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High cap floor might complicate and motivate summer trades

Jul 8, 2012, 8:41 PM EDT

Shea Weber #6 of the Nashville Predators skates against the Phoenix Coyotes in Game Three of the Western Conference Semifinals during the 2012 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at the Bridgestone Arena on May 2, 2012 in Nashville, Tennessee.
(May 1, 2012 - Source: Frederick Breedon/Getty Images North America) Getty Images

Maybe the Boston Bruins will find a taker for Tim Thomas‘ cap hit after all. With the unrestricted free market getting pretty barren, nearly half the NHL is still under the cap floor according to Cap Geek. Of those teams, 10 of them are still at least $4 million away from reaching the floor.

At this point, it’s worth pointing out that while the unrestricted free agent market has largely dried up, there are still several restricted free agents out there that need to be re-signed.

Still, that won’t necessarily help a team like the Phoenix Coyotes, who don’t have any potentially expensive restricted free agents left and are still $10,891,667 below the salary floor with just three spots left on their projected 23-man roster. If they can’t re-sign Shane Doan, then they’ll have to scramble to find another way to get over the floor — and they won’t be alone.

Another example of a team in an awkward position is the Nashville Predators. After losing out on Ryan Suter, they’re $14,195,833 below the salary cap with 17 players penciled into their 23-man roster. Now they do have several restricted free agents left, but let’s say things get complicated with Shea Weber.

As discussed earlier, Weber might not want another one-year contract. With the potential that the next CBA stop future superstars from getting front-loaded, long-term contracts like Ryan Suter and Zach Parise recently got, Weber might seek to either sign a big contract with Nashville or get traded.

If he goes with the latter option, then that might be a problem for Nashville because they will have a tough time trading him and staying over the floor unless they take a sizable amount of salary back.

The Anaheim Ducks would have the same issue if they traded Bobby Ryan and his $5.1 million annual cap hit, given that they’re still $7,135,833 million under the floor with 17 guys currently penciled into their roster. Even the Columbus Blue Jackets, who are currently operating above the floor, would be in a bit of a pickle if they traded away Rick Nash‘s $7.8 million cap hit without taking on some salary in the process.

Of course there’s still enough time left in the summer for these issues to be worked out and it’s even possible that the next CBA will tweak the way the cap floor works. However, the high floor might complicate and simultaneously motivate several of the trades we see over the summer.

  1. ray2013 - Jul 8, 2012 at 8:52 PM

    Well if any team needs an out of shape dman with a weak shot, I’m available for a season or two. For $4 million, I’ll also learn how to sharpen skates and help carry hockey bags.

  2. creasemasta41 - Jul 8, 2012 at 8:55 PM

    having a cap floor seems stupid to me because if a team is on a budget and cant spend that much money, but they are required to then they lose money and get in the same mess phoenix new jersey and atlanta were in. Leave a cap ceiling but get rid of the floor, it seems as though it could harm financially unstable teams by forcing them to spend more money then they have.

    • greatminnesotasportsmind - Jul 8, 2012 at 9:15 PM

      then you would have teams like Columbus (maybe Howson would lower his demands) and the Islanders signing 23 players for 21 million dollars and a cupcake 82 times a year. With a floor owners are forced to spend, which creates a team to be filled competitively.

      • creasemasta41 - Jul 8, 2012 at 9:38 PM

        If the cap floor continues and the blue jackets are forced to spend to the floor, and they dont put a winning team on the ice they theoretically could be sold and moved, similar to atlanta. If you don’t have a floor then at least they could still ice a team and make money, which would keep teams in non traditional markets and help spread the game. Which in the long run if you have more fans then they are spending more money on the team giving them more money to spend on the players. Having a floor just seems to make teams spend money they dont have, mortgaging their future and putting them in debt, which has already happened in pheonix and new jersey. As important as it is for parity, its also important that teams stay profitable so they can pay their players and put a good product on the ice

      • greatminnesotasportsmind - Jul 9, 2012 at 1:04 AM

        In theory, the cap goes up as NHL revenues goes up. The cap could also go down if the league starts to lose money. Therefore, supposedly, Columbus should be able to reach the cap floor and still make money.

