Wednesday, March 08, 2006

The Salary Cap Shuffle: Vancouver Canucks edition

I know all the hairiness surrounding the trade deadline has us all aflutter, but with this new salary cap business, team are — like never before — looking beyond simply this year's playoff drive. Looking to the offseason and the messy free-agent filled business it will be, quite a few teams have some interesting decisions to make.

Namely, those Vancouver Canucks.

Currently bumping right up against the $39-million salary cap, Vancouver has $25-million committed to salaries for the 2006-07 season. And while that may not sound all that calamitous, that coin is reserved for only eight players.

Naslund, Bertuzzi, Ohlund, Morrison, Cloutier, Linden, Cooke, Salo — all have deals for next season. That leaves $14-million for the team's remaining 16-plus players.

It's ugly friends. It's also likely why the Todd Bertuzzi trade rumours are out in full force these days. His $5.269-million salary is looking like a mighty Kong-sized boat anchor, especially given his indifferent play this season.

The main problem for Vancouver is that the unsigned players, those looking for leverage in summer contract negotiations, are going to have it. Look at the Sedin twins, both of whom are having career seasons and are under contract for just $1.25-million apiece.

Henrik, in particular, is on pace for a 78-point season and is two years away from unrestricted free agency. He's due for a raise, likely into the $3.5-million range. I expect his brother, Daniel, will command slightly less, so we'll sign him up for $3-million.

Anson Carter, the yin to the Sedin's yang, is on pace for a 31 goal season and is, at the moment, only four goals behind Markus Naslund for the team's scoring lead. Carter's a pending unrestricted free-agent, but will command likely triple the current $1-million deal he's on.

And how about Alex Auld, the rookie netminder who has made the fourth-most saves in the NHL this season, a guy who is playing for $513,000 this year. Here's another player who also stands to at least triple his salary.

Throwing those four players into the Canucks' mix, those figures eat up an additional $11-million, leaving just $3-million for another four defencemen and four forwards. At that rate, the Canucks' final eight players would have to average below the league's current salary minimum ($450,000).

Of course, the NHL's salary cap will go up this season, likely at least $3-million, and that will buy teams like the Canucks a little breathing room.

The team's main problem, however, will be that the players they have salary dollars committed to haven't been their best players. It's something that, in this new-CBA league, is going to bury teams like the Canucks.

Bertuzzi, Morrison ($3.2-million), Cloutier ($2.5-million) and Linden ($1.52-million) make up more than 30 per cent of the team's committed salary for 2006-07, which is going to constrain GM Dave Nonis's ability to build around his, now limited, assets.

And all this doesn't even account for the sizable raises due to Bryan Allen ($941,000), Nolan Baumgartner ($450,000) and Dick Park ($750,000). It also runs on the assumption that UFA defenceman Ed Jovanovski — and the $4.5-plus-million he'll command — is well out of reach.

I have a feeling Canucks fans won't be particularly pleased with the return they get in any potential deal for Bertuzzi. After all, Nonis may simply aim to move the big lug for what is the most valuable commodity there is for a team like Vancouver.

Which is nothing at all.


At 9:34 a.m., March 08, 2006, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Good analysis, James. In trying to keep "the core" together, Nonis has tied his hands, and is now in a position where he will have to engage in some salary dumping. I see Trevor Linden as a prime candidate for a buyout or "retirement", but that doesn't create nearly enough in the way of savings. In addition to Bertuzzi, I wouldn't be at all surprised to see Morrison get dumped somewhere given his underachieving season. As you correctly point out, however, the Canucks are unlikely to get much in return when their primary goal is to dump stinky contracts.

At 10:10 a.m., March 08, 2006, Blogger jmol2112 said...

One piece of info you may have missed/over looked is the likely increase in the Cap. Most see it going to 42 at a minimum, and possibly as high as 45. That would/could change a GM's outlook considerably. Ofcourse teams, such as Vancouver, may have a team imposed cap/payroll limit, which can differ from the league cap limit

At 11:48 p.m., March 08, 2006, Blogger Aaron said...

I hope Montreal doesn't bring this headache over. Hopefully the rumours are just that.

Gainey only has one headache -- now that Theo's gone, woohoo! -- to get rid of before tomorrow, or at least this summer, and that's Ribeiro; he'll help another team with his offensive skills, but he's not working here.


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