Could cap crunch make Max movable?

afinogenovInteresting little piece I came across yesterday by David Staples of the Edmonton Journal:

THE HOTTEST NEW TERM IN THE NHL: “THE EXPIRING CONTRACT.”

The cap number for the 2009-10 season will be based upon of this year’s revenues, which were mainly generated last spring, before economic calamity settled in over the world, so it will take some time for the cap to really drop off. Nonetheless some sinking in the neighborhood of $2 million per year per team is likely in order, down to the $54-55 million range for the 2009-10 cap.

At that level, the majority of teams — including the Oilers with $55 million in salaries this year, $44 million already tied up for next year — will be scrambling to be under the cap and here is where expiring contracts come into play.

If you follow the NBA, which has played under a cap system for more than two decades now, you will be familiar with the term expiring contracts because they are something of an obsession in the basketball world.

It’s an easy concept to grasp. Each year any one team has players who are in the last year of their contracts. For instance, Dwayne Roloson of the Oilers is in the final year of his $3.7 million a year deal. After this year, Roloson’s contract will no longer count against the Oilers’ salary cap number. So this year, he has an expiring contract…

…The importance of an expiring contract is this: When most teams are pressed up against the upper limit of the cap — as tends to happen when the cap number drops or stagnates — teams will be desperate to create cap room for themselves heading into each summer, into each July free agent signing period. The more big dollar expiring contracts a team has, the more amount of cap space it will have to make a big free agent signing.

This tactic of clearing cap space may become prevalent in the coming years. The cap is expected to either stay about the same or drop a bit for next season. Many teams have a handful of players with big money, long term contracts and young players who are going to need new contracts. If they don’t have enough room to lock up their young players because of some hefty contracts, they’re going to need to move something to get space. Picking up guys who will be off the books after a few months is an easy way to go.

This could mean a premium on “rent-a-players”, not necessarily for playoff runs. And the piece goes on in that direction:

Afinogenov of the Sabres has only scored two goals in 34 games this year, but if you can pick him up for cheap, or maybe for a long-term contract player such as Dustin Penner, then that’s a deal the Oilers might well want to consider, under the right circumstances (Edmonton out of playoffs, Sabres making a playoff run).

Is there anyone here who wouldn’t like to have Dustin Penner on this team? Especially if we’re basically just getting him for free, trading away Afinogenov, who’ll likely spend most of the remainder of this season in the press box?

Of course, there’s a price to pay for doing such a thing, as Penner’s cap number is $4.25 million and has three years remaining on his contract when this season is over. Whether or not it’s a good idea for Buffalo to take on that kind of contract is debatable. But with Connolly, Afinogenov, Kotalik, Spacek and Numminen on the roster with “expiring contracts”, it’s possible one of these teams in cap trouble may be willing to take a hit to be ready for next season.

With the cap expected to go down, this shitty economy may help us out a bit.

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Posted on January 12, 2009, in Sabres/NHL and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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