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Salary Structure and You: The Central Division

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After a long delay that was totally due to All These Excuses and not laziness, SS&Y brings it home with a look at the Avalanche's home division.

"Dat structure" -Sherm
"Dat structure" -Sherm
Bruce Bennett

We're back and we're ready to drop the central division. So without further delay, your disclaimers.

  • All graphs use the salary cap (2013 $63.4M, 2014 $69M) or total team salary as 100%, whichever is larger.
  • If the team is over the cap for next season I've indicated so.
  • All numbers are Capgeek's.
  • Click to embiggen.

2. St. Louis Blues (111 points)

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St. Louis of last season look like a Cap Team, albeit a Thin one in their forward corps. No Blue made 7% of the salary cap last season, while Bouwmeester and Pietrangelo both exceeded 10%. Friend of the show Kevin Shattenkirk would have been the second-highest paid forward in St. Louis last season. Now, yes, some of this is due to Alex Steen's time on LTIR, but the fact remains.

The addition of fellow friend of the show Paul Stastny next season, seen in this graph located unfortunately in the top left, helps this problem dramatically, as would a full Steen season. The Blues remain a Cap Team. Which I mean if you got bounced from the playoffs by the Blackhawks after an excellent regular season the logical thing to do is stand pat. We'll just ignore the part where they gave Steve Ott $lmao million a year.

No we wont. TWO POINT SIX! MILLION! PER SEASON

3. Chicago Blackhawks (107 points)

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I mean that's not what you were expecting, right? The Blackhawks are always great. Their structure is a little Topheavy? 6 guys (Toews, Kane, Sharp, Hossa, Seabrook, Keith) eat 54.6% of the cap (slightly less of the pie since the Bhawks went over). Note that this graph, and next year's as well, are pre-extensions for Kane and Toews, which will kick in for the 15-16 season. But they aren't EXTREMELY topheavy, like Pittsburgh comes to mind, and the lesson to learn here is this: When you have great players, pay to keep them, and fill the holes with smart cheapish depth. Not borderline tweeners, guys like Andrew Shaw, and when they get too expensive, trade them.

The Blackhawks are still a Topheavy Cap Team next season but are 3.2% over the cap right now per Capgeek's estimate. Some of Capgeek's contracts will be AHL bound, but still, Chicago need to make some space happen.

4. Minnesota Wild (98 points)

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Well this is as textbook as Topheavy gets hahaha wait a minute, Hotwheels Heater still made 11.7% ($7.5M) last season?

SALARY GOALS ASSISTS POINTS CF% REL Off|Neu|Def Zone Start%
Hilarious 50 in '07 (12 in '14) 16 28 -5.9% 33.9|37.2|28.9%

How was I not making fun of this contract all last season? Sheesh! Ok next year's Wild is weird man, they have Vanek, Parise, Koivu, and Pominville occupying over a third of the cap, and another 11% tied up in Ryan Suter, but there's still all this money available and Neiderreiter is their only outstanding RFA. Simply looking only at the Structure, Minnesota might take over the Ducks' place as the West's most one-line team, which I guess makes them appear both Topheavy and sort of Thin. Let's talk about this one in the comments you guys, I am not sure what to make of it.

5. Dallas Stars (91 points, playoffs anyway)

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Not many teams' highest paid player is their goalie, but Kari Lehtonen is Dallas's Mr. Moneybags. Their structure last season actually looks fairly reasonable; I'm giving it a Balanced due to the two full scoring lines and a top pair of D visible without everything else being a total mash of donate-it-to-charity slices [NSFW - language], plus a little spare cap wiggle room to boot.

Next year's big adds are Jason Spezza at 10.1% ($7M) and Ales Hemsky at 5.8% ($4M). They will take the place on this chart of Nobody and Ray Whitney, respectively. They look to stay pretty Balanced with space to grow as their young stars start getting paid the character bucks. I don't know what Jim Nill thinks he's doing down there but I really wish he'd cut it out.

6. Nashville Predators (88 points)

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Nashville successfully iced four third lines last year, judging by this. Apart from future Flyer Ryan Suter and half of Pekka Rinne's hip, this Structure looks Twig Thin. They had the worst goal differential in the division last season, in fact the worst in the conference if you don't include Canadian teams (lol), and while the Rinne injury is a big reason for that, so is an absolute wealth of no scoring.

Nashville's solution for this from a payroll perspective is trading for James Kneeal (7.2%) and adding Olli Jokinen and Mike Ribeiro from the Bargain Bin. GMs add bargain bin vets when they think they can be a place the player can get his game back together. The wisdom of these signings is still to be seen. Obviously 1/4 David Jones Money ($1/1yr) for Skinny Pete isn't going to haunt anybody financially, but the use of a roster spot there when you look like you're a Budget Team only bodes well if you're right. And when the logic behind being right is old boys's club style thinking, "he was good before so we can make him good again," yeah I'm skeptical. I'm sticking with Budget Team.

7. Winnipeg Jets

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Who do Winnipeg look exactly like last season? This is really familiar...

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Hey yeah that's the one. We called Toronto a bad Cap Team and Winnipeg are in the same boat. They pay their guys like they're contenders when they finished in the division basement.

Lucky for Jets fans, the same team, again, is coming back next year, making more collectively in terms of cap percentage, with no signs of anything being blown up soon. You guys are noisy and passionate fans and you deserve better than a franchise that makes you buy a decade's worth of season tickets then declares GG and does nothing because who cares, they sold their gate.

That leaves

1. Colorado Avalanche (112 points)

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Last season the Avs are unquestionably a Budget Team. Let's look at these other Budget Teams for confirmation.

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Thriftiness confirmed. The fact that the Avalanche won the division with a Budget Team structure is amazing, and it makes me wonder how that works, for a few seconds until I realize all the Avs best players are young and so the logical conclusion is either they're getting the boot when they get expensive, or the Cheap Avs have conveniently become the Banking Cap Space To Pay The Kids Avs.

Skeptics, myself included, have been saying "show me the money" about this idea. If you're willing to spend when contract time comes, now that the team is winning, go on, prove it then. And they have. Duchene, O'Reilly, and Landeskog all clear 8% this season (previously this was Stastny and Nobody). MacKinnon, barring a worse-than-slump sophomore campaign, could easily join them for his SECOND contract, let alone once he reaches UFA years in 2020 or so if he keeps developing as he should.

Now the Avs still have $4 Capgeek million to spend on Tyson Barrie, but once we shuffle guys around the pie to where they belong (Landeskog to the top, Iginla and Briere to the rest of the forwards) and lose some contracts to the AHL, this looks somewhere between a Balanced and Cap Team structure. And I'm not concerned about any crunch next season either, as $7.6M comes off the books with Briere and Stuart (fuck those deals) alone. Haha, that's ~1 Dany Heatley Money.

It's all happening. The question is no longer "When will we spend money?"

The question now is whether this roster, this talent, is the right roster to become a Cap Team with.