Wednesday, July 28, 2010


Also, a quick quote for those of you who actually think the Frolov signing was a mistake (you'd rather have spent those $3 million on whom, exactly?): Larry Brooks, in today's Post: "There is nothing negative about the signing of the 28-year-old winger whose personally disappointing 51-point season (19-32) in Los Angeles would have made him the Rangers' third-leading scorer." Good point, Brooksie; well said.

Money and something I was wrong about

OK, for lack of anything else to go off of, let's make some assumptions and see where we are. The point of this, as mentioned yesterday, is to determine that Redden must go, using the maths. But before we get into that, we need to cover something I was wrong about.

It turns out that "all bonuses, even if they go unpaid, count against the cap," as I have previously claimed, is an oversimplification. Signing bonuses always count against the cap, but performance-based bonuses (like "if you score 20 goals by January, you make an extra $500,000") only sort of always do. All potential bonuses (ones that have neither been paid out nor become impossible to achieve) are counted against the team's cap, yes. But: a team is allowed to exceed the cap by 7.5% (of the cap) in potential performance bonuses. If a bonus ends up not being achieved, it stops counting against the cap (whether or not it was up in that "bonus cushion," exceeding the cap). If it is achieved, however, it counts. If the bonus still kept the team under the real cap, that's fine (the bonus gets paid out, everyone is happy). However, if the bonus was only legal because of the "bonus cushion," then paying out the bonus actually takes the team over the cap. If this is the case, the amount by which the team exceeded the cap will be deducted from next year's cap.

TL;DR Potential performance bonuses can exceed the cap by 7.5%, but if they end up getting paid out, the amount the team is over the cap will be deducted from their cap for next season.

There are a handful of performance bonuses built into Ranger contracts, and we'll have to take those into account when calculating our total cap hit: we technically can exceed the cap by these amounts (up to $4.455 million), but it's dangerous to do so, because if they all get paid out, we'll have that much less of a cap to work with next season.

Anyway, we'll get to those soon. Let's start simple: goaltending is all figured out. Lundqvist and Biron will be the two on our roster, totaling a cap hit of $7.75 million (6.875 + .875). Remember that the cap this season is $59.4 million, leaving us with $51.65 million to spend on skaters.

Now, it's hard to know exactly which forwards will make the cut, but we know we need at least 12, and I think it's fairly easy to name exactly 12 that will definitely on our opening day roster. Comment if you disagree, but I'm willing to claim that Gaborik (7.5), Drury (7.05), Frolov (3), Callahan (2.3), Prospal (2.1), Avery (1.9375), Dubinsky (1.85), Boogaard (1.625), Christensen (.925), Anisimov (.821667), Prust (.8), and Boyle (.525) all qualify. I don't feel like that assumption is too far out.

Remember that a roster requires a minimum of 12 forwards, 6 defensemen, and 2 goalies, and a maximum of 23 people. So, that leaves 3 "open" spots for extra men. I imagine some of those will be filled by forwards (Mats Zuccarello-Aasen, Patrick Rissmiller, Derek Stepan?), but let's just talk right now about those minimum 12, which will likely be the 12 mentioned above. Those 12 total a cap hit of $30,434,167. Throw in the $1.3 million that Donald Brashear will count against our cap from Hartford, and you're at $31,734,167 spent on forwards, leaving $19,915,833 to spend on defensemen (and an extra forward or two). However, it's worth noting that $1.1 million of that figure is in performance bonuses for Prospal, so we could exceed the cap by that much.

Let's assume we sign Staal at a $4.5 million hit. I know this number is highly under debate by the powers that be (Glen Sather and Bobby Orr?), but 4.5 is a good figure to work with: it's probably right between what the two sides are trying for, so unless something crazy happens, we can use it and not end up too wrong. Sather has already made it clear that he will re-sign Staal, claiming he would match any offer sheet Staal is given, so we're comfortable with the idea that he'll be back. Let's call it a $4.5 million hit.

