Capped: Taking reader questions on the cap, future contracts, and undrafted UFAs

Alexander MacLean

2020-05-14

Without any huge news of late, we're going to the well of endless questions on Twitter to create this week's article content. Thank you to all the readers for keeping up with the site during the down time!

Let's get to those questions:

 

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This is an interesting question to look into, however there aren't huge fantasy implications. Let's get the easy part out of the way first. Bonuses should still be paid out, regardless of escrow, lockout, or likely any other foreseeable speed bump along the way. That is the advantage to having them built into contracts, and since they don't count toward escrow calculations, the NHL is likely going to try to minimize their impact in the next CBA. You're right that the players and agents with those built into the contracts are sitting a lot more comfortably right now than their peers without bonus-laden contracts.

As far as I have been able to find, nothing is being pushed with regards to alleviating the impact of the cap decrease for next season. Bonuses should still be paid on their normal dates, as the dates they are paid never impact the cap. It is possible that we see some teams forego giving out bonus-laden contracts over the next season in order to keep risk low with cap certainty. Otherwise, bonuses shouldn't have too much of an impact on how anything moves forward from here, aside from being a nuisance in possible future CBA discussions.

 

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We had two questions come in on the topic of RFAs, so I'll lump those together for simplicity. I touched on Kevin Labanc a couple weeks back in another article, and to sum it up, he swung big and missed. However, that makes him an excellent target for cap league owners, as the pay gap we have seen of late is only going to get wider next season. The top players will still get their money, while the middle and lower tier players get crunched even harder. The players looking for their 'prove-it' deals will be missing out – and that includes Labanc.

Mathew Barzal fits into the top-tier category, and has nothing to worry about for his next contract (except for Lou Lamoriello). My model says he gets something around $7 million, but I think it will be closer to $8.5 million as long as the Islanders can manage that in addition to RFAs Ryan Pulock and Devon Toews. With most of their roster set, and some creative options available for making space, Barzal likely won't have to resort to an offer-sheet as a negotiation tactic either.

Down the line for the rest of the RFAs, plenty could turn to offer sheets as part of the negotiation process, especially since there will be teams with cap space to burn, and some that just don't have any hope of matching higher offers. I know this is said every year, but this year things really are (very) different. A player like Labanc may have to use that leverage, and may want to in order to end up with a better team and a higher salary.

On the flip side, I have a feeling that Anthony Cirelli won't need to go the offer-sheet route. Tampa Bay has done an excellent job taking care of their RFAs, with all of the important players taking bridge deals below what they are worth. He won't want to buck that trend, and seems to be in an excellent place with Tampa. Victor Olofsson could possibly be poached out of Buffalo at the right price. Pierre-Luc Dubois could be ripe for the picking as well if Brandon Dubinsky is able to come back from his wrist injury. The Blue Jackets will be looking at a cap crunch as it is, and if someone decides to give Dubois $9.5 million, then they might not be able to afford to match it.

 

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I have the Salary Cap Keeper League Rankings that will be going out next week, and since we are past the trade deadline for the 2019-2020 season, the next set of rankings will be updated to reflect values for next season. With a little bit of tinkering left to do, Chabot is sitting in the 120s right now, surrounded by Jeff Petry, Sam Girard, and Ryan Pulock as value comparables. With Chabot's age and upside, he has the most long-term value of these players, however with a focus on next season, he is looking at similar production, but with a much higher cap hit. It might be another couple of years before we can really consider Ottawa's offense to be anything but a drag on Chabot's numbers. Until a time when there is some considerable scoring talent up front, Chabot's upside will be capped a little lower than what fantasy owners would like to see at an $8 million cap hit. Since you're looking at those next two years, Chabot would be better off to be used as a trade chip for someone like Girard, Pulock, or Petry, and then you can ask for a solid kicker on the side to fill a different hole in the roster.

 

 

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I don't think we're likely to see a huge impact from any of this year's undrafted free-agent crop, however, even in a shallower setup like yours, we could find some value. Dobber did a great job of summing up his takes here, but I'll give my take as well. If it's more immediate upside you're looking for (which makes the most sense anyways as none of these guys have the upside to be worth stashing for more than a season anyways), then Jack Ahcan is my pick of the litter that Dobber ranked. Ahcan especially gets a big fantasy boost if Torey Krug leaves in free-agency, as a sheltered role for him may mean he gets to soak up a lot of the PP1 time.

Secondly, Alexander Barabanov could sneak his way onto one of the top three lines in Toronto if they end up facing the cap crunch we are expecting. Getting anywhere into that top-nine could be a boon for fantasy value, as we saw with Ilya Mikheyev. On that note, there was another relevant UFA that signed with Toronto since Dobber's article came out. Mikko Lehtonen was highly sought after by many NHL teams, and though he won't be a top-pair talent, he has some smooth puck skills that could translate well with a team like the Leafs that just needs to get the puck out and up to their forwards. Lehtonen could be one of those d-men you were asking about that with a few bounces would slip past the 30-point mark with a cap hit under $1 million.

A dark horse in net is Vasili Demchenko, who may not have much competition for the backup job in Montreal next season and could see 20-25 games as a result. The six-foot-one goaltender has put up some very respectable stats over the last couple years in the KHL, and at the age of 26, should be right in his early prime years.

Check out the DobberProspects pages for some of these guys, as the writers there have scouted these guys a lot more than I have.

I think the second question about the defencemen deserves a bit more of a thorough answer, so I hope that everyone is okay with me diving into that in next week's article to give a more useful and well-researched answer there.

 

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Stay safe everyone, and if you have any article topics you are hoping to read about, give me a shout! You can find me on Twitter @alexdmaclean for questions, comments, or article requests.

All salary info courtesy of capfriendly, statistics are all pulled from FrozenTools.

 

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Previous Capped articles:

Contract Status of Calder Candidates

Changes in Hit Rates Over the Years

 

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