Penguins avoid trading bad contracts in exchange for cover space penalties

Creating space under the salary cap quickly became the name of the game in NHL roster management. Over the past five years, the maximum salary has barely increased, but teams have continued to hand out big money to players. Unlike other leagues like the NFL, there aren’t many ways in the NHL to make a bad decade go away. They have takeover windows once a year (which leaves a fairly large penalty) but other than that hockey teams can’t generally count on carving money out of the guaranteed contracts they hand out to players.

Unless they trade those contracts with another team willing to take over.

It has become a world where almost no team has a salary cap space – Per CapFri Friendly The 18 teams of the NHL have about $1 million or less in the space for next season, with 13 teams exceeding the official upper limit and many likely using their long-term injury reserve to inflate the cap.

Those with the roof space dominate the commercial market, often gaining huge value advantages on the snowboard in exchange for providing a maximum salary to a team in trouble. Marc-Andre Fleury’s trade last summer (the expensive but Vezina-winning goalkeeper) from Vegas to Chicago just for hat space was the perfect example. Still in limbo from other signings, this year’s Vegas sent high-scoring Max Pasuritti to Carolina, once again no return besides opening a hat room.

There are no strangers to being on a salary cap bound – the Penguins were out last season The upper limit is $81.5 million Literally every day the maximum salary is calculated – it is another convenient in Pittsburgh. The pens could make it below this year’s upper limit of $82.5 million by demoting to minors and potentially carry 21 players on their roster. It fits perfectly, but thanks to Bryan Rust, Evgeni Malkin, and Kris Letang restoring their super friendly annual hats, the pens will take back all the key pieces from their supplement team.

Unlike, say, Calgary — who had to deal with Sean Monahan and his bloated salary for Montreal, and pay a down payment to do so — the pens were able to accommodate all of their signatures without making a deal. But maybe they were close. for every Dave Molinary, Pittsburgh considered taking Jason Zucker away for nothing, in order to get rid of the $5.5 million. To get that cover space, the pens had to pay the price of a first-round pick, similar to what Flames did to throw Monahan.

For the Flames, they came to an agreement to go ahead and add Nazim Qadri after a year on the job, and that made sense enough.

Would Zucker’s loss and the first be a fair deal for the pens to sign someone like Ondrej Palat or Nino Niederreiter to replace him in the squad? Reasonable minds can agree or disagree, but this is a heavy price to pay.

Zucker’s decade and inability to perform up to the levels he depended on is a huge incompetence for the Penguins. In the world of salary cap, all the pieces matter. The team has canceled a two-year extension for 38-year-old Jeff Carter. They paid a premium price in salary and tenure to a non-excellent player at Brock McGinn. They sent a qualified offer to Kasperi Kapanen and then had to pay He has the same salary Like last year, after a bad year, in a market where players like him are taking a big bath.

All decisions made can be viewed as critical decisions in a climate where the salary ceiling is very low. Trading Zucker and paying a fine for doing so won’t solve all of Pittsburgh’s salary cap problems. But – to be fair – the pens are a very effective team anyway when it comes to avoiding overpaying, which could make Zucker’s contract even worse by comparison.

Trading a high option to bring down Zucker wasn’t just about fixing an old inefficiency and putting the team in a better direction, it would also have been an expensive option with limited benefit. Especially since Zucker’s contract expires after another year, and his salary space opens up without any penalty anyway. There is a time when paying a maximum fine for giving up a bad player/bad contract combination makes perfect sense in the world (Jack Johnson), but there is also a time when it’s just the saying “rearrange the chairs on the Titanic”.

Take Monahan in Calgary, because of his injuries, he was hit by a shell from the player he was before. But will my 32-year-old Destiny’s signing of a seven-year deal really solve the flame problems after a few years? While giving up the valuable first round pick to do it?

If there are enough short-term gains (eg the Flames won the Stanley Cup and Kadri was once again a driving force in getting his team there as it was this year in Colorado), that certainly makes sense for the Flames. However, paying money and trading bad contracts just to fetch bad contracts in the future won’t get the team where they want to go.

For pens, not paying a huge dowry to bring down Zucker was the right play. The contract isn’t long or rich enough to be a big deal. And they’re in the cover situation they’re in for a reason much more than just Zucker alone.

The best way to find future players like Zucker or Kadri is to keep the first-round picks anyway, and not sacrifice them for the sake of the short-term salary cap space that would be spent away from a different, expensive veteran who could bring the team back. to square one.

Such is the world of management in the NHL these days, where salary cap space and availability are more important than ever.

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