Wednesday, December 8, 2010

How Much Can the Caps Afford?

With help from NHLNumbers and Capgeek, I'm looking at how much I can load up the Caps' roster. I used the Capgeek fantasy calculator and inserted players with comparable cap hits to what I'm predicting, if the player isn't already signed through the desired year. In this case, I am looking at whether trading for, say, Stephen Weiss will keep the Capitals from keeping Alexander Semin next season or Mike Green the following season, specifically.

Here's my lineup. In some cases I pulled out a name of a guy I think has a similar cap hit now as the player I want will have in the future

Alex Ovechkin-Nicklas Backstrom-1RW (Knuble)
Alexander Semin-Stephen Weiss-Brooks Laich (Ruutu)
Jason Chimera-Marcus Johansson-Eric Fehr
Jay Beagle-Dave Steckel-Matt Bradley

I think Laich's next cap hit will be less than Ruutu's, which I hope balances out Semin's predicted raise.

Jeff Schultz-Mike Green (Lidstrom)
Karl Alzner (Johnson)-John Carlson (Letang)
Poti-6D (Erskine)

I think Green will get signed long-term to get a cap hit like Lidstrom's; at any rate, I can't see Green getting a higher AAV or salary than Nicklas Backstrom. Alzner and Carlson, being so young, I think will sign on RFA discounts, and I think Letang presents a good comparable for Carlson and Johnson a decent one for Alzner. Erskine is a higher-than-market-value comparable for a 6D.

Semyon Varlamov (Carey Price)
Michal Neuvirth (Carey Price)

What I did here is Neuvirth + Price for around $3.5 million, which seems like a good combined cap hit for the two goalies in the future (do note Neuvirth signed a contract extension over the offseason for about $2.2 million over 2 years). I can't see Varlamov getting much more than Neuvirth.

PlayerCap Hit

Ovechkin, A. »$9,538,462
Backstrom, N. »$6,700,000
Semin, Alexander »$6,000,000
Ruutu, Tuomo »$3,800,000
Weiss, Stephen »$3,100,000
Knuble, Mike »$2,800,000
Fehr, Eric »$2,200,000
Chimera, Jason »$1,875,000
Steckel, Dave »$1,100,000
Bradley, Matt »$1,000,000
Johansson, M. »$900,000
Beagle, Jay »$512,500
Lidstrom, N. »$6,200,000
Letang, K. »$3,500,000
Poti, Tom »$3,500,000
Schultz, Jeff »$2,750,000
Johnson, Erik »$2,600,000
Erskine, John »$1,250,000
Sloan, Tyler »$700,000
Price, Carey »$2,750,000
Neuvirth, Michal »$821,667
SALARY CAP$63,000,000
TEAM CAP NUMBER$63,597,628
CAP SPACE$-597,628
(note: probably should have put Eakin and Kuznetsov and Orlov/McNeill in there for a good-case scenario)

Hmm, we're still going over. Even if we trim all the fat out of the cap hits--like Steckel, Sloan, etc)--it'll still offer the Caps minimal room to maneuver under the cap.

Maybe we can look to the Pittsburgh Penguins for some ideas here. I don't like that they have ten players (Martin, Michalek, Crosby, Malkin, Staal, Fleury, Letang, Orpik, Lovejoy ELC, Cooke) signed for the next three years at least--they'll be handcuffed if they somehow fall, and cannot change the makeup of the team at all--but they do have the young players locked down and even signed some FAs this offseason. Do note I rounded for ease of adding the numbers.

Crosby + Malkin ~ Ovechkin + Backstrom ~ $16 million
Martin + Michalek + Letang ~ Green + Alzner + Carlson ~ $13 million
Fleury ~ Varlamov + Neuvirth + Schultz ~ $5 million
Staal + Cooke ~ Semin ~ $6.5 million
Orpik ~ Poti + Steckel ~ $4 million
Lovejoy + $400k ~ Johansson ~ $900k

So we're at 12 Caps for right around the same price as ten Pens, roughly $46 million. The Capitals would need a 1RW, a 2C or 3C, 2LW, 3LW, 3RW, 4LW, 4RW, and 6D, 8 players for $14 million or maybe even more if the cap goes up. Put in a 2C like Weiss and you're suddenly filling the rest of the lineup with spare parts (more or less), but how much money do you need to attract an Andrew Brunette to play 1RW or 2LW, or re-sign Eric Fehr to be 1RW, or re-sign Matt Bradley? The bottom of the lineup may take a hit. It may be best for George McPhee to try and get a player comparable to Semin at center and use any money saved to spend decently on the bottom wings, rather than get a bunch of castaways like Pittsburgh. Matt Hendricks, Andrew Gordon, Boyd Gordon, Cody Eakin, and others could fill out the bottom of the lineup quite nicely.

In short: the Caps' cap situation is better than Pittsburgh's cap situation long-term. I've seen many people assert the Pens' cap situation is perfectly manageable. Then, so is Washington's situation, maybe even more so. The main difference is that the Pens have a top-end 2C and 3C locked up, while the Capitals only have a top-end 1LW and 2W, a 4D, and a 4C (who I really think will be moved this upcoming offseason for ease-of-cap reasons, if not sooner).

Short term prognosis: with Chimera and Steckel and King and Sloan eating up some cap room, GMGM may have to finagle a bit, and money will be tight. Longer term, though, the Capitals should be set enough to keep all the main pieces of today, plus potentially add a solid player in free agency.

Just stay away from bad contracts.

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