Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Don't you wish the NHL did the math for you?

One thing that has really annoyed me since the lockout is that the NHL doesn't provide updated salary cap information for each of its teams. It's further evidence that the league sometimes is not interested in generating fan interest, because trades these days are all about the cap, and fans are always left wondering just how much space their team has left heading into the deadline.
After Bob Gainey's comments Monday that he still had some salary cap room, but not enough to add a $5 million player, I started to wonder how much he actually had.

But the Canadiens case is complicated by all the injuries they've had this season. I just finished reading the section of the Collective Bargaining Agreement that deals with Long Term Injuries (LTI), and other than a headache, I didn't come away with much (If you want to give it a shot, the full CBA document is available at the NHLPA website, the section dealing with LTIs starts on page 226. Happy reading).

Anyhow, what I've been able to understand is that in order for a player to be eligible for long-term injury relief they need to be unfit to play for a period of 24 days AND 10 games, which would apply to Saku Koivu (40 days), Alex Tanguay (47 days and counting), Christopher Higgins (40 days, not counting his groin injury to start the year), Georges Laraque (37 days, at least), Mike Komisarek (30 days), and eventually Robert Lang (66 days if he misses the rest of the regular season).

The rule for LTI relief, again, as I understand it, is that the team can exceed the salary cap by the amount of the injured player's salary (minus the amount of cap space available) in order to add a replacement. But if the injured player returns, the team has to get back under the cap. An important thing to understand here is that a team's salary cap figure is calculated based on the number of days a player is on the roster, and at the end of the season the total amount of salary paid out by the team can't exceed $56.7 million.

A team also has to apply to get LTI relief, which may not have been the case with all the players listed above. I believe, with the addition of Lang to the IR on Monday, that only Tanguay and Lang will be qualifying for LTI relief.

According to nhlnumbers.com, the Canadiens have just over $358,000 in cap space today, including the $1.7 million due to Mathieu Schneider for the rest of the year and just over $1.5 million in LTI relief, which, as far as I can tell, is largely related to Tanguay.

By the end of the year, Lang will have been out 66 days, which works out to about another $1.4 million in salary cap relief.

So, in very rough terms, I figure the Habs should have somewhere around $1.7 million in cap space once deadline day rolls around March 4.

While Gainey said Monday that acquiring a $5 million player will be impossible, that doesn't necessarily mean he couldn't add a significant piece with that kind of space available. In fact, if indeed the Habs have $1.7 million in space on March 4, that would be enough to add a player with an $8 million contract because there would only be about $1.5 million left to pay as of March 4.

But with injuries and call-ups, the Habs would likely need a little wiggle room, so let's say they can't look for anyone making $4 million a year. Who does that leave?

Well, it's a little too early to say, simply because so many teams out west still have playoff aspirations. But someone making $4 million this year who has won 52.6 per cent of his faceoffs and is on a team likely to miss the playoffs is Keith Tkachuk. I never thought I would say this, but he appears to be the ideal guy for Gainey to target.

The big issue with Tkachuk is that he has a no-trade clause, and I'm not sure he would want to come to Montreal. Since playing for the Winnipeg Jets and Phoenix Coyotes, Tkachuk has spent the last nine years of his career playing in St-Louis aside from a quick cup of coffee in Atlanta two years ago. Though the pressure in Winnipeg was likely enormous early in his career, Tkachuk hasn't experienced anything like it since and who knows if he wants to?

If he does, that could be a window of opportunity for Gainey to make a pitch, but the Blues would first have to give up aspirations of a playoff berth. And it appears that Blues president John Davidson isn't all that interested in stockpiling prospects or picks, so grabbing Tkachuk may cost an NHL-ready player like Ryan O'Byrne, or maybe Tomas Plekanec.

Would you do it?

More importantly, anyone have a good remedy for a headache?

UPDATE: Thanks to Topham over at Lions in Winter for pointing out that you can't bank LTI relief (see his comment). This essentially makes my $1.7 million figure invalid as the real number is probably considerably lower than that. It just reinforces my point that the NHL should be providing this kind of information for fans and media so everyone knows what they're talking about.


Topham said...

I did the math.

I think they have enough room for a $3 mil per player or so.


If as you say the Canadiens were too lazy to apply for long-term relief for Higgins, Koivu and Komisarek, and in Dandenault's case it would be unthinkable that they could be so downright idle, then they would have less than I say. But from everything I hear, I am in the nallpark, which means the Hamilton players have been freebies more or less to this point...

Something you should know is that you can't bank the LTI relief. So Tanguay's injury is not banked because we did not replace him with a $5.5 mil player. The replacement in his case was Pacioretty, whose salary is more in the neighbourhood of $850000.

I am not clear if you can pool your LTI or not, so Schneider would be free until Tanguay returned. I don't think so. Schneider is in for Lang, so the relief is Lang's prorated daily piece.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for putting it all together. It's nice when you can see what they could go after, and understand some of the cap room they have to play with. Thanks again!