Salary Cap Silliness
The Canucks are over the salary cap by about $3 MM as they head toward the final cutdown day. (And I think it is fairly obvious what players have made the team. Sergei Shirokov has been the delight of the camp – he’s starting in Vancouver for sure. Hodgson will probably stick around for a while, but unless he gets a lot better in a big hurry he’s going back to Junior and Jannik Hanson wins the last forward job. Aaron Rome will be the seventh defenseman at least until Mathieu Schneider is ready to play. Andrew Raycroft will be the “backup goalie”.)
The Canucks don’t have to worry about being over the salary cap because both Mathieu Schneider and Pavol Demitra are going on long term injury reserve. Iain McIntyre explains:
…And general manager Mike Gillis said the Canucks want to nudge as close as possible to the $56.8-million salary-cap in order to maximize the allowance given teams for players who are injured long-term (LTI)…
Depending how much padding the Canucks require to reach the salary limit, the $525,000 free-agent deal Rome signed to come to Vancouver from Columbus could actually work against him. Extra defenceman Brad Lukowich’s cap number is $1.567 million. Of course, the Canucks could keep both, then shed Lukowich’s hefty salary later on…
You pretty much need the math club from Berkeley – the author didn’t quite make that group – to decipher the salary cap, but the injury benefit is essentially this: teams can exceed the cap by an amount equal to the salaries of players on LTI. But any space below the $56.8-million cap must be used before the injury allowance kicks in. In other words, if the Canucks’ payroll is at $54.8 million, then half of Demitra’s $4 million salary – if he missed the full season – would count towards the cap and Vancouver’s relief would be only $2 million.
In other words, if the Canucks spend right to the salary cap level, Demitra and Schneider don’t eat up any cap space at all until they are ready to play. If they are under the salary cap, Demitra and Schneider would chew up dollars the team can spend on players.
The result is perverse – the Canucks will probably keep both Hodgson and Lukowich. That the decision increases the escrow amount players will pay at the end of the year doesn’t bother the owners a bit. The players (Lukowich and Hodgson excepted) would prefer that the team did not have an incentive to spend money on players they did not need (or want, really) on the team. Aaron Rome is cheap and being cheap could cost him his chance to start in the NHL. Neither Gillis or McIntyre explains why spending money keeping extra players around is better than wasting the money on Demitra.
The other perverse element, of course, is the reference to the Berkely math club. How many fans would like to understand team personnel decisions? Lots. How many do? Very few. Sigh.
Update: A reader sorts this mystery out in the comments. Thanks, Kel.
Update II: MacIntyre takes another – better – stab at the issue.
On a more positive note, the Canucks wrapped up another very successful exhibition season. While it doesn’t mean that much, I do think it does signal that the Canucks have good depth. Teams have to trade off front line talent for depth under this CBA and my preference is for depth. (This is obviously not the way most teams operate when they run into cap problems. Almost invariably winning teams sacrifice depth when they have to cut talent. So far it hasn’t worked out well.)
The Canucks are definitely a good team and they might turn out to be very good. Canuck fans have to worry about injuries and the schedule, but right now they look like a lock for the playoffs.
I’m looking forward to a fun year.