We need to carry at least 6 defensemen, and will probably carry 7, but I think that it's not worth debating a solid 5. I believe that Rozsival (5), Staal, Girardi (3.325), Eminger (1.125), and Del Zotto (1.0875) will all definitely be on that opening day roster. Again, comment if you disagree, but I think those five are definitely there. Using the 4.5 figure for Staal, these five defensemen cost us $15.0375 million. $212,500 of that is in performance bonuses for Del Zotto.

We said we had $19,915,833 left after our 12 forwards and 2 goalies, and this $15.0375 for 5 defensemen leaves us $4,878,333 to spend on at least one defensemen, and then hopefully some backup. Between Prospal's and Del Zotto's performance-based bonuses, we have another $1.3125 million by which we are technically permitted to exceed the cap (although if they get paid out, that'll be $1.3125 million we can't spend next season). So, theoretically speaking, that would give us $6,190,833 free at the absolute maximum - still a bit short of Redden's salary.

So, what would we have to do to keep Redden around, at this point? The above figure is $309,167 shy of Redden's incomprehensible $6.5m hit, so if we knock that off of our original $4.5m guess at Staal's contract, we come up with the answer: sign Staal to a contract with a cap hit of $4,190,833 or less. Oh, and carry around the absolute bare minimum roster of 2 goalies, 12 forwards, and 6 defensemen, not bringing up Mats Zuccarello-Aasen, Matt Gilroy, or Ryan McDonagh, let alone Patrick Rissmiller or Derek Stepan. And be on the hook to potentially lose $1.3125 million from next year's cap.

On the other hand, sending Redden to Hartford means we have that full $4,878,333 remaining before we even leak into the bonus cushion at all. This must be used to afford at least one defenseman, and can then be used to add more than the absolute minimum roster. For example, assuming we're right about $4.5m for Staal, this money can be used to add Gilroy at $1.75m and McDonagh at $1.3m (of which $425,000 is in performance bonuses). Theoretically, that would still leave room to bring up Mats Zuccarello-Aasen at $1.75m (of which $850,000 is in performance bonuses) before even crossing into the bonus cushion. This would leave us barely any room ($78,333) under the cap, but does give us $2,587,500 that could go up under the bonus cushion, if we needed wiggle room for some reason (like a Staal contract negotiation).

So, there you have it. It is still theoretically possible to keep Redden on the roster, if we sign Staal for under $4.2 million (which would not make him happy), borrow $1.3 million from next year's cap, and cripple our roster to the bare minimum of 12 forwards and 6 defensemen. Does that seem likely to you? It sure doesn't seem likely to me.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Kovalchuk Lite

(with due credit given to my father, who coined the term I used as the post title)

Well, today we signed Alexander Frolov. We'd been talking about it for a few days, and now it happened. Remember when Kovalchuk was gonna be a King? Now Frolov isn't either. Rough couple of weeks, LA. Frolov is a 28-year-old, 6'2", 204 lb. left wing who has over 50 points in each of his 5 NHL seasons to date. The Kings weren't happy with him, claiming that his recent decline in numbers was due to a lack of motivation. I'm more inclined to blame it on slight statistical variation, but we'll see what he does under John Tortorella. Overall, I think it's a pretty good move - we got him for a one-year deal at $3 million, which I will take if it gets us some meaningful scoring, and we can drop him next season if it doesn't.

But here's the really good news - I'm doing some quick math. I'll go into more depth in another post, but I'm adding up our current cap hits, and given that we're still planning on signing Staal at $4 million or so, an additional $3 million hit is telling me there's no way we're planning on keeping Redden's salary. We'd be way over. I'll do some math here for you soon, but this move really seems to say goodbye to Wade. Wow, do I hope I'm right.

