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Canucks' Salary Cap Situation Heading Into September

MONTREAL, QC - JUNE 27:  (L-R) General Manager Mike Gillis and assistant General Manager Laurence Gilman of the Vancouver Canucks sit at the draft table during the 2009 NHL Entry Draft at the Bell Centre on June 27, 2009 in Montreal, Quebec, Canada. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
Bruce Bennett/Getty Images
Joel ProsserCorrespondent IAugust 31, 2010

During the summer, you might have heard the references constantly inserted into sports articles and on talk radio about how the Canucks are millions over the salary cap, they need to trade Bieksa for cap relief, there won’t be salary cap room for Cody Hodgson, etc.

Well, it's true. They are over the salary cap. 

But it is not a big deal.

It is only September, and there are some fairly simple measures Mike Gillis can take to bring the Canucks in line with the salary cap without resorting to drastic measures. And by taking advantage of performance bonuses and injuries, Gillis could even conceivably keep both Kevin Bieksa and Cody Hodgson in the lineup.

First, lets look at the players whom I think should make the team, and their cap hits.



Daniel Sedin ($6.100m) / Henrik Sedin ($6.100m) / Alexandre Burrows ($2.000m)

Mason Raymond ($2.550m) / Ryan Kesler ($5.000m) / Mikael Samuelsson ($2.500m)

Raffi Torres ($1.000m) / Manny Malhotra ($2.500m) /

Tanner Glass ($0.625m) / Rick Rypien ($0.550m)


Dan Hamhuis ($4.500m) / Keith Ballard ($4.200m)

Kevin Bieksa ($3.750m) / Sami Salo ($3.500m)

Alexander Edler ($3.250m) / Christian Ehrhoff ($3.100m)

Shane O'Brien ($1.600m) / Andrew Alberts ($1.050m)

Aaron Rome ($0.750m)


Roberto Luongo ($5.333m) /Cory Schneider ($0.900m)


CAPGEEK.COM TOTALS (follow @capgeek on Twitter)

(these totals are compiled using the bonus cushion)

SALARY CAP: $59,400,000; CAP PAYROLL: $60,948,333; BONUSES: $0

CAP SPACE (21-man roster): -$1,548,333


The top six forwards from last year are all returning. These are all fairly good contracts, no one is overpaid for their production, and in fact some are steals for the price.

Torres and Malhotra  appear to be signings for the third line, bringing some scoring ability and size to a line that lacked both last year.

Rypien and Glass, last season’s best fighter and hit leader respectively, are returning and should be on the active roster, either in the press box or fourth line.

On defense, the Canucks are stacked with an abundance of quality defensemen. Currently there are nine NHL defensemen signed, plus Evan Oberg and Nolan Baumgartner will be available for callups from the Moose if necessary.

In goal, Loungo will be backed up by Schneider, who should get around 20 starts to showcase his abilities.

As you can see, this roster has 10 forwards, nine defensemen and two goalies, yet is over the salary cap by $1,548,333.

Assuming Gillis intends on carrying 13 forwards, 8 defensemen and 2 goalies for the full 23 man roster, he would need to cut a defenseman and add three forwards while dropping salary. Here is where the long term injury replacement (LTIR) exceptions come into play.

LTIR Cap Relief

If a player is on LTIR (missing a minimum of 10 games), they come off the active roster and can be replaced by another player.

If the salary for the replacement player pushes the team over the salary cap, then the team qualifies for LTIR cap relief up to the amount of the injured player’s salary. Both the injured player’s and the replacement player’s salaries are prorated for the length of the injury during this calculation.

Once the injured player comes of LTIR, the team no longer qualifies for the LTIR cap relief, and must immediately comply with the salary cap.

*For more information on how LTIR works, see this article.

Salo is expected to return to active duty sometime after Christmas. Looking at the Canucks schedule, I penciled in a return date of Jan. 5, 2011 vs the Flames. This is the first game back after a three games in four nights roadtrip, so it seems a fairly safe bet. If Salo returns on this day, he will have missed 45 games.

With his $3,500,000 salary, the Canucks can get cap relief up to $1,920,732 if he misses 45 games. ($3,500,000/82*45)

In a similar fashion, Burrows returning from his shoulder surgery in mid-October and missing 10 games would net the Canucks up to $243,902 in cap relief.

I wrote “up to” in both examples because you only get the cap relief if you exceed the salary cap. So to get the full amount, Gillis would need to push the payroll right up to the salary cap.  This is where performance bonuses come in handy.