      • creasemasta41 - Jul 9, 2012 at 1:34 AM

        But say montreal or toronto make a few extra bucks this year and columbus breaks even or even loses a little. Their income stays the same but the floor rises and they have to pay more which would result in columbus losing even more money as they pay more but the income stays the same. Just because revenue as a whole goes up on average for the league doesnt mean every team experiences a boost in revenue

    • ray2013 - Jul 8, 2012 at 9:20 PM

      There are two problems with a cap floor:

      1) it can force small market teams to lose money in order to spend to the floor.

      2) Remove the floor, and you can run into the situation of having some teams spend to the cap ($70+ million this year) and some spending considerably less in order to ensure a profit.

      But if you allow the Flyers (for example) to spend $70 million and let Phoenix spend $35 million, then what is the point of having a cap to begin with? The salary cap was supposed to create some parity, not allow for the exact same problem they had before the lockout.

      There’s no easy answers.

  3. bcisleman - Jul 8, 2012 at 8:55 PM

    Isles might be looking to leverage a cap-induced trade.

  4. istallion - Jul 8, 2012 at 9:31 PM

    Maybe some teams should not be in the NHL. Personally, I think the weak sisters should leave and make the remaining teams stronger.

    • theolgoaler - Jul 8, 2012 at 9:54 PM

      You mean like the financially-struggling New Jersey Devils? Hardly a “weak sister” on the ice, but they’ve got problems with ownership trying to pay the bills they’ve already got. The Blackhawks played to empty seats before Toews and Kane got there; some teams go though cycles — when they’re good, they sell out; when they’re bad, they (cough, Colorado) don’t.

      • flyersgoalscoredby88 - Jul 8, 2012 at 10:55 PM

        Give Chicago a break, their owner was so cheap he wouldn’t broadcast the games on regular TV, wouldn’t spend on players, and did everything he could to decimate the fanbase. It’s not like Pittsburgh, where ownership gave them one of the best teams in the past 45 years and then 5 years after back to back cups they abandoned their franchise. Chicago came back full force as soon as the owner died.

      • ray2013 - Jul 9, 2012 at 3:46 AM

        I saw this discussed on Grantland, and they made a really solid point in relation to this: when Boston and Chicago were having lean years in terms of teams, you saw lots of empty seats and people said: look at these smart fans. They won’t support the ownership icing a bad team. They’re forcing ownership and management to shape up, and put a better product on the ice.

        But with Sun Belt teams and expansion markets, the reverse is assumed to be true: an empty arena reflects poorly on the market (as in they don’t support hockey) whereas in terms of established markets, it reflects poorly on the ownership and management.

        I thought it was a very thought-provoking observation on the way different NHL markets are viewed.

      • hockeyflow33 - Jul 9, 2012 at 9:28 AM

        The Bruins went so far as to paint the lower bowl seats at the Garden alternating black and yellow so that on tv the stands did not look as empty.

  5. handsofsweed - Jul 8, 2012 at 10:37 PM

    “If he goes with the latter option, then that might be a problem for Nashville because they will have a tough time trading him and staying under the cap (should say “over the floor”??) unless they take a sizable amount of salary back.”

    Paul Martin makes 5 mill and plays defense. There is a very real possibility that this could happen. Weber in Pittsburgh would create a very real and very present danger for the rest of the league (providing Flower somehow grows the professional consistency of something other than a 19-yr old, that is).

  6. mikeincmn - Jul 9, 2012 at 12:38 AM

    The NHL should just create a cap floor based on a team by team basis. For instance, take attendence trends, market size, tv ratings, sponsorship revenues and a few other things and create a cap floor based on that.

    That way you avoid markets like Phoenix or Nashville or Columbus having financial problems because they have to spend to a certain level just to avoid being below the floor, but you also avoid greedy owners who spend nothing and just want to churn a profit.

    I getoff having a nice level number across the board, but the reality is that markets like New York or Toronto are not the same as Nashville and shouldnt be treated as such. That isnt a cheap shot at any of those fanbases, its just the economic reality.

    • greatminnesotasportsmind - Jul 9, 2012 at 10:53 AM

      That basically makes having a cap floor pointless. Why should Phoenix spend less than Edmonton who spends less than Anaheim who spends less than Montreal.

      Attendance trends fluctuate year to year. It’s proven markets will support a winner. Having individual teams having a fluxuating salary cap will only make this problem worse in some markets. If an owner doesn’t want to field a competitive team, all he has to do is spend to the floor, his team isn’t good, attendance goes down, therefore his cap floor next year goes down again. Then your like baseball having the same 5 teams who are competing for a championship.

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