I talked a little about next year's cap around the deadline, and Adrian Dater has a good article about on his blog today as well. Although I don't think there's any firm numbers out there, it's expected that the salary cap will be dropping in the coming years, and some teams could be in some real cap trouble coming up. If the cap drops too sharply, you might end up seeing some really good players skating in the AHL if it gets to the point that an NHL club can't fit his contract into the cap.
The Avs' situation isn't that dire, although as Dater points out, the team doesn't have a ton of cap flexibilty this summer. According to NHL Numbers, the Avalanche already have $43.4 million committed to 13 players next year. Comparing them to other teams, that ranks them 11th. More importantly, the Avs average salary commitment is $3.4 million per player (that's the last column) and that is the 4th highest in the league.
However, that's a little decieving because it doesn't include RFAs. The Avalanche have 4 key players that should sign for close to the minimum QO (shown below). Peter Budaj is also an RFA, but I would think he would command something higher than the $840k qualifier. For now, I'm setting him aside.
- David Jones ($605k)
- Cody McLeod ($574k)
- Cody McCormick ($574k)
- Kyle Cumiskey ($522k)
While I suppose there's a chance someone throws some money at McLeod this summer, in all likelihood those 4 will be back with us at something close to those numbers. That gives the Avs 17 players signed for $46 million, at a much more reasonable average of $2.4 million [EDIT: thanks JS]. Depending on the cap number, the Avs will have some money this summer - but not much. Key UFAs would be Joe Sakic, Ian Laperriere and Ben Guite. Budaj would need to be signed as well. Taking just some rough guesses (and assuming Super Joe is returning...which I am):
- Sakic, $4m
- Lappy, $1.5m
- Budaj, $1.4m
- Guite, $600
That puts you at about $53.5 million for 20 players - likely right up to the cap max, if not over. If Sakic decides not to come back, the team might have a little spending money, but not enough to target a top line player. And can you imagine the PR hit the team would take if Sakic wanted to come back but the Avs couldn't afford him? Yikes.
In terms of buyouts, the Avalanche really only have two viable candidates. Darcy Tucker would be an obvious choice. Buying out Tucker's remaing year would save the Avalanche $1.5 million next year, and would cost $750,000 against the cap in 2010-2011. Another option could be Brett Clark. Buying out Clark's $3.5 million would save $2.33 million next year, but would be $1.1 million in dead weight the following season. The savings next year (and addition by subtraction on the ice) would be nice, but 2010-2011 is the season everyone is projecting the cap to collapse, so it may not be wise to have any dead money on the books that year.
The bottom line is that, for better or worse, the Avalanche of next season are probably going to look a lot like the Avalanche of this season. We've been talking about a need to shake things up on the ice this summer, but there just may not be enough financial flexibility to do so.