There was a lot of discussion on prior FanPosts about which players would be moved to make room for Ilya Kovalchuk's now-rejected 17 yr/$102M contract. Though many still hold out hope that some daft GM will take Brian Rolston off our hands, the general consensus seemed to be that Bryce Salvador and Dainius Zubrus, as the big contracts without NTCs, were the most likely to go.
Some argued that if the Devils promoted certain prospects and carried a bare minimum number of players on their roster, they could get away with trading/waiving Salvador only and get under the cap by a hair. It seems that given the $6,666,667 cap hit of the contract that Kovalchuk and the Devils submitted yesterday for league approval, any possibility of trading Salvador alone to get under the cap is gone. So how far will the Devils have to go in their salary dump to get under the cap this year, and what additional implications might Kovalchuk's contract have next offseason?
If Kovalchuk's contract is approved by the NHL, the Devils' cap situation would look like:
|Total Cap Payroll||$62,495,833|
At this point, permit me to make a few assumptions. First, let me assume that Zach Parise will be re-signed, and will be given a contract comparable to Kovalchuk's, i.e. a $6,666,667 cap hit for a very long time. There is definitely a possibility that Parise does not want to commit his entire career to the club and will seek a shorter contract (think 3-5 yrs) at a much higher cap hit (potentially $7.5 million or more). For now, let's keep it at the same cap hit as Kovalchuk.
I will also make the assumption that Andy Greene will be re-signed, and at a cap hit somewhere between Tallinder's and Volchenkov's. As it currently stands, Greene is our only truly offensive defenseman and may in fact be more valuable than both, but he's really only got one good season under his belt and is not as much of a "known quantity" as Volchenkov is. For argument's sake let me set his cap hit in 2011-2012 and beyond at $3.75 M, just about halfway between Tallinder and Volchenkov and if you think he should be paid more or less we can consider those possibilities later.
Finally, given the steep raises that need to be given to Parise and Greene, let me assume that Jason Arnott will not be re-signed and that Josefson will be groomed this year to take his place as 2nd line center next year. Whether you think Tedenby or Henrique will make the team over Josefson is of little consequence to the cap as their cap hits are all within $60,000 of each other. The bottom line is that the Devils need a skilled prospect to step into a spot in the top-9 forwards in the event that one of the current veteran forwards is traded.
These assumptions, plus another that the cap ceiling is raised another 5% next season, gives us this situation:
|Total Cap Payroll||$63,395,833||$59,800,000|
I have kept 2011-2012 bonuses as 0 here because I can't predict whether Zharkov and Hedberg will earn their bonuses and because it's hard to predict which players will make the team in 2011-2012 and what their bonuses will consist of.
In 2010-2011, the Devils need to clear over $3.25 M in cap space even without carrying a 7th defenseman. If they went with a truly bare minimum lineup consisting of 12 forwards, 6 defensemen, and 2 goalies, they could technically get away with trading only Zubrus, but such a strategy is fraught with risk. Promoting a league-minimum player like Sestito instead of Josefson could earn you enough cap space to carry Eckford or Taormina as a 7th defenseman. Arguably, that would move Zharkov up to the top-9 and Sestito would play with Pelley and PL3 on the 4th line, but at cost of possibly hindering the development of a player ready for the big time, such as Josefson, Tedenby, Urbom, or Corrente. It would also leave the Devils with a hole at center, likely forcing them to play Rolston at 3rd line center (eeek) or splitting up Arnott and Elias and having Elias play center again. Thus it becomes a stretch to think that Josefson WON'T make the team.
Supposing Zubrus is the only one traded, in 2011-2012 the Devils will have $5.97 M in cap space to add 3-4 forwards, 1-2 defensemen, and 1 backup goaltender - a minimum of 5 players. Supposing that Tedenby and Urbom/Corrente will be 2 of those 5 players, accounting for a $1.745 M cap hit but a $310,000 bonus that can be deferred to 2012-2013, the Devils will have $4.535 M in space for 3 players and a top-9 forward corps consisting of Parise, Kovalchuk, Elias, Rolston, Zajac, Clarkson, Josefson, Tedenby, plus someone else. In that situation, re-signing Langenbrunner for something close to a $3 M cap hit would leave the Devils with about $1.5M with one forward and one D needing to be signed and no third-line center. They could certainly let Langenbrunnner walk away and sign a good third-line center for $3 M or less - or even re-sign Arnott, since his cap hit is likely to go down from what it is now.
So all in all, trading away Zubrus alone (or loaning him to, say, the KHL the way Chicago did with Huet) could theoretically do the job, but would leave the Devils in a very precarious situation carrying a 20-man roster for two straight seasons; would be dependent on the progress of top prospects like Josefson, Tedenby, Urbom, and Corrente; and would force the Devils to carry, as part of their bare-minimum 20-man roster in 2011-2012, three near-league-minimum forwards (Pelley, Leblond, and one more - potentially Zharkov if he agrees to it), one cheap Dman (Corrente would fit under the cap if the 12th forward is close to $500K than $750K.
I don't think it's wise to be so tight up against the cap and I think both Salvador and Zubrus must go, but I'm curious what you all think. Is trading Salvador the ONLY viable option for clearing more space? How might the Devils fill in the hole on defense if Salvador is traded? Will the Devils have to make an additional trade in 2011, and what might they be able to do? Do you think Parise and Greene will make more or less than what was assumed here?