Friday, July 23, 2010

I guess I should post *something*

So, I had this whole long post planned out the day the Kovalchuk contract was signed. It said things like "this isn't about how unreasonably long it is, this is about how it should be illegal." Blah blah blah, average of 10 million a year for the first 8 years, average 1 million a year for the final 7 years, ends when he's 44, clearly bullshit designed to circumvent the cap, etc.

Then I was busy with work, and by the next day, the NHL had actually ruled the thing illegal, which I totally didn't see coming, but it would have made for a nice, exciting story arc on the blog. But because that first post didn't happen, now I'm just writing about what everyone else on the planet is writing about: "ZOMG, the NHL says the contract is bad!"

Whatever. I actually think it's kinda interesting that now, Lamoriello is kinda saying he knew this would happen. Like his response wasn't "damn you NHL I liked that contract" so much as it was "yeah, well - your crazy CBA* says it's legal, so maybe that's flawed." Meanwhile, there's a rumor that the NHLPA might actually come to bat for Kovalchuk and dispute the ruling.

Oh my god come on. We already have a league where there are so many rules in place to benefit individual players that it is almost impossible for a GM to build a team out of the same guys every year. How could the NHLPA possibly think that allowing a contract like this is acceptable? Wanna lock up a great player for lots of money, but don't like the salary cap? Just double his contract, and pay him nothing at the end! He'll retire before then, and you get off free! As long as the contract wasn't signed after he turned 35, we don't care if he's 58 when it ends!

I really hope the NHLPA doesn't take this case. Although in fairness, I'd probably personally find the whole thing more hilarious and less depressing if I wasn't unrelatedly thinking about Marc Staal the whole time.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Friday Fun Fact

In one year, Wade Redden earns the entire budget of the film The Godfather.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Girardi, Eminger, not Staal yet

Man, you go away for the weekend, and things happen!

First of all, we came to a deal with Girardi. It pays $3.1 million this year and $3.4/year over each of the following three, for a cap hit of $3.325 for the next four seasons. That's a little higher than I'd like, but it's not terrible. On the grand scale of Prospal, Dubinsky, Callahan, Christensen, et cetera, it seems high. However, in the frame of Rozsival, Gilroy, Del Zotto, and probably Staal one day soon, it sounds reasonable. Maybe defensemen are just supposed to make more? Anyway, the deal is done, Girardi is locked up, and we move on.

Then, we made a trade: Aaron Voros (finally?) and prospect Ryan Hillier (a left wing) for Ducks D-man Steve Eminger. Eminger is 6'1", 202 lbs, and a fairly physical guy. The Rangers will be his 6th NHL team since the start of the 2007-2008 season, but I would swear I recall liking him when, if I recall him correctly from the ducks. He's supposed to be a hitting, shot-blocking, stay-at-the-goddamn-blue-line kinda guy, and I like that. He's 26 years old, entering the final year of his contract, which will pay him $1.5 million, but is back-loaded, so he's only a $1.125 million cap hit.

I like this move. We clearly didn't see much in Hillier (when do we ever see much in our prospects?), and Voros was never seeing the ice again (we all liked him, but he never did much). Let Voros try to find his game our West, and let us pick up another solid blue-liner.

Meanwhile, the Staal negotiations apparently continue. Word is that the Rangers are trying to lock him down for 6 years, and that he's trying to earn himself a good million dollars more than Girardi. That's not entirely unreasonable. As I've said, I'd rather see Girardi around $2.5 million and Staal around $3.5, but if they're each $750,000 above that, I'm not gonna lose any sleep over it.

There should at this point be no one left worrying that Staal will not be a New York Ranger on day one this year. Sather has gone on record saying we will match any offer sheet Staal is given, and that's really Staal's only negotiating power here. This was a wily statement, actually: it discourages teams from actually sending Staal any offers, a fact which gives the Rangers even more leverage in negotiations with him. Personally, I therefore wouldn't be surprised if this standoff holds out for another little while, showing Staal he's not getting any offer sheets, before we finally lock him down. I imagine we'll get the six years we're looking for, and I imagine the length of the contract and lack of offer sheets will keep Staal happy without the money getting too crazy. I expect this contract will end up at $4-4.5 million.

