Does Money matter with the New Jersey Devils?

The recent signing of Petr Sykora for $650K got me thinking about the unusual amount of distance between the Devils payroll and the salary cap this season.  Depending on the sort of sports philosophies you believe in, money is either the key to winning, or an avenue towards winning.  We all know there are sports teams who spend copious amounts of money and have won it all, while others have gone out and spent frugally and succeeded.  There are also the opposite trends, teams who buy up overpriced free agents and fail, along with teams who hold back on their spending and are bottom dwellers in the league.

Since the implication of the salary cap in the NHL, the Devils have been perennial contender for the Stanley Cup. Last year they faltered for a number  of reasons, one of which could be the lack of money spent. Since everyone has been predicting where the New Jersey Devils will land in the standings after last year, I'll take a look at what the money tells us, if anything. After the jump I'll take a look at how much of the cap the Devils spent and how efficiently they spent their money in terms of wins and points.

Including this upcoming season, the Devils have always spent at least 90% of the salary cap. We can draw the assumption that the Devils ownership is looking to maximize wins and not necessarily profit. Teams generally spend at the salary cap floor or hover just above it if they are looking to maximize their profit off of a sports team rather than wins. Lets be glad the Devils are win maximizers, unless you get more enjoyment watching the Devils record a profit rather than record a win. Recently the Devils have had salary cap problems with the signing of Ilya Kovalchuk (you guys know this). The "circumvention" of the salary cap led to many fines and a loss of draft picks, but the Devils got their man. This season Lou Lamoriello talked of a "budget" which concerned a few fans, including myself.

The Devils have had winning seasons under the salary cap, except for last year's anomaly. As of last night, the Devils are $4,676,667 (according to under the cap....I'll let that sink in, the Devil's have over $4.6 million to spend, and they are holding onto it. Sure some of that may be due to a dried up free agency pool, the looming Zach Parise signing, and this new "budget" , but should we be worried the Devils may decrease their spending?

Below is a chart that shows the Devil's salary cap situations and their standings at the end of that season. The "# in NHL" column is the number they were in spending (total salary spent gathered from, number one being the team that spent the most in the league, 30 being the most frugal team:


Salary Cap

Salary Spent

% of Cap Spent

# in NHL

Points %




















































From the table you can see that the Devils have consistently spent at the top 33% of the league since the salary cap was instated, until last year. Last year they dropped below the top 10 teams in spending and actually decreased the amount they spent from the 09-10 season! The change in the percentage of cap spent was only 6% different than last year, but the results were dramatic. They took 13% less points than the year before and failed to make the playoffs. I know there were other factors in play, but maybe this slight decrease in money was overlooked. I mean, who doesn't have $500K to throw around in a recession?

This year the Devils will only be spending 93% of the cap, which drops them into the second half of the league in spending(#17). This is also the smallest percentage of the salary cap the Devils have ever spent. This small change in percentage may not look that big, but if you look at the # in the NHL, you see how much less they are spending compared to the rest of the NHL. 

Of course this is looking only at player salaries, not accounting for the change in coaches salaries, staff salaries, even Lou's salary. What the Devils pay management and coaching will definitely play a role in how well the Devils will perform, but I could not find year to year salaries for the whole staff, so i left that variable out.

As I said earlier, money spent and winning are not synonymous with each other, but they are highly correlated. Teams that do well year after year, spend near the top in the NHL.

Should this worry the fans of the New Jersey Devils? I leave this interpretation open to you, the reader, as to whether this decline in spending will hinder the Devils performance, or have the Devils found their own "Moneyball" strategy that will propel them into the playoffs for years to come?

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