We’ve got lots of tricks and basically no treats as the Senators will have an exceptionally quiet week on the ice before heading out to Boston for their next contest on Saturday. Here in Ottawa we will hope for good news (or no news at all) off the ice while we enjoy the spookiest time of year. In the meantime, let’s take a look around the league.
Trends after Ten Games
Someone tell my parents to come get me because I’ve started to believe in the Florida Panthers again. Stop me if you’ve heard this one before: The Fancy Cats will make the playoffs once they finally get some goaltending. Well they got their man in Sergei Bobrovsky and added coach Joel Quenville to boot. Goalie Bob hasn’t looked QUITE up to his usual standards yet. However, the Panthers have inspiring fancy stats (third in the league in unblocked shot attempts-for-percentage at even strength per naturalstattrick.com). If Bobrovsky finds his groove, we may have a shakeup in the division standings.
In former Florida Panthers news, Erik Gudbranson has moved to Anaheim. The now thrice-traded Ottawa native finds himself on a Ducks roster with three former Senators: Jakob Silfverberg, Derek Grant, and Patrick Eaves (out indefinitely). Erik Gudbranson remains the poster boy for the fancy stats versus traditional scouting debate. He has the on-ice results to baffle subscribers to the former, and the size and draft pedigree to impress subscribers to the latter. When I watch defenders like Gudbranson or Cody Ceci I think there has to be something in the water here in the nation’s capital. What other city produces these giant turnover-machines the way Ottawa does?
The Salary Cap in Ottawa
In my preview of the Senators and Sharks game, I mentioned in passing that Ottawa’s seven highest-paid forwards would not take the ice on Sunday for one reason or another. All told, Ottawa’s Sunday night roster (12F/6D/2G) had an estimated salary of $37.6M (the NHL has a salary cap ceiling of $81.5M and a floor of $60.2M). Ottawa has a 2019 estimated salary expenditure of $73.29M and that means on Sunday almost 49% of the roster payroll went to players who wouldn’t suit up. (All salary and salary cap information courtesy of capfriendly.com). Talk about investing in your on-ice product!
The Salary Cap Elsewhere
The helpful folks at CapFriendly also estimate that 14/31 teams in the NHL currently receive salary cap relief through the LTIR clause that provides amnesty for teams who would go over the salary cap ceiling replacing players out with long-term injuries. Without the LTIR clause, CF estimates that 11 NHL teams would go over the cap this season. Instead, six of these teams still have cap space to work with this season thanks to the language of the CBA.
All of this got me wondering how we avoided another lockout when the NHL and the NHLPA recently decided to maintain the current CBA. To the best of my understanding, the current system will remain intact because A) The players can still sign lucrative contracts that GMs will hand out knowing teams have loopholes to bury these contracts if needed, B) Large market teams can flex their financial muscle, and C) Small market teams can use cap space as a commodity on the trade market (as the Coyotes, Hurricanes, and (to a lesser extent) Senators have done over the years).
I acknowledge that as a fan of a poorly-run, small market team, I come across as extremely biased on the subject of the salary cap and the CBA in general. I do feel the need, however, to express how much these loopholes violate the spirit of the whole salary cap concept and how this feels like a slap in the face when as fans we endured two lockouts ostensibly to level the playing surface for both large and small market teams. So let’s not even talk about signing bonuses as I have NO idea how small market teams haven’t raised their voices over that subject.
I regret to inform you that 90s Night at the CTC came and went without the return of the 2D Centurion. Count me among those who consider this a total swing and miss by the organization. I realize how long it would take the team to balance the books on $92M of Erik Karlsson or $76M of Mark Stone. This team could make its money back in a day with some throwback merchandise though. If you can’t give us our downtown arena, can we at least just have the consolation of nostalgia please?