Friday, August 10, 2007

Cap Evasion 101: Ship 'em to Russia

We've heard a lot in recent months about the lack of a Russian transfer deal, and how it affects players like Evgeni Malkin and other youngsters. The Penguins phenom was basically rescued from his home club last summer during a layover in Finland, and Magnitogorsk ended up with nothing in compensation.

That was well-publicized. But what we haven't seen or heard a lot of is NHL players fleeing the other way while under contract here.

Which brings us to Oleg Tverdovsky.

The Russian defender is an interesting story in that, up until around 2001-02, he was considered a solid, power-play quarterback. Tverdovsky ran up back-to-back 50-plus seasons with the Ducks around that time, but made an ill-advised trip to New Jersey in 2002-03, fell out of favour there quickly for his defensive lapses (offences punishable by guillotine in Lamoriello's eyes) and went home to Russia for two years.

Still with me?

Coming out of the lockout, Tverdovsky signed a bloated (and ill-advised) three-year, $7.5-million deal with Carolina, flamed out there early on and was a complete non-factor in the team's Stanley Cup win.

Then, to start 2006-07, Hurricanes GM Jim Rutherford made what will likely go down as the worst deal in the history of his franchise. Desperate to unload Tverdovsky's now-onerous contract, Rutherford moved the defender and prized-prospect Jack Johnson to the Kings, a team loaded with cap space, in exchange for Eric Belanger and Tim Gleason.

Because Johnson wasn't yet under an NHL contract, the move shaved dollars off the Hurricanes' payroll and brought in two useful players. Tverdovsky wasn't going to play, and obviously there's a price for unloading a $2.5-million boat anchor. Isn't there?

What they should have done is held on, benched him and sent the 31-year-old veteran to the AHL for only the second time in his career. Then, when the next season rolls around and Tverdovsky's told he's up for another stint in the minors (albeit a well-paid one), he bolts for Russia and that boat anchor is lifted off the cap.

That's what the Kings have done this off-season, and it's worked quite brilliantly. (Not to mention the fact Johnson will be starring on the blue line come September.)

Without a transfer agreement, Russian teams can sign players under contract to the NHL, something we've seen twice this summer with both Tverdovsky and Stanislav Chistov. The CBA has provisions for this sort of thing, and these two will likely either be suspended or labelled defectors in order for their teams to benefit from the suddenly available cap room:
Definition of "Defected Player." For purposes of this Agreement, "Defected Player" means any Player not unconditionally released:
(A) who, having had an SPC with a Club, the provisions of which, including the option clauses in a 1995 SPC, have not been completely fulfilled, contracts for a period including any part of the unfulfilled portion of his SPC, with a club in a league not affiliated with the NHL or with any such league (both of which are hereinafter referred to as an "unaffiliated club") or with any other professional hockey club to the exclusion of the said Club or its assignee
That's Tverdovsky — and don't expect to see much of a fuss from the Kings. Instead of being right up against the cap, they've got close to $4-million breathing room.

This is exactly what they wanted.

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15 Comments:

At 3:00 PM, August 10, 2007, Blogger Jes Gőlbez said...

1. Tim Gleason is not exactly chopped liver.

2. You are quite high on Jack Johnson, despite his lack of maturity and lack of polish. Hold your wad a little longer, eh!

 
At 3:01 PM, August 10, 2007, Anonymous Matt said...

Doesn't just simply sending him to the minors clear the cap room (i.e. they still have to pay him his money, but it doesn't count against the cap)?

Having Oleg choose Russia rather than the minors benefits the Kings financially, but not cap-wise. (It also benefits the other players: I believe his salary in the minors would have still come out of the "player's share", now that $2.5M gets split up among everyone else.)

IIRC

 
At 3:02 PM, August 10, 2007, Anonymous Daniel Tolensky said...

Tverdovsky wasn't going to count against the cap anyways because he was slated to play in Manchester, which I'm sure was stressed to him, especially once Preissing and Stuart signed. The big thing the Kings save here is the $2.5 mil in cash.

This is exactly what the Islanders should have done with Yashin instead of giving him a huge buyout with a significant cap impact. No way he would have lasted long in the AHL and then the team would have been off the hook completely.

