teams with cap don’t have cash and the teams with cash don’t have cap”. The Maple Leafs however, are fortunate enough to have both, and have the opportunity to exploit the market to their advantage.
Monday afternoon’s 5pm qualifying offer deadline has come and gone. A QO is simply a mandatory minimum contract, valued at either the player’s previous year’s salary or slightly above, which prevents said player from becoming an unrestricted free agent on July 1st.
The Maple Leafs extended qualifying offers to forwards Nikolai Kulemin and Christian Hanson, while letting go of forward John Mitchell and defensemen Matt Jones and Phil Oreskovic. Collegiate free agent signee Kyle Rogers was also among the Marlies’ restricted free agents, but there is no word yet on whether he was qualified. If Rogers becomes a free agent, the Leafs will have trimmed down their contract obligations down to 43.
Sportsnet’s Nick Kypreos also adds that the club will look to bring Mitchell back for a lesser salary, and continue to discuss a long-term contract with Kulemin, though the latter is believed to be seeking north of $3 million per season. Around the league, some may be surprised to hear that the Islanders will not be bringing back 26 year old forward Sean Bergenheim, an industrious checker who has averaged 12 goals/year over the past 3 seasons.
Brian Burke is a pretty smart guy. Months ago, he explained to the fans and media that while the current free agent market is weak, it could get stronger as cap strapped teams are unable to submit qualifying offers to some prominent restricted free agents. One such player could be Andrew Ladd, and there could be several other names in play as well. Follow me as a I crunch some numbers to figure out why.
Years ago, we were all stunned when Islander GM Garth Snow handed goaltender Rick DiPietro an astounding 15 year contract back in 2005. Fast forward to present day, and this recent fad of handing out double digit term into a player’s forties is very quickly starting to get out of hand. Detroit GM Ken Holland gives out 12 and 11 year contracts to Zetterberg and Franzen respectively, Chicago joins the party with a 12 year contract for Hossa (which is now being investigated by the league), and Philly decides it would like to ink Pronger through age 42. Last but not least, news broke earlier today of a shiny new 12 year extension for 30 year old goaltender Roberto Luongo. Well enough is enough.
Looks like the numbers have changed a bit from last year.
When it comes to trade rumours, generally the first thing we look at is the salary cap, and how much cap space the teams in question have available.Â But how important is the cap, in order for potential trades to become reality?