Okay, another NBC game. So let's look at some salary cap issues which Mike Milbury and Pierre McGuire are sure to bring up tomorrow (if I hear "Tampa Bay North" one more time I'm going to flip out...). How Mike Milbury is qualified to comment on building a team is beyond me. Well...unless we count building other people's teams through terrible trades. Then he is definitely the man for the job...
Let's look at the salary situations of several of the "elite" clubs (and pre-deadline Tampa Bay) in the NHL, examining their 5 highest paid forwards, 2 highest paid defensemen, and their goaltending (if a team has a clear cut #1 being paid as such, I will only count one. If they have two being paid average money and rotate fairly evenly, I will count both). We will call this the "core of the team." (contract figures taken from www.nhlnumbers.com)
If players have extensions that kick in next season, we will use that figure as I'm more concerned with the future than the present years. Though this will sometimes conflict with players who have deals expiring this year that do not have extensions and are scheduled to be UFA's. So obviously these figures will not be completely accurate. Scott Niedermayer is also tricky and throws off Anaheim's calculations.
(all figures in millions)
Pavel Datsyuk: $6.7 (signed through 2013/14)
Dan Cleary: $2.8 (takes effect next season through 2012/13)
Henrik Zetterberg: $2.65 (through 2008/09 and due for a huuuuuge raise)
Tomas Holmstrom: $2.25 (through 2009/10)
Kris Draper: $2.128 (an extension kicks in next season that, I think, will actually lower his cap hit)
Top 5 forwards: $16.528
Nicklas Lidstrom: $7.6 (through this season, then $7.45 for the next two seasons)
Brian Rafalski: $6.0 (through 2011/12)
Top two defensemen: $13.6
Dominik Hasek: $4.05
Chris Osgood: $1.42 (extension kicks in next season through 2010/11)
Core of the team total: $35.598
Additional considerations: Detroit is one of the best drafting teams in the NHL and constantly finds young players to step in when others leave. Players like Niklas Kronwall, Valtteri Filppula, and Jiri Hudler seem to be constantly making huge strides are one of the main reasons Detroit has remained an elite team year after year. Both Datsyuk and Zetterberg were low round picks who became elite players.
I'm cheating and using only 4 forwards and 3 defensemen due to the makeup of this team.
Ryan Getzlaf: $5.125 (beginning next season through 2012/13)
Todd Bertuzzi: $4.0 (through 2008/09)
Chris Kunitz: $3.725 (through 2011/12)
Todd Marchant: $2.518 (through 2008/09)
Forward total: $15.368
Mathieu Schneider: $5.625 (through 2008/09)
Chris Pronger: $5.515 (through 2009/10)
Scott Niedermayer: $4.115 (through 2008/09...though this cap number is for only this season as he sat out most of the way. He would count $6.75 were he to be on the roster the full season, so take that into consideration)
Defense total: $15.255
J.S. Giguere: $6.00 (through 2010/11)
"Core" total: 36.623
Additional Considerations: Niedermayer may retire (again) and Corey Perry is due for an extension which should place him among the top 4 salary-wise among Ducks forwards.
Dany Heatley: $7.5 (effective next season through 2013/14)
Jason Spezza: $7.0 (effective next season through 2014/15)
Daniel Alfredsson: $4.14 (effective through 2008/09 with 3 underpaid option years after that)
Mike Fisher: $4.2 (effective next season through 2012/13)
Chris Kelly: $1.262 (ends this season)
Forward total: 24.102
Wade Redden: $6.5 (ends this season)
Chris Phillips: $3.5 (through 2010/11)
Defense Total: $10.00
Martin Gerber: $3.7 (through 2008/09)
Ray Emery: $3.167 (through 2009/10)
"Core" total: $40.969
Other things to consider: What will happen to Wade Redden after the season? Will Emery be traded (if anyone will take him)? What about Alfredsson's low salary (whose option are the option years? Player or club?)? Antoine Vermette and Andrej Meszaros are restricted free agents after this season.
Tampa Bay (not an elite, but just for fun...and we'll examine pre-deadline trades)
Brad Richards: $7.8 (technically off their books, but through 2010/11)
Vincent Lecavalier: $6.875 (through 2008/09 with a huuuuge extension coming this summer)
Martin St. Louis: $5.25 (through 2010/11)
Vaclav Prospal: $1.90 (technically gone, but through this season)
Chris Gratton: $1.5 (through this season)
Forward total: $23.325
Dan Boyle: $6.667 (effective next season through 2013/14)
Filip Kuba: $3.0 (through 2008/09)
Defense total: $9.667
Kari Ramo: $.658 (through 2008/09)
Johan Holmqvist: $1.0 (ends this season...and technically gone)
Goaltending total: $1.658
"Core" total: $34.65
Additional considerations: Where are their good young players? Where are their good free agent signings? Why have they failed on every attempt to solve their goaltending situation? This organization is a mess. Hockey's Future ranks Tampa 29th out of 30 teams in regards to prospects. So because they can't draft or sign free agents and have a handful of good players, this is what the Penguins are supposedly going to turn into? Also note that the Senators are/will be paying their top 5 forwards more money than Tampa was prior to the trading deadline. This is a team that signed Michel Oullet to be a top-six forward, a player the Pens did not even attempt to retain despite him being inexpensive.