 
At 3:02 PM, August 10, 2007, Blogger Jes Gőlbez said...

One other point is the fact that the Hurricanes' owner, Karamanos, likely instructed Rutherford to get rid of Tverdovsky and his salary. Not every owner is willing to pay someone $2.5mil to play in the minors. Yes, it saves cap room, but it still costs the team money.

 
At 3:10 PM, August 10, 2007, Blogger James Mirtle said...

Not every owner is willing to pay someone $2.5mil to play in the minors.

Exactly, and I think that applies to the Kings, as well. This is a team that hasn't performed well and is likely a money-loser, and one that has invested heavily in its payroll in the off-season. My guess is Lombardi would have been in a similar 'use him or lose him' situation had Tverdovsky not bolted.

You are quite high on Jack Johnson, despite his lack of maturity...

Look who's talking.

 
At 3:19 PM, August 10, 2007, Blogger saskhab said...

Come on, Kovalev...

I'd trade Kovalev's salary for Perezhogin's inflated Russian salary.

Not that it works like that, though.

 
At 3:27 PM, August 10, 2007, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Wow, whats the name of that cup he's holding over his head in the photo? It looks like a cross between the Stanley Cup and a Faberge egg!

 
At 3:29 PM, August 10, 2007, Anonymous Anonymous said...

CBA also says that teams can assign players to Europe if player agrees. But there's a catch - NHL club must pay full salary.

NHLPA is watching these things carefully.

 
At 3:50 PM, August 10, 2007, Anonymous Anonymous said...

NHLPA is watching these things carefully.

I don't think there's anyone at the steering wheel of that boat.

 
At 3:56 PM, August 10, 2007, Blogger saskhab said...

Does a defected player's salary still count towards the 55% (or whatever it is this year) that the PA is entitled to under the CBA? I say this because I believe that players signed to one way contracts in the minors do count towards that figure, and the escrow payouts are designed to reflect that.

 
At 4:07 PM, August 10, 2007, Anonymous Lyle Richardson said...

Damn you, Mirtle, for beating me to the punch! My column on this very situation is due up today on Foxsports.com.

 
At 4:24 PM, August 10, 2007, Blogger James Mirtle said...

This has been out there for a couple days, no? I thought I was behind the curve (and even checked to see if anyone had written about it)!

 
At 7:28 PM, August 10, 2007, Anonymous misterD said...

Tverdovsky ran up back-to-back 50-plus seasons with the Ducks around that time, but made an ill-advised trip to New Jersey in 2002-03, fell out of favour there quickly for his defensive lapses (offences punishable by guillotine in Lamoriello's eyes) and went home to Russia for two years.

Wasn't Tverdovsky ACQUIRED by Lou Lamoriello in that blockbluster trade which sent Sykora and others to Anaheim?

 
At 7:34 PM, August 10, 2007, Blogger James Mirtle said...

It never ceases to amaze me how picky blog readers are.

 
At 9:05 AM, August 12, 2007, Anonymous nuts4pucks said...

I don't know if it will go down as the "worst trade in the history of the NHL", but I agree that it was probably a really boneheaded deal. The 'Canes organization doesn't have a history of great patience with people that don't fit their idea of team guys, and Jack and his notorious daddy got on JR's bad side very early on. Still, why waste a high draft pick on a defenseman if you're not going to give him time to mature? It appeared obvious to me that JJ was going to go pro in the Spring of 2007 once Michigan either won the Frozen 4 or got eliminated from contention. Grin and bear it for 6 months and get the kid signed when he was ready, for crying out loud. You don't have to be his buddy and you don't have to like his dad. Rutherfords excuse was that defenseman take time to develop and there was no guarantee that JJ would be ready for the NHL any quicker than 2 or 3 years down the road (orly?), so the team needed to do something to improve their blueline now. Quite the load. I can only hope that Tim Gleason becomes a stable, reliable top 4 guy (if not top 2). I still think JJ will be a monster on the blueline and a star in the league and will always have that sick feeling in the pit of my stomach when I watch him play for "other" teams.

 

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