NHL Salaries

Here’s how the strict NHL salary cap will affect the Kraken in their first season


Inside the NHL

People have asked about the differences I foresee between Kraken and NHL coverage compared to the 16 seasons I have spent following the Major League Baseball Mariners and the Toronto Blue Jays.

Well, I can tell you before even covering a single Kraken game that the strict NHL salary cap is likely to be the highest. As we saw on last week’s trade deadline, when cash-strapped NHL teams used teams of third-party ‘brokers’ to offset salary, capping considerations seemingly loom over everyone. league transaction.

The cap-pressed Tampa Bay Lightning acquired Columbus defenseman David Savard, but only after the Blue Jackets traded him to Detroit and ate half his salary. Detroit then absorbed half of Savard’s remaining salary before sending him and a minor back to Tampa Bay for a fourth-round pick, meaning the Lightning was only billed 25% of the 4 cap. $ 25 million from Savard.

Likewise, the Toronto Maple Leafs used the San Jose Sharks as a middleman to acquire Columbus captain Nick Foligno with a cap of just 25%. And Vegas got Chicago center Mattias Janmark for just a 25% milestone because San Jose again played a middleman.

Columbus ate half of Foligno’s salary, Chicago half of Janmark’s, and San Jose in both cases took 50% of the remaining salary for a fifth-round pick from Toronto and fourth from Vegas from Vegas. If you have a hard time keeping up, you are not alone. But the NHL has indicated the moves aren’t bending the rules because San Jose and Detroit have acquired actual draft assets to essentially distribute cap space.

Kraken fans had better get used to such creativity, as the NHL uses the toughest salary cap in professional sports. Seahawks fans see similarities, although NFL teams work with a softer cap in which limits are bypassed by teams charging salary before signing bonuses that are spread evenly over the term of a contract. for accounting purposes.

MLB uses a much looser luxury tax cut-off with financial penalties that high-income teams see as just a cost of doing business and continue to blow. It’s not uncommon for MLB’s top spenders to have double or triple the payrolls of the most frugal teams.

This is not the case with the NHL, which, from 2005-06, imposed a hard cap. The current upper threshold of $ 81.5 million can only be exceeded for reasons of long-term injury.

There’s also a minimum of $ 60.2 million that teams have to spend – which means even rebuilding teams stay at around $ 21 million in strength for everything.

The Kraken will therefore not be blown away financially by the New York Rangers, the Chicago Blackhawks, the Toronto Maple Leafs or the Montreal Canadiens.

Instead, the way your team behaves is a byproduct of the wisdom with which they spend and manage ceiling space. In theory, you want your team to get as close to the upper limit as possible without risking going over it in seasons to come and having to dump quality players.

A recent issue benefiting the Kraken is that the NHL has opted for a “flat” cap due to financial shortfalls associated with the pandemic. The high cap of $ 81.5 million and the low of $ 60.2 million were the same last season, will be, and maybe after.

So a general manager who in September 2019 predicted an upper limit of $ 84 million this season and $ 87 million next time, will likely get rid of the players to bring himself into compliance.

Meanwhile, Kraken CEO Ron Francis hasn’t spent any on his 2021-22 roster, so he’s as compliant as it gets. With cap space at an all-time premium in the NHL, Francis has so much that he will work this summer to hit the low of $ 60.2 million.

So he’s going to take on someone else’s dear – and hopefully talented – guys. But Francis must also be careful not to tie his hands financially for the seasons to come, as he will only start from scratch once.

Either way, enjoy it now, Kraken fans, because your team will never have so much cap freedom again. Once the 2021-22 season begins, every move for a fourth-row winger becomes a question of “Will that extra $ 100,000 he’s making over the next player put us over the cap?”

Keep in mind, however, like anything else in professional sports, context is important. Thanks to third-party websites such as Cap Friendly – which provides real-time payrolls – hockey fans are becoming cap experts to varying degrees.

But not all teams pushing the cap face a doomsday scenario, and I’ve seen a tendency in some reviews to exaggerate the supposed concerns.

After all, the Lightning still have a deadline deal for Savard. I doubt Lightning general manager Julien BriseBois wakes up with knots in his stomach because he’s pushing the limits of the course. Not when he won the Stanley Cup last season and could do it again this year.

Remember, winning matters. There are no trophies for ceiling compliance.

Fans usually forgive future cap issues after a Stanley Cup parade. Or at least they should. Conversely, the Maple Leafs haven’t won a Cup since 1967, so yes, there is heat on GM Kyle Dubas to overcome his cap issues and balance an offensively overweight team.

And Buffalo Sabers fans aren’t quite applauding their team’s selection space given the team’s embarrassing decade-long results. So the level of concern about capping varies.

After all, the nature of the cap actively discourages repeat Cup winners, so BriseBois and the Lightning really only play for bonus points when trying to repeat.

The NHL fought for its cap – locking in the 2004-05 season – to cut costs and create a more competitive balance.

From 1967-68 to 1989-90, Montreal, the Edmonton Oilers and the New York Islanders won 18 of 23 possible titles. Things relaxed slightly over the next 15 years, although the start of free agency created increased wages, financial inequalities between teams, three titles each for Detroit and New Jersey and two each for Colorado. and Pittsburgh.

In 15 years under the hard cap, three teams – Los Angeles, Chicago and Pittsburgh – have won three titles each. So it was not a perfect parity solution.

But we’ve seen four different Cup winners over the past four seasons. And five teams – Los Angeles, Anaheim, Caroline, Washington and St. Louis – won their first Cup in history, while Chicago has won its first since 1961 and Boston since 1972.

The big sports leagues determined long ago that most fans would rather have different teams given rounds to win championships rather than repeat the same dynasties. Keeps fans engaged, hopeful, and spending money.

The NHL cap therefore offers what fans want: a chance to win a title without waiting for a generation. And whether you’re a Kraken fan or an owner needing to recoup an expansion fee of $ 650 million by being competitive, you’ll appreciate any system that lowers the wait for the Championship. Even though it induces frequent ceiling compliance headaches