It is no secret that the lockout has been a horrible blow to everyone involved be they fans, owners, players, employees, and even local businesses relying on sports generated revenue; but in the end the Ottawa Senators may be the team that can benefit the most from this fiasco. Why you may ask? Well the biggest underlying factor is a perfect storm in terms of our bargaining position that will come in the offseason.
We are looking at a possible world where the salary cap for 13/14 will be $60,000,000 as this number has been put forward by the NHL in their latest proposal to the NHLPA. With Ottawa having merely $39 million committed to the cap next season with only a few minor resignings likely to happen, we are in a position of going into the offseason with nearly $20 million in wiggle room.
Now this fact wouldn't be such a big deal if the salary cap were to remain at the same level it is now, but because it is decreasing there will be many players made available on bargains due to the shuffling of funds.
First of all we have the amnesty buyouts which will make many players that are overpaid to be released from their contracts and become free agents. Secondly, there will be many players in the league that will not be retained. Third, there could be even more players available by trade at bargain prices as cap dumps. Lastly, with the influx of players into the free agency market and the cap being low there will be many opportunities to find players at discounted prices compared to the previous season (supply and demand).
The biggest factor that could make or break our opportunity at this point is Mr. Melnyk's grip on his wallet. It is no secret that over the last couple of seasons we have been shedding salary in an attempt to restock the cupboards with young talent to make a winning team on a budget, so will Melnyk be willing to seize the opporunity and open his wallet for Murray or will he decide to stay a shrewd businessman and roll with the product his team is building right now?
I believe that in light of the opportunity he will allow increased spending to build a contending team in order to better his product and increase revenue (playoffs/merchandise/tickets/etc.), because a billionaire knows that you shouldn't pass on good fortune when you find it.
There are a few other teams that will be able to rival our cap space in dollars as well, but we have to take into account their ability to spend to the cap. With an owner like Melnyk who can support the team we have a greater opportunity then other teams that are forced to save dollars on salary.