Five NHL Teams that Could Become Salary Cap Casualties

Light the LampSenior Writer IJuly 22, 2008

With all the talk about adding another top-six forward to the CBJ coffers, at the suggestion of a reader I thought it would be interesting to take a look at the teams that are just at or above the cap. These are teams that perhaps the Jackets could take advantage of in terms of adding another roster player to their group.

Before getting to the teams, one must keep in mind that even though the Jackets are some $8 to $9 million below the cap limit—assuming Lelclaire gets signed for around $4 million a year—it does not mean the Jackets will spend that much.

Of course teams above the salary cap will be looking to dump salary, probably older players who no longer fit their short or long term plans. Thus, the Jackets would have to be willing to not only take on even more salary but do so with an older player.

Lets take a look at the teams above or at the cap and just who may come available in a salary dump. I've taken these numbers from

Please keep in mind this is not a 100 percent accurate picture of each team. As I was glancing over some of their numbers for some of these cap teams, they haven't taken into consideration some buyouts, for instance. Still its a good source to generate some discussion.

As we discuss each team remember the following:

  • Upper limit: $56.7 million
  • Lower limit: $40.7 million
  • Teams can be over the cap until the start of the season

Teams above the cap

Philadelphia Flyers: $60.592 million

The Flyers continue to spend, spend, spend. They have two players making $8 million this year in Briere and Timonen. They have three making over $5 million in Richards, Carter, and Gagne. They have three more making over $3.5 million—Hather, Rathje, and Biron.

This doesn't even include Lupul's new contract at $4.25 million per year, which kicks in next season. Holmgren must have a plan to shed some salary—and chances are it starts on defense.

Players who may get dumped

Kevin Hatcher is in the final year of his contract, and rumor has it that the Flyers would like to see him retire to free up his $3.5 million—that or put him on the extended IR. I wouldn't count on Hatcher doing any of it, so Holmgren may have no other choice but to put him on waivers, as I don't see teams lining up to take on his age (36) and contract.

Mike Rathje is another guy who, at 34, is a guy the Flyers could try to dump. Unlike Hatcher, he's got two years left on his deal, at $3.5 million per year. I don't see any teams touching that—so again, it may be a case of waivers or looking towards other options.

Simon Gagne is another player who is taking a big piece of that cap up with his $5.25 million. Gagner is a great player when healthy. The problem is his concussions—he only played in 25 games last season. Gagne could generate some interest out there, but with three years left on his deal at $5.25 million a season, he's a big risk for teams to take.

Mike Knuble has one year left on his $2.8 million dollar deal. He's 36 and scored 29 goals for 55 points last year. He's certainly a guy Holmgren shouldn't have much problem moving for a team looking for another scoring winger. Again, though, I don't see him bringing a whole lot in return.

Scottie Upshall is a 24-year-old right winger scheduled to make $1.25 mil next season. Upshall, a sixth-overall pick back in 2002, has never quite lived up to his draft status. He notched 14 goals and 16 assists last season. He's another guy teams would be interested in—but the Flyers are going to have to shed more than $1.25 million to get them under the cap.

Columbus Blue Jackets interest

Hatcher, Rathje, and Gagne I don't see happening due to various reason like salary, age, and injury history. Knuble is a long shot, that I could only see getting if the Jackets lose one of their current top-six wingers to a season-ending injury.

Upshall is a guy who would fit in the corps of the Jackets nicely, but at this point in his career he's more of a bottom-six guy—whom we have plenty of.

Chicago Blackhawks: $59.208 million

When you have $12.375 million tied up in two goaltenders, you're going to have cap problems. Simply put, one is going to have to go—and considering the 'Hawks just inked Huet to a shiny, four-year deal, that odd man out could be Khabibulin, and his $6.75 million salary. The question is, who if anyone is willing to take that contract on, if even for just a year? And if they keep Habby, are there other options?

Players who may get dumped

As mentioned, Khabibulin seems to be the obvious choice here. Howerver there a couple of others..

