From Thrifty to Opulent in Three Seasons

Here’s how cheap owner Ted Leonsis is right now: He’s got a $60 million hockey team here in town. The salary cap for next season has been set at $56 million, but there’s no penalty for being over the cap by 10 percent in the summer so long as a team is under it a week before the start of the season. The Caps most definitely are over the cap right now.
At least they are saving money in net; after the Caps acquired Cristobal Huet from Montreal this past February they had nearly $10 million worth of backstoppers on the payroll — it’ll be a little over $5 million this season.
Nine defensemen are on the books right now, but Brian Pothier’s $2.5 million is almost certain to come off, and General Manager George McPhee this summer has indicated that he won’t carry more than seven defenders. So two salaries are being lopped off from the blueline. And if Bruce Boudreau opts to keep 13 forwards out of camp, another salary would be sheared off from among the forward ranks.
The Caps bought ought Ben Clymer this summer, but that means they take a modest salary hit for him this season and next.
In the weeks ahead, McPhee must decide between two courses of action in plotting to get under the cap: (1) shear off enough to just get to $56 million, or (2) move bodies, or salaries, enough to afford himself some maneuverability during the season to address injuries that may arrive. Really the only way to achieve the second strategy is to move a large salary.

Forwards
Alexander Ovechkin 9,538,462
Michael Nylander 4,875,000
Alexander Semin 4,600,000
Sergei Fedorov 4,000,000
Chris Clark 2,633,333
Viktor Kozlov 2,500,000
Nicklas Backstrom 2,400,000
Brooks Laich 2,066,667
Donald Brashear 1,200,000
Matt Bradley 1,000,000
Eric Fehr 735,000
Boyd Gordon 725,000
Tomas Fleischmann 725,000
David Steckel 512,500
Ben Clymer 250,000
Total 37,760,962
Defensemen
Mike Green 5,250,000
Tom Poti 3,500,000
Brian Pothier 2,500,000
Shaone Morrisonn 1,975,000
Karl Alzner 1,675,000
Milan Jurcina 881,250
Jeff Shultz 750,000
Sami Lepisto 700,000
John Erskine 537,500
Total 17,768,750
Goaltenders
Jose Theodore 4,500,000
Brent Johnson 812,500
Total 5,312,500
Team Total 60,842,212

How would you rate McPhee’s roster and salary management this summer? He had a large number of new contracts to negotiate, and he had unexpected breakout seasons from the likes of Mike Green and Brooks Laich driving up his payroll. He also may not have anticipated Sergei Fedorov making the impact he did in just a couple of months’ time, making a new deal for him a wise idea. Lastly, he endured player agent mischief from Cristobal Huet’s representative. When all was said and done, he managed to ink every player he wanted from last season, save Huet, and do so before August 1. How many GMs can make that claim?

This entry was posted in Brooks Laich, Front Office, Mike Vogel, Sergei Fedorov, Washington Capitals. Bookmark the permalink.

15 Responses to From Thrifty to Opulent in Three Seasons

  1. CraigD says:

    Truth and rumors over a FanNation suggests that the Canucks might try to deal for Nylander if they can’t get Sundin. Not sure if it is worth exploring, but that would take care of the cap issue.

  2. TG says:

    Overpaid for Brashear. Overpaid for Poti. (Although I understand overpaying for Poti as, at the time, the Caps had to overpay to get anyone to come here.) Maybe could have convinced Alex O. to take a bit less? Same with Fedorov? But you figure only one of Fehr and Flash will be with the big team this year. And depending on how training camp goes, someone else (A. Gordon, Borque?) may take their spot.
    But overall, I think GMGM did OK. After all, that’s why they kept room under the salary cap these past few years so they could do what they did this past offseason and not have to risk losing players. And next year Fedorov and Kozlov come off the cap, which is about $6.5 million, giving them a little more breathing room.

  3. Sombrero Guy says:

    I think that list makes things look a little worse than they actually are. Like you said, Pothier’s 2.5 million will likely be factored out due to his concussion issues. We’re only carrying 7 D-men, so Lepisto or Alzner will start in the AHL. Either way, some tough decisions loom.

  4. SG – It’s a snapshot of the ways things stand in late July. I think it was important to render it as such because it’s the first time the Caps have been above the cap since it was instituted — and it illustrates the fidelity of Ted’s pledge to pony up when the time arrived. It’s also accurate. The expectations of course are as you laid them out, but Pothier hasn’t retired, nor has the league yet granted the Caps relief from his contract.

  5. Muddapucker says:

    I have to give GMGM credit for sticking with the plan. Through thick and thin, he has stuck with it. Nothing radical, no caveins to pressure from the public or the press. He stayed the course.
    I think he has done a very good job overall. The biggest feather in his cap so far as I am concerned was reacting to Huet’s defection. He immediately instituted damage control and came up with Theodore. In view of salary cap issues, this may have been a blessing in disguise.
    My biggest question is the Federov deal… I wonder what he’s got left. Bear in mind, he didn’t play much with Columbus last year. He had something left when he got to Washington. Will he have $4M worth left this year? I hope so. Federov brings a lot to the table. We’ll see, but to GMGM’s credit, he is willing to take the calculated risk.
    If you want a flashy high profile GMGM you don’t have it with George. If you want a GM that makes knee jerk deals and lives life in a state of paranoia, it isn’t GMGM (try Kevin Lowe)… All things considered you have a man in control, with a plan who knows what he’s doing.
    I don’t think you can do much better than that.

