Last week, Avalanche GM threw a wet blanket to our Summer of Kovie celebration by telling Adrian Dater that the Avalanche would avoid signing any big ticket free agents (read: Ilya Kovalchuk) to ensure that the Avalanche have cap money down the road to retain the Avs' core nucleus (read: Matt Duchene, Chris Stewart, T.J. Galiardi, Ryan O'Reilly and more). Now that I've written the longest opening sentence in history, let's take a look in our crystal ball and see if we can roughly predict what the Avs' cap situation may look like a couple of years down the road.
First of all, here's how the Avalanche shape up as we stand today. Line combos are rough, some salaries are estimated:
- Galiardi - Stastny - Stewart
- Mueller - Duchene - Hejduk
- Stoa - O'Reilly - Jones
- McLeod - Hendricks -Yip
- Hannan - Quincey
- Foote - Cumiskey
- Liles - Wilson
For all that - a roster comparable to the one fielded in the playoffs against San Jose, the estimated cap hit would be about $42.5 million - with $15.5 million in cap room (based on an estimated new cap of $58 million). Not a bad roster. There's still some question marks on defense in my mind and the Avs still look light at left wing unless Galiardi (or Stoa) is able to take that next step. Still, that's the baseline - a first-round playoff team with plenty of potential in place to improve.
The best news is that the Avalanche will control the rights to most of these players for several more years. Under the current CBA, players become eligible for unrestricted free agency and the massive paydays that can bring when they reach the age of 27 or have 7 seasons under their belt. In the summer of 2014 - four seasons from now - Paul Stastny, Peter Mueller, Ryan Stoa, Kyle Cumiskey and Ryan Wilson will all be able to test the free agent waters. Before then, the only three notable young guns to become UFAs will be David Jones, Kyle Quincey and Brandon Yip. In other words, we could easily be looking at four more years with the core nucleus intact.
Of course, controlling a player's rights doesn't necessarily mean one can afford all of the players. So I went through and estimated all the contracts for the RFAs listed above - much in the way that I did with Stewart, Mueller, Yip and Quncey a couple of weeks ago, except my estimates here are much looser. I didn't budget any money to retain any UFAs except for at goalie, where I budgeted a healthy $6 million for a starter and a backup. Oh, and I added in $8 million clams per year for Kovie.
|Est Cap Hit||$50,135,500||$51,820,833||$49,525,000||$50,100,000|
|Est Cap Room||$7,864,500||$6,179,167||$8,475,000||$7,900,000|
A couple of notes. I only projected out for the next 4 years - up through the end of Stastny's contract. Even that is more fiction than fact, considering there are probably going to be just 9 players next year who were with the Avalanche for 4 years prior. And I assumed a non-changing NHL cap of $58 million.
Certainly, there's no way to accurately predict what will happen in four seasons, but I do think that what the above shows is that even with some healthy raises to our youngsters, an $8 million contract to Ilya Kovalchuk wouldn't be crippling. And it can be done without sacrificing much of the Avs' young nucleus (depending on what happens, there could still be room in there for guys like Jones, Yip or Quincey). And if certain players don't develop as projected? The money we're budgeted in for their raises could go to adding in other free agents to bolster the lineup.
Greg Sherman may say that the Avalanche want to build from within and save money to keep the young guns together for many, many sequels. If I was smart and a GM (I'm neither), I'd do the same. And maybe they won't pursue Kovalchuk. But we're talking about a player who has more career goals than Milan Hejduk...in 3 less seasons - and Hejduk is no slouch, as his Rocket Richard trophy reminds us. That's the type of player that GMs make room for. The Avalanche don't need to do that. They've got plenty of room - today and in the future.