Oops, before I get into this last thing, I forgot to mention last week that we signed defensive prospect Ryan McDonagh to a 3-year contract with an annual salary of $875,000 and potential annual bonuses up to another $425,000. It seems we're giving him every opportunity to be a real Ranger this season, and our defensive corps getting younger, again, can't be a bad thing. McDonagh is 21, 6'1", 200 lbs. Sorry, I really thought I'd written about that - I just totally forgot to.

Anyway, this sure starts to sound like Redden says hello to Hartford, doesn't it? The fools over at SNY Rangers Blog, who tend to have accurate, quick facts about every story, coupled with terrible italicized opinions, are confused about why the Rangers have so many defensemen now. But, they also think Redden deserves another chance (No, really, they said that. I can't find the post right now. Gold Star to anyone who does. But, they said that). Well I'm not all that confused.

Without Redden, we're looking at the following seven as our top-6 plus one to rotate in: Rozsival, Staal, Girardi, Gilroy, McDonagh, Eminger, Del Zotto. That's...actually pretty good, all things considered. If we assume we sign Staal for a $4.25 million hit, those seven amass a total cap hit of $17,837,500. This is all completely reasonable. You know what's not reasonable? Thinking Wade Redden has a place among those other seven, increasing our entire defensive corps's cap hit by over 36% (to $24,337,500). Why would we do that, when we have seven other, better choices, for less money? I say we bring up McDonagh, sign Staal around $4 million, and send Redden packing. We do this, we actually have a pretty good squad of defensemen, at pretty reasonable prices.

More thoughts on total cap space will come here on this very blog after the Staal thing is resolved. But, for your reading pleasure, here are two pieces in which Larry Brooks makes a case that the Rangers should pursue Ilya Kovalchuk. The argument basically boils down to "who the hell else are we saving that money for?" It's a valid point, though with offers on the table like the laughed-at Kings' 12 years/$63.6 million and the reliably-reported-yet-completely-unbelievable Devils' 17 years/something over $100 million, are we really interested in jumping into this game? 17 years from now, Ilya Kovalchuk will be 44, and we will all own flying cars.

Well, the LeBron James of hockey will be making his decision sometime this week. I look forward to the announcement, less for which team he signs on with, and more so I can laugh at the absurd contract length and salary he will no doubt be receiving. I also look forward to more moves by the Rangers, who so far (despite overpaying Girardi and Boogaard by a total of a little over a million dollars) have had a fairly smart off-season.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Our old friend, arbitration

Brrp brrp baaaaaah! (That was a trumpet.) Welcome back to the Rangers' offseason, salary arbitration. We've missed you, since we dismissed Nik Zherdev a year ago. In a move that surprised absolutely nobody, Dan Girardi, who is eligible to file for arbitration this summer, and who rejected some unknown offer from the Rangers, asking instead for a 4-year deal at at least $3 million/year, did in fact file for arbitration. It is believed that the Rangers are very interested in re-signing him, and they will do their best to come to terms before arbitration actually happens. If Girardi and the Rangers can agree to a contract before an arbitration hearing takes place, then this becomes a non-issue: they just sign the contract.

If, however, it comes to it, the NHL will schedule a hearing sometime between July 20 and August 5, at which a third party will decide how much Girardi is worth. The Rangers can then choose to accept this value within 48 hours, in which case Girardi must, or to just let him go - after the 48 hours, he would become an unrestricted free agent.

Hopefully they can find some kind of happy middle ground before it comes to that. If it does come to that, hopefully the arbitrator will come up with a reasonable figure. I'd like to not be paying him more than $3 million a year - as I've said here before, I believe he's worth the same kind of contract we offered Callahan and Dubinsky a year ago: a couple of years at a couple million dollars a year.

