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Will unpaid bonus money no longer count against cap in the new CBA?

Nov 5, 2012, 11:50 AM EDT

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More proof the NHL loves itself some parity…

According to the Globe and Mail’s David Shoalts, commissioner Gary Bettman has proposed unpaid bonus money no longer be allowed to count against the salary cap.

Up until the expiration of the last CBA, a player’s potential bonus had counted against the cap – the key word being “potential,” as certain targets needed to be achieved before that bonus was paid out.

This was a good thing for teams desperate to get to the cap floor for as little actual money as possible, as those targets weren’t always achieved.

Shoalts uses the New York Islanders as an example:

Under the old agreement, a club such as the Islanders routinely made sure there were several entry-level players on its roster whose cap hit was much larger than their actual salary thanks to several bonuses. For example, in the 2011-12 season, rookie Nino Niederreiter’s entry-level contract paid him $900,000 in actual salary but nearly $2-million in bonuses brought his cap hit to just under $2.8-million. The 20-year-old was on the NHL roster for 55 games and scored exactly one goal, which meant almost all of that bonus money was never paid, a huge saving for the cash-strapped Islanders.

It’s worth nothing that the Isles save money in other ways. For example, by acquiring an aging player like Lubomir Visnovsky, whose front-loaded contract has a cap hit of $5.6 million but an actual salary of just $3 million in 2012-13.

For fans of the club, it means cheering for a team that may not be as good as its cap hit suggests. In fact, in 2012-13, the Isles have a cap payroll of $50.1 million, but a salary payroll of just $41.4 million.

On the opposite end of the spectrum is a club like the New York Rangers, whose biggest challenge isn’t getting to the cap floor; it’s finding a way to stay under the cap ceiling. For example, by sending an underperforming player like Wade Redden, along with his $6.5 million cap hit, to the minors.

And according to Shoalts, Bettman wants that to change as well, with all minor-league salaries above $105,000 counting against the cap.

  1. Brian - Nov 5, 2012 at 12:56 PM

    You’ve misstated things a little here, Jason. What’s been said is that teams can’t use bonus money to get to the cap floor, not that bonus money will no longer count against the cap, period. I was wondering about this the other day myself, but quickly realized that the league can’t possibly mean the latter when they say the former, for the fairly obvious reason that if bonus money doesn’t count against the cap at all, rich teams would immediately be offering players rather large bonuses with low actual salaries.

    • Jason Brough - Nov 5, 2012 at 1:24 PM

      Good comment. I added “unpaid” before bonus.

    • elvispocomo - Nov 5, 2012 at 2:05 PM

      Under the old CBA it was the bonuses counted against the cap until they could no longer be attained. This does seem to be a separate qualification for teams wanting to count them before they are attained as having made the cap floor. I can see an argument for how if those bonuses aren’t attained then a team might drop below the cap floor and be in violation suddenly, and the NHL wanting to avoid that possibility.

      I think it makes more sense to have them included until they aren’t attainable to keep the floor teams from having to spend more if they can’t afford it as well as preventing the ceiling teams from spending more, then letting the teams make adjustments from there.

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