What is a GM, really? That evil management guy who trades away your favorite player(s). Yeah, the skater whose customized jersey you paid 200 bones for. And the pugilist whose name you yell loudest from the rafters when he drops his gloves and puts up mits. GM?! Yah! Boo! Hiss, even!
In terms of the GM’s and what they are actually doing in the off-season besides plotting how you will have to purchase another sweater, have you taken a look at the Anaheim Ducks’ salary cap lately? What can that team’s leadership still do this (Summer) season?
According to www.nhlnumbers.com the Ducks have:
• $5.67M of cap space left. This is a bit of a misnomer going into training camp as they could carry 10% over The Cap up to some point just before the regular season opens and then have to unload some salary.
• There are 16 forwards under salary. Brad Larsen and Rob Niedermayer (UFAs) remain unsigned for a total of about $2.5M in 2008/9 dollars. (Niedermayer cost $1.5M more than Larsen last year.)
• Eight defensemen are signed with Brett Festerling (RFA) and Bret Hedican (UFA) hanging out to a combined tune of about $1.35M in terms of 2008/9 salary.
• Jonas Hiller and J.S. Giguere are both signed, but David LeNeveu needs a contract beginning at $600K from last year’s take.
So for a cool $4.45M, everyone on the roster could be signed, done deal, no worries for the season, with some cap space change to boot.
But stop for just a second. There are some things to consider here.
It is arguable whether or not the priority is to sign David LeNeveu for a third goalie, or Festerling and/or Hedican to increase the defensive roster from eight to 10. I would personally say the Bret(t)s need to be signed first. Only two defensemen – Scott Niedermayer and Chris Pronger – played in all of Anaheim’s 82 games last season. In terms of needing depth in the D, that is what the FBI would call ‘A Clue.’ So (arbitrarily) say the going rate is a 20% raise, and if both are signed, that’s $1.62M. LeNeveu needs to go on paper as well in case anything happens to goalies No 1 & 2. With the same raise as above, we are now talking about $2.34M gone.
I could see Brad Larsen possibly signed for about $750K. Rob Niedermayer is another story. He is probably more in the realm of $2.5 – 3M (some might call this a discount). Using the worst case, we are talking $6.09M, total. They are still a bit less than $150K below the Cap + 10% rule. Going there, however, would force the same situation as Bobby Ryan last year who should have been up with the club from jump street but had to wait 18 games to get there.
So all things considered, is the issue merely the dollars? We can’t pretend to believe it is that simple. For the most part, signing everyone but Rob Niedermayer to a contract that is only a 20% raise would still properly reward them for their service (as long as you are not one of these players’ agents). So you are likely asking them to take less than they might get on a team that REALLY needs their talents and simultaneously asking Rob Niedermayer to cough up a home town discount. For the sacrifice of the others still unsigned, and in the spirit of teamwork, a GM might easily feel justified to ask, “…Rob, a little help here, huh?...”
That doesn’t even delve off into the owner-imposed budget laid at the feet of the GM with which to build the team. While fans in the know on numbers might step up and say, “…Hey, you spent fifty-seven-point-five million last year! Let’s get cracking, now! Come on! LET’S GO DU-UCKS! LET’S GO DU-UCKS!...” And $57.5M got Anaheim within one goal and one series of the Finals, that singular reason the skates are laced up long after the feet, arms and fingers involved in the lacing are tired and worn. With Le Economique Poo being experienced everywhere maybe ownership just doesn’t have $57.5M this year. Heck, they only spent a bit over $51M in the 07/08 season.
And we might add that, with the crew that is left, and as long as it met with League rules, we would want to work up all of these last contracts and announce them as a package because the big point could be publically made that ‘all of these men present today sacrificed for the good of the team to get this done.’
I also am thinking the linchpin in all this is the in actuality the signing of Rob Niedermayer. Sure you can bump up his contract this season with bonuses that do not hit The Cap, but if he is your prize catch here, then you want him first so you can see what is left for the rest.
Having said all of this, here is my SWAG at what happens. The Ducks’ GM gets Rob Niedermayer to a number close to what a player of his caliber can live with, but not what the team cannot live without. His signing also solves any potential nagging bur under his brother’s saddle even though, as professionals, everyone understands it is just business. (It is still your blood, kin brother we are talking about.) With Niedermayer a done deal, at least one of the two defenders and LeNeuve fall to paper. For our money, the emphasis would be on the last defender if we had the budget for it. After him comes Larsen (or not depending on the budget).
You could just as easily see one each defender and forward unsigned. Or Rob Niedermayer unsigned and all of the others under contract, which would probably not be management’s first choice as a course of action.
So no easy task here, then. But obviously why the statement ‘clubs are artificially deflating the market to force the players to pay the bill’ is so much a load of poppycock.
Wanna be GM for a day? There’s more to it than simply cashing a check…