The value of a trade no longer measured in production.
There is a change in the way NHL contracts will be approached with the increase of the NHL salary cap. Contracts that were once deemed untradeable now have a strong bargaining value. With teams like the Edmonton Oilers, New York Islanders, Florida Panthers, and even the Nashville Predators riding very close to the salary cap floor; teams such as the Blackhawks, Rangers, and even Canadiens can trade underachieving players with monster contracts for little in return. While multiple teams have made trades that were deemed salary dumping, the new rise in the cap floor is going to allow more teams to make such moves because more teams are in need of clearing the cap floor.
The first big example was a trade this weekend. Brian Campbell of Chicago was traded to the Florida Panthers for Rostislav Olesz. In terms of pure salary the Blackhawks gained Olesz’ 3.125 million dollar contract, but shed off Campbell’s 7.14 million dollar contract. This frees up just over 4 million dollars in cap space for the Blackhawks while at the same time assuring the Panthers a good defenseman and enough salary to help them reach the cap floor. The deal is strange to understand if you’re a classic NHL follower. Why would anyone trade such a player worth more than double in salary? Why would anyone take on such a monster contract? This is the new NHL and the for the first few seasons of this large cap increase, the NHL can expect trades like this to take place between small markets looking to make the floor and reckless GM’s who are looking to redeem themselves for bad deals.
With this deal creating a new style of trade, we have to wonder how many teams are looking to make a similar deal. When considering contracts of similar nature and teams in need of cap filler, one can come up with quite a few contracts that teams would be willing to move. The contract on the top of my head right now is that of Chris Drury’s. The Rangers have been contemplating whether or not to buy out the veteran forward, but a new strategy might have just reared its head thanks to the Blackhawks and Panthers.
Drury only has one more season left on his contract for just 7 million dollars, a lot of money for a guy with knee injuries and suffering a severe lack of production. The newest option, instead of a buyout, would be a lopsided trade to a team that needs to reach the cap floor. Considering Drury’s history and a team that needs cap filler, the Colorado Avalanche could be a great destination. Drury could return to his old team and become a mentor to Colorado’s young players. The Rangers could rid themselves of a heavy contract and go after the free agents they see fit. In return the rangers would receive a lower level player of a lesser cap hit and possibly a mid round draft pick. This deal, while not logical in a traditional stand point, can become the norm over the next few seasons.
One more of these hefty contracts could include Montreal forward Scott Gomez. Gomez currently has a 7.35 million dollar cap hit, but has not played to this level in years. His production has not been terrible, but if Montreal was able to release him, they would be able to go after a younger, cheaper player.
The new cap increase and cap floor is going to force multiple teams into making trades of similar value to the Brain Campbell trade. Teams with the combination of young talent and not enough salary will be looking to add some of these high salaried veterans. While these deals will not be a constant for years to come, one can speculate that it will take a few seasons for some of the NHL’s lower payroll teams to establish a core where their payroll is consistently above the cap floor. With NHL free agency about to hit, there is a chance that a few more of these contracts are moved for very little in return.
(I would like to say that the scenario given between the Ranger and Avalanche is not in any way a rumor and should not be spread as one. It was only a scenario to make a point!)