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!)

8 Comments

Greg Duley's picture

With the Salary cap going up and the floor being almost double what it was when the cap was first introduced, teams can now salary dump onto lower teams to open up more options. Which is both good and bad, for different reasons. The cap is no longer doing what it was suppose to, which is keep the league close and smaller markets from losing to much money so now tams are forced to lose money trying to reach the cap floor which is bad. But the good part is now we can have more open trading because the cap has gone higher but still have a limit a team can spend too.

I would also like to point out that while the players aren't necessarily bad, trading them and their salaries to other teams as a dump to keep them afloat will no help the league and will only keep separating the good teams and the bad even more so then what it is now.

Chuck Gaston Jr's picture
Greg Duley wrote:

With the Salary cap going up and the floor being almost double what it was when the cap was first introduced, teams can now salary dump onto lower teams to open up more options. Which is both good and bad, for different reasons. The cap is no longer doing what it was suppose to, which is keep the league close and smaller markets from losing to much money so now tams are forced to lose money trying to reach the cap floor which is bad. But the good part is now we can have more open trading because the cap has gone higher but still have a limit a team can spend too.

I would also like to point out that while the players aren't necessarily bad, trading them and their salaries to other teams as a dump to keep them afloat will no help the league and will only keep separating the good teams and the bad even more so then what it is now.

The cap is keeping the teams relatively close. The problem I am having now is that these GM's are able to trade their worst mistakes and act like nothing happened. I will disagree with you that it is going to keep teams down though. These players are underracheivers not terrible, so they will help to the teams that they go to. Thanks for the comment.

George Prax's picture

Excellent blog Chuck, I've been thinking along these lines since the new cap ceiling was announced. As a Habs fan, I can only hope that what you're saying will apply to this team, but I have a feeling Gomez is going nowhere for no reason other than the fact that management here seems to like him, but any fan would take a deal to ship him and his ridiculous salary out of town, and with the years on his contract winding down, so is his actual salary. As time goes by he'll actually be more tradeable, even if the actual money against the cap stays the same.

Florida's not stupid though, they did a good thing getting rid of Olesz in the Campbell deal, and they'll do similar things in future deals to take on salary, including acquiring draft picks and prospects in order to take on salary. Only problem is, they're going to have to overpay a few players, which is only going to increase the market value of some types of players, and therefore the cap in future years. It's a vicious cycle that's kind of scary, but for teams like the one I follow, this is definitely a good thing, for now at least.

Chuck Gaston Jr's picture

I was thinking Drury the entire time until it hit me that Gomez still collects over 7 million, so I had to place his name as an example. I can't think of a team right now willing to trade, but as the article states, it is no longer a stretch to see a contract once deemed untradeable go right out the door.

George Prax's picture

The few redeeming points that Gomez has is that, for starters, after this year, his salary actually falls to $5.5 mil and then $4.5 mil, so teams like Florida would pay him less, but still get the full cap hit. Not to mention that I doubt he'd have another year as bad as last year, he's still a 60-70 point player, and he generally doesn't get injured. But as a Hab, i'm sick of him lol.

Chuck Gaston Jr's picture

That is another big thing. Those big front loaded contracts become very attractive for teams that need the cap filler, but dont actually want to spend that kind of cash.

nowhere's picture

This makes the NHLPA happy, with teams potentially needing to over inflate player salaries in order to reach the salary floor. The big problem here is that on ice performance has the potential to become increasingly decoupled from the pay scale being established.

It will be interesting to see how this trend will affect the next CBA negotiations.

Chuck Gaston Jr's picture
nowhere wrote:

It will be interesting to see how this trend will affect the next CBA negotiations.

They only thing I can see happening with the new CBA is that the cap increase will become a locked % from year to year.