Once you've taken the leap into running a salary cap league, you're immediately faced with a crucial decision: will you use NHL salaries, or will you create a fantasy salary structure unique to your league? Both options present unique challenges and opportunities, both for your managers and for you as the commissioner.
Editor's Note: This is the second instalment in a series on managing a salary cap fantasy league. For the pros and cons of cap leagues, click here.
The most straightforward option is to adopt actual NHL player salaries (usually based on cap hit, which is consistent over the life of the contract, rather than the actual salary paid out in a given year, which can vary wildly). This is the most common type of salary cap league, and it's highly realistic, as GMs are playing with the same numbers as their real world counterparts. It adds a fun twist to the annual free agent frenzy – you'll be on pins and needles as you wait to find out not only what team your prized player will sign with, but perhaps more importantly, how much you're going to be on the hook for with their new contract.
A major advantage to this type of cap league is that many fantasy sites incorporate cap management based on NHL salaries. For instance, Fantrax allows you to enter your salary cap, and it will prevent teams from making roster moves and line-up changes that put them in violation of the cap. That takes a lot of the headache and number crunching out of policing the cap.
When you play with NHL contracts, everybody knows the cap hit associated with each player heading into the draft; it's not created on the fly. This certainly helps with pre-draft strategizing. On the other hand, in many cases a player's real life value may not translate well into fantasy value. You can argue amongst yourselves whether Jay Bouwmeester brings enough to the table to justify the $6.68 cap hit he costs the Flames, but in the fantasy world there are no ifs, ands or buts about it: J-Bo is a cap killer. He's an extreme example, but there are countless players whose high salaries owe more to the intangibles they offer than to the cold hard statistics that are rewarded in hockey pools. It's an inherent limitation in NHL salary-based fantasy games.
Another drawback when using NHL contract values is that your managers forsake all control over the most critical factor in building their teams, placing themselves at the mercy of the 30 men who run the NHL's teams. When Terry Pegula decides to prove himself by dropping $4.5 million at the feet of Ville Leino, it has crippling repercussions to Leino's fantasy owner. In a sense, you're shackling your team's fate to the whims of billionaire owners and their millionaire managers – for better or worse. For some, this factor just adds to the challenge and fun of running their team, but others may be turned off by the seeming arbitrariness of it all, and the need to adjust their roster in response to decisions outside of their control.