Performance Bonuses

Some contracts, specifically entry level contracts like Cody Hodgson for example, include performance bonuses. Technically these bonuses count against the salary cap, except you are allowed to exceed the cap due to performance bonuses, up to a maximum of 7.5% of the cap.

If you exceed the cap in this way, and the bonus is earned (i.e. Hodgson earns a bonus for winning the Calder) then the portion of the cap hit which exceeded the salary cap for the current year is applied as a penalty to the following year.

Basically this is what happened the Blackhawks this summer when they got hit with almost $4 million in penalties for performance bonuses earned by Toews , Kane, etc in the 2009-2010 season 

*For more information on Canucks with performance bonuses, see this article.

Assuming that Hodgson ($850,000 in performance bonuses) or Schroeder ($125,000 in performance bonuses) make the team, Gillis should easily be able to manipulate it so that the Canucks are right up to the salary cap (actually exceeding due to performance bonuses), and therefore can take full advantage of the LITR exceptions for Burrows and Salo.

Getting back to the roster, there were openings for a third line forward and a pair of fourth line/press box forwards. Ideally one of them would be a center so Rypien could shift to his more effective position on the wing.

Looking at the available players for the third line, Hodgson ($816,666 base salary, $850,000 performance bonus), Schroeder ($900,000 base salary, $125,000 performance bonus) or Jannik Hansen (825,000) seem possibilities. Whoever doesn’t get the third line role might still get to fill in for Burrows to start the season.

For the other two forwards, I’d assume that Victor Oreskovich ($575,000) will get one spot, since Gillis intentionally traded for him.

For the other spot, I think it will come down to one of Joel Perrault ($510,000), Alex Bolduc ($500,000) or Mario Bliznak ($550,000). There isn’t much to chose between those three, they are all similar type fourth line centers, although Perrault has the edge due to more NHL experience. Personally I’d like to see Bliznak get the role just because I liked him with the Giants.

For defense, the media has assumed all summer long that Bieksa will be traded. However, it is possible to construct the roster in such a way that a lesser salary could be traded instead.

Enter Shane O’Brien, who brings both his $1,600,000 salary and a whole host of other baggage. Two seasons ago he got in a public fight with the GM and coach over his role on the team. Last season he enjoyed the Vancouver nightlife a bit too much and was suspended by the team, and capped it off with a screaming argument with assistant coach Bowness while the cameras rolled on national TV during the playoffs.

Trading, or waiving, O’Brien plus adding Hodgson, Oreskovich and Bliznak creates the following 23 man roster:



Daniel Sedin ($6.100m) / Henrik Sedin ($6.100m) / Alexandre Burrows ($2.000m)

Mason Raymond ($2.550m) / Ryan Kesler ($5.000m) / Mikael Samuelsson ($2.500m)

Raffi Torres ($1.000m) / Manny Malhotra ($2.500m) / Cody Hodgson ($1.666m)

Tanner Glass ($0.625m) / Rick Rypien ($0.550m) / Victor Oreskovich ($0.575m)

Mario Bliznak ($0.550m)


Dan Hamhuis ($4.500m) / Keith Ballard ($4.200m)

Kevin Bieksa ($3.750m) / Sami Salo ($3.500m)

Alexander Edler ($3.250m) / Christian Ehrhoff ($3.100m)

Aaron Rome ($0.750m) / Andrew Alberts ($1.050m)


Roberto Luongo ($5.333m) /Cory Schneider ($0.900m)


CAPGEEK.COM TOTALS (follow @capgeek on Twitter)

(these totals are compiled using the bonus cushion)

SALARY CAP: $59,400,000; CAP PAYROLL: $62,140,000; BONUSES: $850,000

CAP SPACE (23-man roster): -$1,890,000

*Potential LTIR Cap Relief based on Salo (45 games) and Burrows (10 games): $2,164,634


This roster leaves around $270,000 to spare when you factor in the LTIR exceptions. almost $110,000 would be needed to account for either Schroeder or Hansen filling in for Burrows while injured.

And when Salo returns from injury, the Canucks would have six veteran defensemen as starters, with Rome and Alberts as depth for the inevitable injuries.

Injuries are bound to happen, but the depth and quality of the defensemen on the active roster, combined with the durability of new additions Hamhuis and Ballard, should mean the era of patchwork defense should thankfully be over. And this can only help Luongo rebound as well.

This is just one possible scenario for the Canucks, but I hope it illustrates that the cap situation isn’t as dire or threatening as it sometimes is portrayed.

Mike Gillis should be able to take advantage of the LTIR exceptions to ice a competitive lineup that will only be better once Burrows and Salo return.

*Thanks again to Capgeek for their wonderful salary cap calculator.

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