The Salary Cap Is Only An Excuse For Poorly Run Teams
If you make smart decisions the salary cap should never get in the way of adding the player you want or need.
With the NHL trade deadline only a couple of weeks away we are already seeing major moves happen while the rumor mill churns along at top speed.
At some point you might hear talk about how difficult it can be for teams to make a move because they are too pressed against the salary cap, or how the salary cap makes it difficult to make a trade, or that it just will not work out with that player because the salary cap won’t allow it.
There is some level of truth to that.
The salary cap can make it harder to make some trades, and it might place some limitations on what a team can and can not do.
It does not make it impossible, and sometimes that salary cap concern can be greatly overstated. Especially as we watch teams figure out ways around it every single season.
We are already seeing it happen now weeks ahead of the deadline as contenders like New York (Vladimir Tarasenko) and Toronto (Ryan O’Reilly) make significant moves to strengthen their rosters.
Make no mistake though, if you are looking at your team’s situation and talking about how the salary cap has made it impossible to add an upgrade, or if you hear your general manager complain that they did not have the cap space to improve the roster, your team has either been poorly constructed or your general manager has absolutely zero creativity.
It is most likely a combination of both.
You want an example of that team?
Start with the Pittsburgh Penguins.
They clearly have significant needs with their depth, defense, and goaltending, and the common refrain from fans, media, and even the team itself is how difficult it is going to be to make a move to fix those needs because they simply do not have the salary cap space to do it.
And that is not the fault of the salary cap, nor is it because they kept their core together or have big-money players at the top of the lineup.
It is the fault of their management (both the previous general manager and the current general manager) for making multiple small mistakes that have added up into gigantic mistakes that have significantly impacted their ability to construct a complete roster.
It is frustrating because over the past week we have literally watched two Eastern Conference teams — including one of them within their own division — add major pieces despite having several big money players already on their rosters.
The Toronto Maple Leafs have four players on their roster counting more than $7.5 million against the salary cap this season, including THREE that count more than $10 million against the cap. Their top-four salaries add up to more than $40 million in salary cap space and account for nearly 50 percent of their allotted salary cap space ($82.5 million) for the season. Despite that, they just figured out a way to add Ryan O’Reilly and Noel Acciari to strengthen an already deep forward group.
The New York Rangers have four players making more than $8 million per season, including two that top the $9.5 million mark. Their top four contracts account for $37.6 million against the cap, or 46 percent of their allotted salary cap space. They just figured out a way to trade for Vladimir Tarasenko and Niko Mikkola to give them another impact scorer at the top of their lineup and a defense depth upgrade.
The Tampa Bay Lightning have five players making more than $7.5 million per season, including three that top the $9.5 million mark. Their top four contracts account for $37 million, or 45 percent of their allotted salary cap space. Every single season they are one of the most aggressive teams at the trade deadline, having added players Blake Coleman, Barclay Goodrow, David Savard, Nick Paul, and Brandon Hagel in recent years. Do not be surprised if they find a way to do it again over the next two weeks.
Now let’s look at the Penguins.
They only have ONE player making more than $7 million against the salary cap this season (Sidney Crosby) and nobody accounting for more than $8.7 million against the cap. Their top-four players? They only account for $27.1 million against the cap, or 32 percent of their allotted salary cap space.
And do you know what?
Those four players (Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, Jake Guentzel, and Kris Letang) are REALLY good and are all bargains against the cap, and when it comes to their top-tier players this is probably the best salary cap structure they have had in years, even going back to their Stanley Cup years, and should have given them even more flexibility to build around.
And yet the Penguins are the team here that can not add anything because they have cap issues and room to add anybody?
How do you get your four best players, all top-tier players, to below market contracts and still produce a middle of the pack team with no salary cap flexibility?
A lot of shitty decisions elsewhere around the roster.
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