Friday, June 25, 2010

RFAs and Buyouts

Whew, OK. Spent yesterday refreshing myself on what all the damn contract rules are. Wrote a big-ass Google Doc about them. It's nice to have all that info consolidated in one place. Ask real nice, and I'll share it with you. Not posting its contents on the main page here; way too long and boring.

Right now, the important thing coming up is the RFA deadline. July 1 is the official start of the NHL year (technically, contracts run from July 1 - June 30). July 1 is the day that unrestricted free agents can start talking with other teams. It's also the day restricted free agents become unrestricted, if no qualifying offer has been made. So, that's the stuff that is likeliest to change in the next few days. The draft is today and tomorrow, so don't expect Sather to do anything before then. Then, next week, after the draft, we have Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday to make qualifying offers to our restricted free agents, before the July 1 deadline. That's when we should expect some news on them.

Then, of course, the big day is July 1, the second most active personnel movement day of the NHL year (the most active, of course, being trade deadline day). That'll be the day everyone liveblogs and a bunch of NHL teams make a bunch of moves, and Glen Sather will either make the single biggest headline of the day or do absolutely nothing at all. You know how it goes.

The only other thing to watch out for in the next few days, in case you're still holding out hope, is contract buyouts. The period from June 15-June 30 is the only time of the year that it is kosher for an NHL team to buy out a player's contract. A buyout is exactly what it sounds like: a team buys out the remainder of a player's contract, and then the player is no longer under contract to the team. I know what you're thinking, so let me answer your two questions right off the bat.

Donald Brashear's contract was signed when he was over 35, and was a multi-year deal, which means he is subject to the NHL's special "being old" rules: every year of his contract after the first one counts against our cap, no matter what. Like, even if he damn retires. So, even if we bought him out (for a cool $866,667), we would still incur the full $1.4m cap hit for him this season. At that point, it makes more sense to just keep him in the minors, in which case we'd be given $100,000 relief on his cap hit, reducing it to $1.3m. The only reasonable way to get rid of Brashear's contract is to actually trade him to someone who is willing to take it on.

Buying out Wade Redden would be a very expensive prospect - not just in terms of cash up front, but also in cap hit. I won't go into the details of the math (if you're interested, please call my Dial-A-Math service (comment and I'll PM you the number) and ask for Ben H. (my nom de maths) - I will explain it in agonizing detail), but trust me on the results: buying out Redden would cost us $15,333,333 up front. The cap effect would last for eight seasons: a $1,916,667 hit for 2 years, then up to a $3,416,667 hit for 2 years, then back down to $1,916,667 for another 4 years, taking us to the end of the 2017-2018 hockey season. Just to not have him on the team anymore. Now, some would argue that that's better than his current $6.5 million cap hit for the next four seasons, but I'm not so sure. Redden also has a limited NTC in his contract - he can list 8 teams he refuses to be traded to. As far as I can tell, burial in the AHL is still a valid option.

More on our specific contracts later. For now, I wanna recap our RFA list again, so we know what (in addition to any slim chance of buyouts) we should be listening for next Monday-Wednesday. To review, a qualifying offer is the minimum required contract (1 year at a given salary) needed to retain a restricted free agent. The player must accept that contract unless he expects to get an offer sheet from another team (very rare) or is eligible for salary arbitration (a less rare process in which a neutral third party decides how much the team should pay the player - remember Nik Zherdev?). We'll discuss these in more detail if they come up, but for now, know that a qualifying offer is the minimum 1-year salary we need to offer an RFA in order to keep him, and that the offer must be on the table before July 1.

Enver Lisin - QO of $829,500. Or, at least, it would have been, if we hadn't already decided not to give him a QO. He'll be an unrestricted free agent July 1, and it's safe to say we won't be pursuing him. Miss Lauri Korpikoski yet?

Erik Christensen - QO of $787,500. Christensen was good, no reason not to sign him at this price. He will qualify for arbitration, however, so we probably have to up it at least a little to avoid going down that road. If it were me, I'd sign him for around a million.

Brandon Prust - QO of $577,500. Not sure whether or not he qualifies for arbitration (depends whether he signed his first contract with the Flames in '04 or '05), but it seems silly not to lock this guy up. He's exactly the right kind of character for a fourth-liner: tough, stands up in the crease, not afraid to fight, but has some skill (ant: Matt Cooke, Dave Clarkson). I hope we can keep him around at least another season, and give him a real chance to become a part of the squad.

Dan Girardi - QO of $1.6 million. Expensive RFA signing number 1 (of 2). He qualifies for arbitration, and we'll probably offer him enough of a raise that he doesn't have to use it. I expect us to lock him down in the Ryan Callahan/Brandon Dubinsky range - a 2-3-year contract for $2 million-$3 million a year.

Ilkka Heikkinen - QO of $918,750. Doesn't qualify for arbitration, won't get any offer sheets. Probably worth the money to keep him around for a year and see what he can do, right?

Marc Staal - QO of $803,250. Oh yeah, this guy. See that laughable QO number? That's silly. That is a silly number. According to my admittedly feeble understanding, Staal doesn't actually qualify for arbitration this season, but that shouldn't matter. It would be insulting to sign him for $803,250 for one season, and he might even get an offer sheet. It's not worth going through all that, and we should expect the Rangers to offer him a healthy contract - to the tune of a few years at at least $3 million.

OK, that's enough from the contract wonk for now. I'll be paying some attention to the draft this weekend, less to analyze our no-doubt-soon-to-be-disappointing picks, more to see if we shift anything else around (when you get 30 GMs in a room, crazy shit goes down). I've given you enough to pay attention to for the time being. Here we go again...


  1. Is that the same Dial-A-Math service # Ram posted somewhere years ago?

  2. Yep, still active and running! Total calls to date: 1. Gave a lecture on the Monty Hall Problem. It was a success.