  6. Muddapucker, you’re right on the money regarding Huet/Theodore. Once Huet made it clear that he had no loyalty to the Caps, GMGM snagged the only other netminder UFA that could conceivably backstop a playoff team. I guarantee that Theodore had other suitors; the quick reaction by GMGM to get Theodore on board not only was the best possible reaction to losing Huet, but I’m sure it disappointed a few other GMs (hello, Ottawa).
    As for Fedorov, it seems he has quite a bit left to offer. Sure, as players age, the chance of injury increases. But don’t equate his lackluster play in Columbus to his potential in DC. His apparent happiness here — with coach, linemates, and overall team strategy — will go a long way toward motivating him to go out on a high note.

  7. JR says:

    I’m not sure I see Nylander being on the books for his entire contract, provided we could find someone willing to take his salary.
    What’s up with rookie contracts? I don’t see how Alzner is making 1.7 mil, that’s too much of a cap charge without having played any games yet. Last year Backstrom’s base was 850.

  8. Lee (PTO) says:

    Fedorov will more than make up for the 20 games he may have to sit out this season by helping to develop the young Russkies on the roster. I say give him a few days off in March to recharge the batteries and then turn him loose come playoff time.
    No one was calling for GMGM’s head louder than me four years ago, but aside from having a solid succession plan for Olie in place he has done a magnificent job. Thank Ovie for allowing McPhee to land Theodore, its the Contender factor that made that move possible. JUST KEEP THE GOOD PROSPECTS COMING FROM HERSHEY (which was my original ding on his record here). Not that I could do better, just sayin’…

  9. Sombrero Guy says:

    @Pucks – I hear ya and see your point.
    @JR – Alzner’s Salary is only $875,000 but with all potential bonuses, his salary cap number increases to $1,675,000, which is the combination of his salary (875K) and all possible bonuses (800K).
    Does anybody know how the bonus structure in Alzner’s contract shakes out? If its based on end of the season awards, than there would be less mid season cap relief. If some of the bonsues are based on meeting certain criteria like 60 games played, the caps could let him get his feet wet for the first 23 games in Hershey, then bring him up to the big show and a lesser cap number.

  10. JR says:

    That’s kind of what I thought might the case with Alzner, but I don’t recall last year having to account for Backstrom’s full potential salary, including bonuses, when doing the cap for that season. Was it just that we had so much room nobody bothered to care?
    How soon can we release Pothier on that injury rule? And for that matter, if Chris Clark isn’t 100% by September, how do we shelve him for some cap relief – preferably without losing his rights if/when he finally comes back.

  11. Drew says:

    Maybe I’ve been reading Japer’s too much, but the Brashear contract seems like an easy cut to make. Heck, he’s already missing from easily half of the would-be 4th line combinations that we spend our days postulating on these boards & blogs. Does anyone else expect the need for an enforcer will decrease with expanded inter-conference play?

  12. TG says:

    Just remember what the Devils did with Malakhov last season in keeping him on IR for the cap relief, even when Malakhov said he was able to come back and play. Rumor is that GM Lou had it figured down to the penny what each night’s lineup was against the cap so he knew how much wiggle room he had/over the cap he remained. Hope GMGM’s calculator works well!

  13. The Peerless says:

    Much depends on how large a roster the Caps choose to carry. In looking at likely 23-man roster, the Caps have problems, even if Pothier coming off the books. If Alzner is the replacement, and he’s there for the full year, the Caps would still be $940K over the cap, by my reckoning.
    Then there is the matter of Chris Clark, which seems to be the biggest unknown here. If he isn’t able to go at the start of the season, the team gets a break on the cap, but the quality of the team suffers.
    There are no certainties with either Tomas Fleischmann or Eric Fehr, either. I don’t think Fehr would be moved (I think the Caps still are evaluating him), but Fleischmann could be moved. If a pick or non-roster player comes back, I don’t think that roster spot gets filled. That saves $725K.
    I’m not seeing the Caps moving Nylander unless there is substantial return — it won’t be a “cap” related move. I think the club will tinker with roster size before that sort of thing comes onto the radar.
    At the end of the day, though, I think the Caps are done with moves until camp. Then, things will get very interesting very quickly. I think there will be deals as the calendar approaches opening night.

  14. JR says:

    In case anyone was wondering, and forgive me if I am just regurgitating, the reason Alzner is counting for the full 1.675 is because this season you are not given any bonus cushion. I think that was because of the potential for one or both of the sides to re-open the CBA negotiations.
    Getting to 56.7 mil should be doable if you are relieved of Pothier and send a few of the lower earning F’s and D’s to Hershey. But NOT Alzner. He’s way too pimping.

  15. Sombrero Guy says:

    I’m fuzzy on who is eligible to get sent down to Hershey without going through waivers.
    going off info included here http://nhlscap.com/waivers.htm
    I think (I welcome anybody to correct me) that of the players above, Backstrom, Fehr, Schultz, Alzner and Lepisto are able to be sent without first going through Waivers. Flash might be in that list as well, but I don’t know when he first signed an NHL contract.
    Its laughable to think of Backstrom being sent down, and I can’t imagine Schultz being sent down after playing a full season in the bigs but I am just trying to list the waiver exempt players, not the most likely to be sent down.

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