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.
Here’s how that works: The current salary cap set at $56.8 million, with a potential increase of another $2 million coming this offseason (could be announced as early as today), so let’s say next year’s figure is roughly $58.8 million.
A couple weeks ago, the Globe and Mail reported that including bonuses (you can exceed the cap by up to 7.5%), the Hawks exceeded last year’s cap by roughly $4 million. That means that number comes off their total for this coming season.
Here’s the problem: According to Cap Geek, they’ve currently got roughly $57.6 million committed to 9 forwards, 4 defensemen and a goalie. Add in that $4 million carry-over from last season and they’re now sitting at $61.6 million. But hey, they can just put Huet on waivers right now correct? Wrong. The waiver period only starts 12 days before the start of the regular season, yet the NHL qualifying offer deadline is June 28th.
So, they’ve got to find a way to make that all fit without the help of waivers. But Chicago does have the benefit of working at 110% of the salary cap until the start of the season, thus enabling them to go as high as $64.68 million.
Andrew Ladd made $1.6 million this past season and under CBA rules, any player making above $1 million must receive a qualifying offer in the amount of 100% of his previous year’s salary. In contrast, a player making under $660,000 would be qualified at 110%, while those making between $660,000 and $1 million would be qualified at 105%. So, Ladd’s qualifying offer would have to be for the same $1.6 million.
But that’s not all. The Hawks have several more key RFA’s needing qualifying offers:
G Antti Niemi – $800,000 – $840,000 qualifying offer
D Niklas Hjarmalsson – $600,000 – $660,000 qualifying offer
F Jack Skille – $1.3 million – $1.3 million qualifying offer
F Ben Eager – $1.0 million – $1.05 million qualifying offer
If they choose to qualify just those 5 players for the total of $5.45 million, their new salary cap figure would read $67.05 million, putting them way over the 110% limit. If my estimates are correct, the Hawks have roughly $64.68 – $61.6 = $3.08 million left in buffer room to work with. You have to assume that qualifying Niemi and Hjarmalsson are a given, so they’ve got $1.58 million left, or close to it.
Now remember Ladd’s $1.6 million? Yikes..that’s cutting it mighty close isn’t it? Given the inexactitude of my estimates, it’s possible that they could still just barely have the wiggle room to get it done.
That’s why despite the fact that Ladd is an RFA, the Hawks are essentially shopping him like crazy ahead of the June 28th deadline, because it’s very possible that he will become an unrestricted free agent at that time. That’s not even mentioning the likes of quality young players like Ben Eager and Jack Skille who are all but guaranteed to join the free agent class.
Remember when everyone wondered why Burke didn’t offer Champagne a contract? Now it begins to make a little more sense. On one hand, Joel was likely asking for a fairly large bonus laden contract, and at the same time, Burke had to watch his 50 contract limit because he expected several interesting depth players to become available.
It’s going to be an interesting next few days to say the least.
Well played sir.