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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.

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