Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Washington's 2008 Tale of the Cap

So what does it mean to be under the salary cap? We’ll take a look at this issue and its effect on the current roster of the Washington Capitals. As you probably know the upper limit of the salary cap for this year is $56.7 million. If you didn’t, well now you do. Currently, the Caps have 48 players under contract but not all of them count towards the cap. So who does and how much?

The Collective Bargaining Agreement says that the “Averaged Club Salary” is calculated daily and includes salaries and bonuses of all active roster, injured reserve, injured non roster, and non roster players, buy outs, and a couple of other situations that sometimes apply (you can read the CBA at, exciting stuff let me tell you). The league has a 5:00 pm daily deadline for calculating Averaged Club Salary. For a player to paid and be eligible to participate they need to have an approved and registered contract prior to the daily deadline. The Averaged Club Salary must be above the salary cap floor and below the ceiling.

So what does this mean? To put it simply, every day the Capitals add up the cap numbers of all the players on the roster, injured reserve, and the Ben Clymer buyout amount and that total must be lower than $56.7 million. That’s it. The only exception is for a player that goes on long term injured reserve. In that case the injured player’s salary still counts against the cap but the team may replace that player with another player and exceed the cap by the amount of the injured player’s contract. Once the injured player is healed and ready to play, the team can no longer exceed the cap. To debunk a common myth teams cannot accrue cap space by being under and use it later. They must be under the cap every day.

Now we come to the big question. Where do the Caps stand? Well, that depends on who is on the roster. The team has 23 roster spots and will most likely have 14 forwards, 7 defensemen and 2 goalies. Here’s what I think the lines will look like along with their salary:

  • 1st Forward Line: Alex Ovechkin ($9,538,462), Nicklas Backstrom ($2,400,000), Victor Kozlov ($2,500,000)
  • 2nd Forward Line: Alexander Semin ($4,600,000), Michael Nylander ($4,875,000), Chris Clark ($2,633,333)
  • 3rd Forward Line: Tomas Fleischmann ($725,000), Sergei Fedorov ($4,000,000), Eric Fehr ($735,000)
  • 4th Forward Line: Donald Brashear ($1,200,000), Brooks Laich, ($2,066,667), Matt Bradley ($1,000,000)
  • Reserve Forwards: Boyd Gordon ($725,000), David Steckel ($512,500)
  • 1st Defensive Pair: Mike Green ($5,250,000), Shaone Morrisonn ($1,975,000)
  • 2nd Defensive Pair: Tom Poti ($3,500,000), Jeff Schultz ($763,889)
  • 3rd Defensive Pair: Milan Jurcina ($881,250), John Erskine ($537,500)
  • Reserve Defensemen: Sami Lepesto ($700,000)
  • Goalies: Jose Theodore ($4,500,000), Brent Johnson ($812,500)
  • Buyout: Ben Clymer ($250,000)

For these 23 players plus the buyout is a total cap hit of $56,681,101. It’s close to the upper limit but still under the cap. In addition, Brian Pothier’s salary of $2,500,000 will count against the cap but since he will most likely be on long term injured reserve the team can exceed the cap by his salary. So the Capitals will have an Averaged Club Salary of $59,181,101 with an upper limit of $59,200,000.

Now for the what ifs. What if Chris Clark’s groin does not heal? Clark may also be assigned to the LTIR list and the Caps can replace his salary. What if rookie defender Karl Alzner has a great camp and makes the big club? The Caps will have to make room for his $1,675,000 salary. This can be done by sending a player to the minors, trading a player, or waiving a player. However, if a player is waived and is picked by another team the Capitals would still be responsible for 50% of that player’s contract. What if the Capitals suffer more than three injuries at one time that are not considered long term? That would put the team in a real tough spot. According to the CBA, they have to make salary room before they can bring in replacements.

So there is the gist of the Capitals salary cap situation. Being late July, we’ll have to wait at least until training camp before any of these questions will begin to be answered. Having so many NHL quality players is a luxury the Capitals have not have in the past couple of seasons and it will be interesting to see how they handle it. All the while it will be fun to debate.

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