Capped: How NHL Teams Spend Their Money

Alexander MacLean


This week's Capped discusses how NHL teams allocate their salary cap, and what lessons we can take for your fantasy team. 


Welcome back readers to another Thursday filled with number crunching. Hopefully you can all follow along through those post-Halloween sugar comas! Fantasy hockey numbers can be tough to wrap your head around on the best of days, and on the worst days it starts to look like University calculus. Sometimes, figuring out how best to fit a fantasy team under the salary cap can feel like a full time job. In the NHL, there are actually people who have that task as a full time job! With the recent hiring of Tom Poraszka, the founder of General Fanager, the new Las Vegas organization has shown that they are fully invested in the idea. So, by looking around the NHL, is there a way that we can learn a few things from the pros? In terms of allocating cap money for stars vs. rookies, and from forwards to defence to goalies, there likely isn’t one right answer, but is there a consensus among NHL teams?

The salary cap was implemented over 10 years ago, and teams are still tinkering with how best to manage it. Teams like the Chicago Blackhawks seem to have to trade out at least one star player every off-season in order to ensure they are salary cap compliant. Contrarily, teams like the Arizona Coyotes have to have to pay players to not play for them in order to make the numbers fit. There are many factors that cause these differences from team to team. In order for our analysis to be as consistent as possible, there will have to be a few guidelines in place; salary cap extras, such as buy-outs, retained salary, and recapture penalties will be excluded. Player salaries for this season will be used, however it is important to note that Jacob Trouba is still unsigned in Winnipeg**, and injuries have caused slight discrepancies in salaries.

Salaries were taken on Saturday October 29th, so there may be a small difference or two by now due to certain roster moves. The most noticeable of the discrepancies though is with the goalies. This is due to the fact that three teams over the last week have had to roster four goalies. Boston, Los Angeles and Ottawa have all lost their top two goalies for various stretches of time, and had to call up both of their AHL net-minders*. This added on a little under $2 Million to all three teams, which may not seem to be a huge amount in the context of a $73 Million dollar salary cap, but with the average team paying over $6.5 Million on goalies, it makes a difference. Let’s take a look.