We are getting close to the date of no return, where all NHL teams are required to be under the mandated salary cap of $59.4 million. With GM Lou Lamoriello not indicating what he may do to get his team under the cap, we are all left to wonder what he will eventually do. The Devils currently have 19 players on their roster, and are already $2,245,832 over the cap (before bonuses are factored in. Here are a few of the different scenarios Lamoriello might be contemplating (or hoping not to have to explore before the October 6th deadline):
Option One: Trade Brian Rolston
Sure, this is easily the cleanest scenario for the Devils. Rolston, who makes $5,000,000 in salary this year (with a $5.062 million cap hit), has not lived up to the expectations of his four-year contract signed two offseasons ago. While he scored 20 goals last year, he just hasn't been enough to warrant the cap hit. Sure, if the Devils could re-negotiate his contract a lot closer to the $2 million/year area, no one would want to move Rolston. Unfortunately, that isn't an option, and with Rolston having signed his contract at the age of 35, the only way his contract can be removed from the books is via a trade.
I don't foresee any teams lining up to take Rolston off the Devils' hands. One long shot option is to waive Rolston, and bring him back through re-entry waivers, hoping a team will claim him and take half of his salary off of the Devils' hands. That could become a dicey situation too, because in my opinion, the CBA is not clear to me on whether or not this would give the Devils any relief in reality, because of the over 35 years of age provision. Likelihood: EXTREMELY DOUBTFUL
Option Two: Waive/Trade Bryce Salvador & Colin White
It would clear $5.9 million in salary cap space, but would create a void on the back line. Step 1 of this plan may have become a possibility, as Bryce Salvador has been declared out indefinitely with a concussion suffered Tuesday night after a hit by Philadelphia's James van Riemsdyk. It has not been determined as of yet whether or not Salvador will be placed on the Long-Term Injury List, which would allow the Devils to exceed the salary cap by $2.9 million (Salvador's salary), while Salvador remains out (minimum of 10 games or 24 calendar days).
Salvador and White are both similar type of grit and defensive players in which a lot of minutes, dirty work and grit would need to be replaced. Can young kids like Alexander Urbom, Mark Fraser, Matt Taormina and/or Matthew Corrente be able to fill that void?
I guess that's the big question that GM Lou Lamoriello would need to answer before choosing this route to clear salary cap space. Ultimately, assuming Salvador is not headed for the LTIR to allow the Devils to exceed the salary cap by an additional $2.9 million, then I think it's very likely that either Salvador or White will be gone, but I can't see Lamoriello deciding to shed both players. Likelihood: HIGH for one, but DOUBTFUL for both
Option Three: Waive/Trade Bryce Salvador or Colin White AND Dainius Zubrus
This option is definitely the most mainstream and speculated in the media. With the injury to Salvador and he possibly being headed towards LTIR, assuming Rolston is not the guy to be traded away, Zubrus would then become the next obvious choice to be sent away. Whether that would be by demotion or trade is very unclear at this point.
However, it would leave the Devils open to potential problems, say if a Jason Arnott went down with an injury? Who would then become the second line center? Jacob Josefson? Brian Rolston? Either option leaves some questions for sure. Likelihood: With Salvador's injury, LTIR seems likely, and Zubrus is a strong candidate to be moved as well
Option Four: Salvador to LTIR, Trade Jamie Langenbrunner
In what would definitely be a bit of surprise, the more I think of it, the more I can't rule out the possibility of trading the current Captain Jamie Langenbrunner. The reason is, while even though the Right Wing position is an area without a lot of depth, Langenbrunner is a replaceable part with in the top six forwards. By keeping Zubrus (who could play right wing), it would give the Devils more flexibility to possibly deal with injuries in the top nine spots.
You also have guys like Mattias Tedenby, Nick Palmieri, Alexander Vasyunov, or Vladmir Zharkov that could fit in easily from Albany if needed to play in an offensive role on the right side in one of the top three lines in case of an injury or ineffectiveness. Likelihood: I don't think the chances of moving Langenbrunner are very high
Option 5: Trade Someone off the Radar
A move involving a player such as any of the following would be a big surprise, but with GM Lou Lamoriello, you can never rule out anything:
RW David Clarkson ($2,666,667), LW Patrik Elias ($6 million), C Jason Arnott ($4.5 million), C Travis Zajac ($3,887,500), LW Zach Parise ($3,125,000), D Anton Volchenkov ($4.25 million), D Henrik Tallinder ($3,375,000)
For a variety of different reasons, it would make very little sense to trade any of these guys. However, desperate times call for desperate measures, so as I said, you can't rule it out.
In a mild surprise, when I run through the options, I find Option Four to be very intriguing. I would think with Langenbrunner on the open market, he would net a much bigger return than a guy like Dainius Zubrus. So, depending on what the potential returns are, I think I might deal Langenbrunner, as risky an option as that might be. Also, please note, it's not that I want to get rid of Langenbrunner, I just think that Rolston is not a realistic option, and Zubrus probably doesn't have much interest either.
What will the Devils ultimately do? Only Lou knows, but he will be required to submit his final roster by Wednesday at 3 p.m., so we will have to know sooner than later, so as always, stay tuned.
If you have suggestions/predictions of your own, I'd love to hear everyone's thoughts, feel free to post them below.
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