Martin Havlat is a very dynamic player when healthy. Unfortunately, that almost never occurs. In the past three seasons combined, he's only played in 109 games—the most coming in 2006 when he got in 56. At $6 million a year, that just ain't going to cut it—and if the 'Hawks can cut him lose they almost certainly will.

Robert Lang was signed as a stop-gap until some of their young studs were ready. With both Kane and Toews steamrolling onto the scene last year, Lang's role has been reduced in the Windy City. With only one year left on his deal at $4 million, he could be on the move.

Columbus Blue Jackets interest

None of the above. Columbus is happy with their goaltending. They won't take the chance on Havlat, as I think he falls into that "cheap skill" category of players that Howson will stay away from.

Lang is the only guy who may have an outside shot—but I think Brassard would have to really crash and burn and Howson would have to have a lot of other doors close on him before he looks Lang's way.

Boston Bruins: $58.299 million

With the recent signing of Denis Wideman to a four-year deal worth close to $16 million, the Bruins are over the cap by a couple of million. Looking at the Bruins roster they have three players making over $5 million—Chara, Savard, and Bergeron. 

Four players are at or over $4 million—Murray, Fernandez, Ryder, and Wideman.

The biggest problem for the Bruins is injury.  Both Bergeron and Fernandez spent the majority of last year on IR. If those two are ready to go, Boston will need to trim some salary.

Players who may get dumped

Glen Murray. He's a 35-year-old right winger who has one year left on his deal at $4.15 million. Murray had a tough year last year with injuries and only notched 17 goals in 63 games. He's had injury problems the last three years.

I can definitely see the Bruins wanting to move in another direction, especially since they signed Ryder to such a rich deal this offseason—but they may find it difficult to do so, even as a salary dump. If they get desperate, waivers is also an option.

Peter Schaefer is a 31-year-old left wing who had a very disappointing year last season for the B's, only notching 9 goals for 26 points. He's got two years left on his deal at $2.3 million per year. If the B's can't move Murray, Schaefer is next in line.

PJ Axelsson is a 33-year-old left winger who has one year left on his deal at $1.85 million. He's a untility guy who won't put up big numbers, but he's reliable and good for about 25 points a season.

A team looking for a good two-way third liner who can kill penalties may have an interest. I think the B's would rather move other players, but if they are forced to lose a couple of million to get under the cap, this guy could be gone.

Columbus Blue Jackets interest

I don't see any interest in Murray or Schaefer at this point. Murray needs a center to get him the puck, and we have enough wingers with that problem. Schaefer's down year and contract is too scary at this point to chance—and besides, he's another winger. The Jackets already have their Axelsson clone in Michael Peca.

Unfortunately, what the Jackets really need is a guy like Marc Savard, and he's not going anywhere.

Calgary Flames: $58.179 million

The Flames have identified their core and locked them down for the foreseeable future. Guys like Iginla, Phaneuf, Kiprusoff, Sarich, Regehr, and Langkow have all been signed to high-dollar, long-term deals. That group of six alone will cost the Flames $35.4 million next season.

Looking over their roster the Flames, may not be as high over the cap as has them, as Anders Eriksson, Rhett Warrener, and Marcus Nilson were all bought out. They still carry a cap hit, but not as much as they have listed.

Players who may get dumped

Calgary has already trimmed a lot of fat with the dumps of Eriksson, Warrener, and Nilson. They made offseason additions in Cammalleri, Bertuzzi, Bourque, Glencross, and Vandermeer. They also re-signed Conroy and, as mentioned, Langkow.

For a team that may be over the cap, that sure is a lot of player personnel added, and you know they won't move any of the new or re-signed blood. If they have to dump someone, I guess it would be:

Adrian Aucoin, who's scheduled to make $4 million this year. Coming to Calgary after a couple of miserable years in Chicago, Aucoin put up solid numbers last season, scoring 10 goals for 35 points. He's in the last year of his deal, but I think him moving is unlikely.

Matthew Lombardi. With Langkow, Conroy, and Cammalleri all capable of playing center, where does that leave the 26-year-old Lombardi? He's signed for two more years at $1.55 and $2.35 million. He had 14 goals for 36 points last season. If Calgary needed some breathing room under the cap, surely there would be a lot of takers for this guy.

