Editor's Note: FrankG929 is riding a hot streak of FanPosts. Today's must read is a what-if cap scenario for the New Jersey Devils: with Ilya Kovalchuk and without Ilya Kovalchuk. Signing Ilya Kovalchuk definitely will create a headache for the Devils. P.S. Don't answer the poll without reading the whole post. Read it and you'll get the question.
I was reading the comments in today's open thread, and was going to respond to a comment but then realized it would be quite long, so I decided to make it a FanPost instead. I'm going to look at the Devils salary cap situation for next season and try to determine what the options REALLY are whether Ilya Kovalchuk is a Devil or not. Reminder, capgeek has the Devils with 18 players signed for just under 55.4M and a little over $4.78M available for those additional 5 players. By the way, WOWY indicates With Or Without You. Check the ILWT archives, John Fischer wrote a series with some statistical observations on a number of Devil players.
Let's do the easy one first. Devils lose the Kovalchuk derby. There are currently 10 forwards, 6 defensemen, and 2 goalies signed for next season. I'll assume that the final roster will consist of 14 forwards, 7 defensemen and 2 goalies. That leaves 4 forwards and 1 defensemen (barring trades) to add.
Prospects/players already signed that could very well be Devils next season:
Jacob Josefson - $900K
Mattias Tenedby - $875K
Adam Henrique - $846K (OK slightly under, but rounding up keeps us safe)
Matt Corrente - $822K (ditto)
Tyler Eckford - $720K (QO)
Mark Fraser - $550 (QO)
Three of those 6 are forwards, so even if they all did make the Devils next season, we're either one forward short or carrying 8 defensemen. So, adding all three of them in (a stretch probably, but bear with me for a bit), we're now at 13/6/2 and roughly $2.08M available. Choose your poison on defense as #7. Let's say it's Corrente to eat the largest chunk of cap. Down to $1.257M. OK, Salmela will probably miss the start of the season. Replacing him with Eckford (again worst case, cap-wise, and I can't believe he'd go for much more than that with limited NHL experience) for even almost half the season only takes up about $55K, so that leaves us pretty close to $1.2M for a 14th forward. 'Lo and behold, Mr. Pelley is still unaccounted for since his deal is still unpublished. Having made $575K last season, I'd say he fits in easily within the $1.2M, If we're really generous and bring him up to $750K, we're about $450K under. That leaves us with this roster:
Forwards: Arnott, Clarkson, Elias, Henrique, Josefson, Langenbrunner, Leblond, Parise, Pelley, Rolston, Tenedby, Zajac, Zharkov, Zubrus
Defense: Corrente-Eckford(A)-Greene-Salmela(B), Salvador, Tallinder, Volchenkov, White
Goal: Brodeur, Hedberg
Now, if you want to replace/upgrade any player, figure his replacement can't contribute more than about $400-450K to the cap than he does.
And now the more difficult one - With Kovalchuk. Even before I start, I think this is going to take a bit of an ilLOUsionist to get complete, but let's try. Let's start with the same 14/7/2 we placed on the roster above, because we didn't add anybody from outside the organization, so those are the names that have to pull a Houdini to pull this off.
Let's start off with an assumption for Kovy's salary/cap hit. I think the best anybody could hope for is $7M per season. The rumor mill has him looking for $10M per. For the sake of this exercise, let's split the difference and say $8.5M. That's probably as good a starting point for the over/under as any. OK, the roster as I have it above gives us a cap hit of approximately $59M, maybe a little under, but probably within $100K or so, there are still a couple unknowns on there, but... Add Kovy's 8.5 and we're at $67.5M ($8.1M over). As I remove players from the roster, I'm going to add back in $500K as a minimum replacement amount for each player. Obviously that's pretty aggressive, but probably the only way to make this work.
The most discussed names have been Dainius Zubrus and Bryce Salvador. Together they make $6.3M. Replacing them with minimum wage players (and actually, I'll assume Fraser replaces Salvador at $550K, slightly over minimum, since he's already in the fold but unused). Cap is now at $62.25M, $2.85M over. OK, the most likely players are replaced and we're still quite a bit over. Performance bonuses put a few teams over the cap for 09-10, their caps have been reduced accordingly for next year. Let's see how that affects us if we choose to use that loophole. $740K in bonuses are contributing toward the cap. Let's use that as salary and eat the "penalty" next year. That puts us at $2.11M over, let's use $2.1M since we've already rounded past that last digit anyway. This means that in order to fit Kovy in at $8.5M, another player has to go, one with a cap hit of at least $2.6M. OK, who are the suspects?
Patrik Elias - $6M - Has an alibi (NMC)
Brian Rolston - $5.0625 - Has an iron-clad alibi (NTC and overpaid)
Martin Brodeur - $5.0M - NTC
Jason Arnott - $4.5M - NMC
Anton Volchenkov - $4.25M - NTC
Travis Zajac - $3.8875M
Henrik Tallinder - $3.3375M - Just signed, doubtful movement
Zach Parise - $3.125M
Colin White - $3.0M - NTC
Jamie Langenbrunner - $2.8M - NTC
David Clarkson - $2.667M - Just signed, doubtful movement
OK, maybe I don't want to lose any of those players or deal with the NMC/NTC's. What can we do using the lower priced players? In order to use the lower priced players, ALMOST EVERY SINGLE ONE of the lower-priced players I included in the roster above would have to be replaced with a minimum salary player to get under the cap. Only Leblond (remember, I've already used Fraser to replace Salvador) and Salmela (who we're not using for at least part of the season anyway) would be affordable (Hedberg is NTC, so he's staying in this argument). That means: Josefson ($900K-$500K=$400K net gain), Tenedby ($375K net, $775K total gained), Henrique ($346K net, $1.121M total), Corrente ($322K net, $1.443M total), Eckford ($220K net, $1.63M total), Zharkov ($350K net, $2.013M gained), and Andy Greene ($237.5K net, $2.25M gained) ALL would have to go. OK, with rounding, perhaps Greene could be kept instead of Salmela and be right up against the cap. But then we're talking having minimum 7 players, plus Leblond at $525K and Fraser at $550K, at league minimum if Kovy signs and one of the 11 cap hits above $2.6M isn't used. So essentially, 9 players at or slightly over league minimum if Lou signs Kovy and keeps all the higher priced/NTC players.
So there you have it. I hope I haven't confused anybody with all the numbers. I've re-read through this and clarified anything I thought needed it. Consider this, would you trade Dainius Zubrus, Bryce Salvador, and (insert higher priced player here), for Kovalchuk, Mark Fraser, and Dean McAmmond? Because essentially, from a Devils roster perspective, that's just about what Lou is going to have to do to fit Kovy in.