Fri 19 Feb 2010
Now that Donnie Walsh has one-upped Glen Sather in the “How Many Bad Contracts Can You Dump” Game, what can Slats do to one-up his Knicks counterpart? Unfortunately, the Rangers President/GM might not be able to do much until the summer at the earliest.
Walsh has taken the Knicks from a team hopelessly over the salary cap and transformed them into a team that will be major players in the LeBron, D-Wade, Chris Bosh et al sweepstakes set to commence this summer. Sather’s task is a bit different because the Rangers need to sweep out contracts just to be able to have some flexibility – because the NHL’s hard salary cap does not afford free-spending teams any salary cap flexibility.
We have to give Sather credit (even though he was the one who put the Rangers in the salary cap hell they are in now) because he was able to clear out Scott Gomez’s contract without taking on a major salary commitment, and at the same time, also adding a prospect like Ryan McDonagh. He was even able to correct his Ales Kotalik mistake and get a mulligan on Christopher Higgins without adding a long-term salary hit because Olli Jokinen’s contract expires at the end of the season. However, Sather has to resist the urge to re-sign Jokinen to a long-term deal.
Despite those corrections, Sather will have to channel his inner Donnie Walsh and Anne Sullivan (aka “The Miracle Worker”) if he is going to move the onerous contracts of Wade Redden and Michal Rozsival. In fact, if Lyle Richardson of The Hockey News is correct, Sather’s best (and perhaps only) hope is to wait until the offseason – like he did with the Gomez trade.
“The difference, however, was that Gomez — despite his hefty contract — still had value in the trade market,” Richardson (the hockey writer also known as Spector) explains. “Plus, it’s easier to move expensive contracts in the offseason when teams have more cap space than it is late in the season when they have less to work with.”
Even if Sather were to find a willing trade partner, it is going to cost him dearly to move those contracts without adding any major salaries in return. Much like Walsh had to give away first round draft picks and 2009 first round pick Jordan Hill, Sather will have to sacrifice prospects as well as his younger/cheaper NHL players. Richardson brought up the name of Brandon Dubinsky as an example.
The other alternative is to try and trade Redden and/or Rozsival for another team’s salary problem in the hope that a change of scenery would be beneficial to both teams.
A good example is the Rangers reported interest in Edmonton defenseman Sheldon Souray prior to him breaking his hand in a fight with Jarome Iginla. Souray and Rozsival have similar salary cap hits that expire after the 2011/12 season. If the Rangers want to swap blueliners, the Oilers are going to want prospects and/or draft picks included since they are not getting any salary cap relief.
In the end, the Rangers are not solving their problem. Rather they are just trading for a different problem. If Souray’s deal were for less years, then it would end up being a plus trade for the Blueshirts in the long-term.
Another way it could turn out to be a plus deal for the Rangers is if the Oilers agreed to take Redden in the deal. In that case, the Rangers would save about a $1 million per year as far as the salary cap hit goes and they would be getting two years of relief because Redden’s deal expires at the end of the 2013/2014 season.
The question then becomes is it worth giving up a first round draft pick or two, a player like Dubinsky, a prospect like Derek Stepan or any combination of the three in order to trade Redden for Souray? It is a tough question and one I am glad that I do not have to answer. Then again, if I were the Rangers GM I would not have gotten myself into this mess.
If the Rangers are going to have to bribe another team by giving up any combination of the above assets, then any deal must bring back an expiring contract because the goal is not salary relief – the goal becomes salary salvation.
In that case, the Rangers could target a team like the Phoenix Coyotes who have approximately $16 million in cap space this season and get them to Rozsival or Redden plus “the bribe” in exchange for players like an Adrian Aucoin and Robert Lang (both who have contracts that expire this year) and/or Jim Vandermeer (who has one more year at $2.3 million).
Of course, many fans would say that the easiest thing to do is simply demote Redden and Rozsival and completely remove them from the Rangers payroll. That is a nice idea, but how many owners would be willing to park about $12 million worth of contracts in the AHL? Besides, there are other ramifications to consider.
How will their presence affect the other players in Hartford? You would have to imagine that both players would not be all that happy with the demotion so you risk screwing up any chemistry you might have. With Redden and Rozsival in the AHL, that means two prospects get to sit in the stands or play in the ECHL, which in turn, brings us back to the affect the Redden and Rozsival demotion would have on the team.
To be honest with you, I am not an NHL salary cap specialist so I do not know what implications there would be in reference to NHL rules. I am not certain what happens during the offseason with their contracts. Do their salaries ever revert back to the Rangers? In Major League Baseball, players on the 60-Day Disabled List do not count against the 40-Man Roster, but during the offseason those players must be removed from the DL and placed back on the 40-Man Roster. Is there a similar provision in the NHL CBA? If there isn’t, I bet the NHL Player’s Association would be quick to file a grievance. This is why teams employ capologists like Cameron Hope (the Rangers Assistant General Manager/Hockey Administration).
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