Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Gainey's Hands Tied?

Schneider And The Cap

Adding Mathieu to the payroll has certainly confused a lot of people. I have to admit I had to do some reading and a bit of legwork to determine that the Canadiens would be OK with this salary load.

One of the problems is that websites like Cap Central and NHL Numbers do not know what the Canadiens have done in terms of applying for long-term injury allowance. Having done this last night, I now know why they approximate for every team...

I myself am not privy to the information. But to suffice to say, that according to Cap Central before yesterday, we were not in a position to add salary. We did and everyone in the organisation seems just fine with that. It leads me to believe they have processed a bit of paperwork over the season...

Long-term injury (LTI) allowance
The NHL CBA has made it deliberately difficult for GMs in the league to spend the salary space made by injuries to players on their team (if you want to read the actual clauses, download the PDF here and go from p. 226). The reason for this is obvious – Lou Lamoriello and other sly managers would be carrying all kinds of injured players and injuring others as they needed to.

The downside is that teams like Pittsburgh, who started without their 2 main defenders were wary to replace like with like for fear that they would be in a very compromising position come time for Gonchar and Whitney had to return.

The Canadiens, like the Penguins have had long-term injuries to some heavy hitters (salary-wise) this season. Koivu and Tanguay (the highest paid forwards) both missed loads of games; Higgins, Komisraek and Dandenault missed large numbers too; and now Robert Lang's $4 million is virtually off the books for the season.

While the injured player's salary still counts to the cap; what is allowed is spending up to the amount the injured player was making and exceeding the cap by that amount. So if Crosby was injured and the Pens were up against the cap, they could still trade for Ovechkin if they wanted to. What the team cannot do is bank salary for later. So if Koivu and Tanguay are injured for a corresponding ten-game stretch, the Canadiens can apply to replace their pro-rated $11 million for the duration of that time.

We know that the Canadiens did not do this, but they did in fact replace the players. For example, when Mike Komisarek got injured he was not initially replaced, but soon after the Candiens recalled Matt D'Agostini from Hamilton. From my understanding, it should have been alright for the Habs to make D'Agostini a cap freebie, essentially because his salary was absorbed by the overage that Komisarek's created.

Now, as I said, there is some formality to the procedure in that the NHL team must declare intentions and process paperwork. I am not entirely clued in as to how soon this must be done or whether a player once assigned as a replacement to one can then be reassigned to replace another. I am reasonably sure that there is no loophole that would make it possible for, Chris Higgins, to be Mike Komisarek's replacement and for another much cheaper player to be brought up from the minors. I feel this loop-hole if it existed would have been exploited by Brian Burke or someone by now.

So, essentially what you get is a one for one replacement – provided one of the employees of the hockey team can be bothered to do the paperwork. When we had 4 LTIs at the same time, there was certainly the potential to make sure that D'Agostini, Pacioretty, Weber and Chipchura's salaries were not our excess cap space.

Best case scenario

That said, I have worked out a best case scenario without any cheating (I think) – where each LTI is replaced by a minor leaguer whose salary bumps our cap limit by the same amount – essentially making that replacement cap neutral.

Based on this calculation, I would suggest that the Canadiens have already spent just over $38 million dollars, leaving them $18,563,000 or so in cap space for the remaining 25 games.

After that, I did the simpler calculation of pro-rated salary from here on (including Schneider) and came up with 17,590,000. I should note that I have allowed for Lang's salary to make cap neutral space of about $1.22 million extra; and also for Ryan O'Byrne's demotion to be permanent, which saves an additional $290,000.

Toting that up, you can see from my estimates that the Canadiens still have about $974,000 in space, which would still theoretically allow them to add a $3 million player today, or a higher paid player closer to the deadline.

Again, I should note that I did the calculations (for simplicity) on a per-game basis. This will be ball-park right, but salary is calculated daily and so could be off by several thousand if the schedule is more imbalanced than I thought. To be honest, i couldn't have done it the other way so quickly...

I also assumed a lot about player replacements. It is possible, for example, that D'Agostini was not Komisarek's replacement.

In any case, it should give some idea of where we sit.

Brisebois performance clause

Thinking it was enough reward for Brisebois that someone would even pay him to play hockey anymore, i at first assumed that Brisebois' cap hit of $1.5 million!!!! on Cap Central was in error and the $750,000 I remember was correct.

With a little more investigation, I have regrettably come to the conclusion that Brisebois is being paid that much – more than Gorges, Lapierre, Latendresse, Halak and more.

Can any of you tell me what exactly his bonuses are tied to? Is there any hope that he won't reach his conditions?

Dead wood

In doing this, I also found it amazing that Gainey had any maneuverability without the amount of dead wood this team is carrying. In addition to Brisebois's $1.5 milion, there are: the salary offloads from Chicago for Samsonov (totalling more than $760,000 for no one); Laraque at $1.5 million (all of which is down the toilet in my book); Dandenault at $1.725 million and Bouillon at a whopping $1.825 million, respectively (about half of which is overpay, I'd say).

Thank goodness Gainey managed to sign Andrei Kostitsyn for relatively little, and Higgins and Komisarek in the $2 million range. Plekanec still looks like a downright bargain at $1.6 million next to the aforementioned...

Welcome Matt. We look forward to a) a shot at the point on the PP, b) not looking to Brisebois or O'Byrne every game and c) you trying to earn another contract for yourself next year...

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