Columbus Blue Jackets interest

I'd rather have Aucoin than Backman but that's neither here or there. I think for now the Jackets are okay with their defense, and wouldn't take on Aucoin's $4 million as a straight salary dump.

Matthew Lombardi is completely different story. Kid has speed to kill and playmaking skills. He is exactly the kind of player I could see Howson jumping on if he became available on the cheap.

Anaheim Ducks: $58.013 million

The Ducks are an interesting team to keep an eye on. They've locked up three of their young studs on offense in Perry, Getzlaf and Kunitz for the next four-plus years. However, they have 13 players scheduled to become unrestricted free agents next summer, and only $29 million committed on the books.

They've already bought out Bertuzzi to help get under the cap this season, and are going to need to make at least another move to achieve that goal. It's been widely speculated that Burke will head to Toronto after this season, so expect the Ducks to hover right around the cap to make another Cup run.

Players who may get dumped

Mathieu Schneider. Rumor after rumor has Schneider and his $5.75 million being shopped on the cheap. He makes sense to cut loose, given his age (39) and expiring contract.  Still that's quite a bit of salary for most teams to swallow, and it wouldn't surprise me if Burke puts him on waivers at some point.

Columbus Blue Jackets interest

Really, when I look down that lineup, Schneider is the only guy it makes sense for the Ducks to dump—especially with Scott Niedermeyer coming back for another year. I think the Jackets may have an interest in a guy like Schneider come the trade deadline—but for now, they can't take take on a $5.75 million salary dump unless they send someone (Backman?) the other way.

Washington Capitals: $56.980 million

It sure didn't take the Capitals long to abandon their build-from-within, watch-the-bottom-line plan, and spend over the cap ceiling, did it?

I guess when you finally hit on a couple of youngsters like Ovechkin, Green, Backstrom, and Semin, your philosophy can change quickly. It sure would be nice to see Brassard/Voracek/Russell/Filatov/Mason do that for the Blue Jackets, but I digress.

Of course with success of younger players comes the need to pay them, which Ovechkin and Green benefited from this season. Throw in the re-signing of Fedorov in for $4 million (have fun with that, one Caps), and they are right up against the cap.

Players who may get dumped

If the Caps have to move someone the biggest rumor out there is 35-year-old center Michael Nylander. Nylander is singed for three more years at $5.5, $5.5, and $3 million. He only played in 40 games last year, but piled up 11 goals and 37 points.

Unfortunately, Nylander suffered a season-ending shoulder injury midway through the season, and the Caps went on their playoff run without him. If the Caps need to dump salary, he'll be a prime candidate.

Columbus Blue Jackets interest

Nylander would be a tempting target should the Jackets struggle out of the gate. If you look at the prior two seasons before his injury, he had 83 and 79 points. He could help jumpstart the Jackets offense should it struggle.

At the end of the day, though, I think Howson passes. Nylander's just too old and too much of a risk, given the three years left on his contract. Acquiring him would be a desperation move, a la Fedorov of a couple seasons ago. Howson doesn't strike me as a guy who will make that kind of deal.

If Nylander had only one year left on his contract, I could see more interest on the Jackets part—and most of the league, for that matter.

Those are the teams at or above the cap. The player I think the Jackets would have the most interest in out of the whole bunch is Matthew Lombardi. Why? Because he's only 26, he's a center, affordable, and plays the type of game Howson and Hitchcock covet. Unfortunately, for all those reasons Calgary wouldn't want to move him.

I just can't see Howson taking a veteran salary dump—especially if they have more than one year left on their deal. Should our defense struggle and guys Schneider and/or Aucoin are still hanging out there, perhaps there may be some interest. But I think the Jackets would stil try to send back some salary in that kind of deal.

Tomorrow I'll take a look at teams that are just under that cap like San Jose, Edmonton, New Jersey, and Detroit, to see if there are any potential dumps amongst them.

Out of these teams mentioned today, are there any players that catch your attention in particular?  Discuss.


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