September 03, 2010
While the hockey world waited on the specifics for the NHL/NHLPA agreement on amending the CBA for long-term contracts -- multiple sources said it'll eliminate the use of years over age 41 to reduce a contract's cap hit -- one thing was clear: Ilya Kovalchuk's(notes) 15-year, $100 million contract would be "grandfathered" in ahead of the amendment and, after a month and a half of uncertainty, he will be a New Jersey Devils player next season.
No comes the hard part for the Devils, as Tom Gulitti of Fire and Ice writes:
Now, Devils general manager Lou Lamoriello will move on to figuring out a way to get under the $59.4 million salary cap before the start of the regular season.
The salary cap hit of Kovalchuk's contract of $6,666,667 puts the Devils approximately $3 million over the cap with only 21 players on the roster. So, to fill out the 23-player roster and get under the cap, the Devils will have to clear $4 million to $6 million in payroll - depending on the number of players moved to make room. The minimum salary for an NHL player is $500,000.
Cap Geek has the Devils with $3,698,334 in space, and one look at their roster explains how getting back under the cap will be no easy task.
Forwards Patrik Elias(notes) ($6 million cap hit through 2013), Brian Rolston(notes) ($5,062,500 million through 2012), Jamie Langenbrunner(notes) ($2.8 million through end of season and defenseman Colin White(notes) ($3 million through 2012) all have no-movement (in Elias's case) or no-trade clauses.
Rolston would be the optimum choice to move from that list, but as NorthJersey.com pointed out in July when Kovalchuk signed his since-rejected 17-year deal:
Among the candidates to depart is left wing Brian Rolston, who has two years left on a contract that carries a cap hit of $5,062,500 per year. Rolston's deal has a no-trade clause and a buyout is pointless, because his contract was signed at age 35 or over, meaning his entire salary would count against the cap anyway.
Langenbrunner, another potential candidate, spoke to Craig Custance of The Sporting News today after hearing of Kovalchuk's contract likely being approved:
Langenbrunner said he hasn't been asked to waive his no-trade clause, so at this point he expects to be on the team moving forward. "I would imagine if I were the guy, I would have been at least approached about it earlier," Langenbrunner told Sporting News. "But in saying that, you still understand that it is somebody. Obviously, it's somebody who has been on the team for awhile."
If it's not one of the no-trade/no-move players, then defenseman Bryce Salvador(notes) ($2.9 million through 2012) is a possibility, as he has some trade value. So is power forward Dainius Zubrus(notes) ($3.4 million until 2013), although the duration of his contract and his value to the Devils' top line could hamper a move.
Bottom line: GM Lou Lamoriello and the Devils knew they were going to have to clear salary if Kovalchuk returned to the team. The problem is that they knew this in late July when he initially agreed to return and then have been handcuffed by the process until Sept. 3. How many trade options dried up in that time? How many budgets have been already committed by potential trade partners?
And let's not even touch on the contract Parise, the Devils' homegrown star, needs after this season ...