The game began with the Flames rolling out to a 5-0 lead, including three goals on five shots against starter Cristobal Huet. He was mercifully pulled, his backup Antti Niemi let in two more on the next five shots, but shut the door thereafter to allow his teammates to score six straight goals and win the game in overtime.
It must have been a wild scene at the United Center in Chicago, but lost in that euphoria might have been Hawks GM Stan Bowman, who was probably wondering what he did to deserve such a porous starting goalie that he has $5.625 million committed to for the next four years.
He did nothing to deserve inheriting his predecessor Dale Tallon's mistake, but Bowman does have the power to try and hide that mistake.
With the Blackhawks looking for a potential Stanley Cup run before facing salary cap Armaggedon, perhaps it might be time to dangle Jaroslav Halak and Sergei Kostitsyn in Bowman's general direction and see if he'd be willing to part with Cam Berker in exchange.
What's that you say? We've already discussed this?
Well, since I wrote that there is one thing I've realized about long term injury relief that I did not incorporate into my original prognosis on the possibility of replacing Andrei Markov with a big ticket defenceman.
The salary cap, as you may or may not know, is calculated in terms of actual salary paid out to players over a 193-day season (UPDATE: For clarity's sake, it's not actual salary paid out, but rather the number of days a player is on the roster multiplied by his average daily cap hit. Is that clearer?). The good people over at capgeek.com have spelled it out quite nicely for you.
That means, for instance, sending Yannick Weber down to Hamilton on Monday instead of Tuesday saves the Canadiens $4,534 on the cap, because that's Weber's averaged daily cap hit (how's that for a dose of perspective? Scott Gomez counts against the cap to the tune of $38,120 per day, in case you're wondering).
Furthermore, if Bergeron were called up Wednesday instead of Tuesday, it would save the Habs $3,886 against the cap. You get the idea.
So, when it comes to LTIR, what dawned on me is that it is calculated daily. In the case of Markov, if he were to in fact miss exactly four months, it would amount to roughly $3.575 million that the Habs could exceed the cap if they acquired a player to replace him. Initially, I assumed the CBA was referring to annual salaries, but in fact it is referring to the actual amount of salary dished out over the season (UPDATE: Again, see above for the clarification).
When you throw in Ryan O'Byrne, and again assuming he misses six weeks of action, it would add another $205,000 in cap relief.
The signing of Bergeron, assuming he's called up Tuesday, will add just over $705,000 to Montreal's cap figure, which actually amounts to $500,000 if O'Byrne's LTIR is accounted for.
So, all that brings us back to the Blackhawks and their situation in goal. While many people would probably cringe at the thought of trading away Halak at this point, it may be a necessary risk simply because of Markov's injury. Cam Barker continues to watch games from the bench, for the most part, as Joel Quenneville rides his top pairing of Duncan Keith and Brent Seabrook. In that 6-5 OT win over Calgary, Keith played 22:39, Seabrook played 25:00, and even Niklas Hjalmarsson played 22:56. Barker? A whopping 13:42.
Through five games, Barker has topped 16 minutes of ice time only once, which is not a great return on the $3,083,333 the Hawks are paying him this year and next. It's next year that has the Blackhawks freaking out because Keith, Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane will all be restricted free agents, and they can't all be signed unless some salary is shed. Barker is only 23 and would be a great acquisition.
Considering how desperately the Hawks need to get rid of salary, grabbing Halak and Sergei Kostitsyn for Barker would probably suit them perfectly. Perhaps they would ask for a defence prospect or draft pick in return as well, so throw in Mathieu Carle if you want.
But will that work with the money saved on Markov's LTIR? The answer, as far as I can see it, is yes. Barker has already pulled in about $175,000 of his salary. If the Canadiens were to acquire him Tuesday, there would be just under $2.9 million left on his salary. There would be a minor cap savings with Curtis Sanford as Carey Price's backup, but that appears to be pretty irrelevant because with the $3.575 million in cap space cleared up by Markov's injury, it would appear to be enough to absorb Barker's contract or several other potential defencemen. And every day a trade isn't made, the easier it becomes.
But it only appears that way to me, which doesn't necessarily make it so because the CBA is one confusing document. Someone, if you have a legal background, please read the section on LTIR and correct me if I'm wrong.
Adding Barker would help shore up a Montreal defence that remains in constant flux as Jacques Martin and Perry Pearn continue searching for pairings that work in Markov's absence. The problem is that without Markov and O'Byrne, the Habs no longer have four legitimate top-four defencemen, and the pairings in their absence have been a mish-mash affair.
Michael W. Fleming, an associate professor in the faculty of computer science at the University of New Brunswick and apparent Habs fan, has a great site that tracks all the forward combinations and defence pairings on the Habs all season, along with other "sabermetric" hockey stats like on and off ice +/- (a special thanks goes out to the legendary Ron Reusch for sending me the link, you can check out his blog here).
In any case, according to Fleming's site, the Habs have used at least 14 different defensive pairings in five games. Paul Mara's most frequent partner has been Hal Gill, and he's only played with Gill for one third of his total minutes played. Gill, of all people, was on the ice in the dying seconds of the loss in Edmonton with Montreal scrambling for a goal, which shows to what extent the coaching staff is still learning about its personnel.
Considering one of Gill, Mara, and Bergeron will be fighting for top-four minutes, I don't think the Habs would have much trouble welcoming Barker into the fold. And when Markov returns, the team's defence would be that much better for years to come, because Barker should only improve.
I don't see a better solution out there, and it wouldn't be a bad idea to pull the trigger soon. Because while the Habs try to figure this defensive situation out on the fly, they might very well lose their way out of a playoff spot.