New York Rangers:
Scott Gomez: $7.357 (through 2013/14)
Chris Drury: $7.050 (through 2011/12)
Brendan Shanahan: $5.3 (through 2007/08, includes bonus money)
Jaromir Jagr: $4.94 (perhaps through only this season though possibly including next season, the Caps are still picking up some of his tab, hence the low number)
Martin Straka: $3.3 (through 2007/08)
Forward total: $27.947
Paul Mara: $3.0 (through 2007/08)
Marek Malik: $2.5 (trough 2007/08)
Defense total: $5.5
Henrik Lundqvist: $6.875 (effective next season through 2013/14)
"Core" total: $40.322
Additional considerations: Spending more on their top 5 forwards than Tampa was, yet they were a trendy pick to win the cup this year, not to "turn into Tampa North." They can get out from under Jagr's contract this year. They might lose Jagr, Straka, Avery, and Shanahan after this season.
Brad Richards: $7.8 (through 2010/11)
Mike Ribeiro: $5.0 (effective next season through 2012/13)
Brendan Morrow: $4.1 (through 2012/13)
Jere Lehtinen: $4.0 (through 2008/09)
Mike Modano: $3.45 (through 2009/10)
Forward total: $24.35
Mattias Norstrom: $4.25 (through 2007/08)
Sergei Zubov: $4.0 (through 2008/09)
Defense total: $8.25
Marty Turco: $5.7 (through 2009/10)
"Core" total: $38.30
Additional considerations: The Stars are also paying more money to their top 5 forwards than Tampa was pre-deadline. Oddly enough, they are not "becoming Tampa West." They have built a solid blue-line and receive solid goaltending (something Tampa has not post-Cup winning).
We're going to have to use some (extremely) hypothetical salaries here since we have some key players coming up for new deals in the offseason...
Sidney Crosby: $8.7 (effective next season through 2012/13)
Evgeni Malkin: $7.5 (hypothetical through 2013/2014)
Marian Hossa: $6.5 (hypothetical through 2013/14)
Ryan Malone: $3.5 (hypothetical through 2012/13)
Petr Sykora: $2.625 (through 2008/09)
Forward total: $28.825
Sergei Gonchar: $5.0 (through 2009/10)
Ryan Whitney: $4.0 (through 2012/13)
Defense total: $9.0
Marc-Andre Fleury: $3.0 (hypothetical through 2011/12) This puts him in Cam Ward range, which is probably about right for the moment, though perhaps a bit on the low side. He's shown a lot of potential and seems to be starting to show consistency recently. He played well in the playoffs last year (despite what most commentators say) other than the first period of the first game. This number could vary greatly based upon his playoff performance this year.
Extremely hypothetical "core" total: $40.825
Additional considerations: Will Marian Hossa take a figure like this when he could get (a lot) more on the open market? Don Waddell stated money was not the issue in getting an extension done, it was the bleak future of the Atlanta organization (as recently documented by both TSN and ESPN). What will Staal's extension be? We could probably let Gonchar go once his current deal expires as defense is our organizational strong point (Whitney, Letang, Goligoski, Sneep, Strait). That will clear some salary off the books when Letang will get a new deal. I love Gonchar, but it would save salary and the Whitney/Letang combo can capably handle the point on the powerplay and will develop further over the next two seasons.
Obviously my salaries for Malkin, Hossa, and Malone are ridiculously hypothetical and probably will not be accurate. I have no idea what they'll do with any of them. For all we know, Hossa and Malone may not even be back. So let's just avoid arguing over whether these figures will be accurate. Especially Hossa. I know he probably won't sign for that low of a number, I still will hold out hope that he will.
So let's compare the "core" totals for all these teams: (forwards, defense, goal)
Senators: $40.969 ($24.102, $10.0, $6.867)
Pens: $40.825 ($28.825, $9.0, $3.0)
Rangers: $40.322 ($27.947, $5.5, $6.875)
Stars: $38.30 ($24.35, $8.25, $5.7)
Ducks: $36.623 ($15.368, $15.255, $6.0)
Red Wings: $35.598 ($16.528, $13.6, $5.47)
Lightning: $34.65 ($23.325, $9.667, $1.658)
So let's get this straight...Pittsburgh, according to NBC broadcasters and many others, is going to become "Tampa North" even though there are at least four teams that are or will be spending more per season on their top 5 forwards than Tampa was prior to trading Brad Richards?
While my analysis is definitely not a complete analysis, it does it least give a snapshot of the salaries of these teams. It should also at least somewhat debunk the "Tampa North" argument (which obviously fires me up more than just about anything hockey announcers say).
Where's the similar criticism of the Rangers (who don't have as good of a defensive corps as the Pens), Senators, and Stars? So these teams get a pass, but it's Pittsburgh who "gave up too much" and will "become Tampa North"? (clearly they didn't watch Colby and Crusher play that much)