Meanwhile, no news on Staal negotiations. The only other news is that apparently Rangers prospect Ryan McDonagh (we traded for him in the Gomez-Higgins trade) is going to be signing a contract with us and trying to make his way onto our already stellar blue line. He's 6'1", 200 lbs, and supposedly a stay-at-home-style defenseman. By comparison, this can't possibly be a bad thing.

Friday, July 2, 2010

Free Agent Frenzy Recap

So....yeah. As is becoming our habit, I guess? We did a bunch of reasonable things and then one incomprehensible thing that throws it all into question. Here we go.

We signed Marty Biron as a backup. This is awesome. It's a 2-year deal worth $950,000 this season and $800,000 next, for a cap hit of $875,000/year for 2 years. We get an experienced goalie looking to prove himself, and he was attracted to us for cheap because we're local to his family, and because he wants to work with the incomparable Benoit Allaire (our goaltending coach). Sather kept talking about wanting to sign "a Cadillac at a Honda price" for a backup, and while that is completely ridiculous, this is a very smart signing.

After we tried to low-ball Christensen, offering him 2 years at slightly less than a Qualifying salary, he ended up hitting the free agent market. At which point we upped the offer to slightly more than a Qualifying salary, which he gladly accepted. This is all good. This is how negotiations work. He's good for us, and I wanted to bring him back, but he's not gonna go make $2 million somewhere else. So, we low-balled him, he said, no, then we upped it and he said yes. Good work all around. We have him locked up for another two years at $925,000/year.

We also bothered to re-sign Prospal. As an over-35 deal, it made sense to only sign him to a 1-year contract, which he agreed to. We had to overpay a little for him, but not a ton. Numbers are a little unclear, because it's a bonus-heavy contract, but it looks like we signed him for a $1 million salary with potential to earn another $1.1 million in bonuses. Since all potential bonuses count against the cap, my math says that's a $2.1 million cap hit - not terrible, but a little high. If he plays like he did in the first half of last season, he'll be well worth the money. If he plays like he did in the second half of last season, it's only a 1-year deal.

Worth noting: in this NY Post article, Larry Brooks does math that leads me to believe Prospal's bonuses don't count against the cap (he refers to Christensen and Prospal as a combined $1.95 million hit), but from the research I've done, I am pretty sure he's wrong about that. Just wanna throw that out there, in case I am the wrong one. But I'm really, really pretty sure that Prospal's hit is going to be $2.1 million for the season.

Finally, we increased what had been just a qualifying offer to Brandon Prust, who agreed yesterday to a 2-year deal at $800,000 a year. Totally worth it - he was a huge asset to the team in his short time with us, he's exactly the kind of fourth-liner I wanna see, and we game him a raise and an extra year to show him we want him around, without paying him too much at all. Good signing.

"Hey, hang on, dude," you might now say, my imaginary readers, who evidently borrow their epithets from 1992, "it sounds like Slats has been pretty reasonable so far this season! Between all these smart, relatively low-cost signings, and the reasonable offers and qualifiers given to our RFAs, what's your issue? ...Homes?"

Well, imaginary 90's guy, then we did this weird thing. As we discussed yesterday, we failed to sign Jody Shelley, who went to the Flyers for 3 years at $1.1/year, instead signing Derek Boogaard at 4 years for $1.625/year. We've already covered the demerits of Boogaard, who, along with his brother Aaron, runs a fighting camp for kids in Saskatchewan. When asked about it, Sather gave some pretty reasonable answers: "We were only interested in a two-year deal because of his age [Shelley is 34, Boogaard is 28]...he was looking for a three-year deal... That's really when we changed our minds." Also, "Obviously, he's the biggest and the best [Boogard is 6'8", 257 lbs], we needed that presence here. Last year, there were too many times when I saw guys scraping snow into Henrik's face and I didn't like it. I don't think you'll see that now."

That's actually exactly what I want to be hearing from a GM. That's totally reasonable. Add in the fact that Boogaard is coming from the Wild, where he made his career out of protecting Marian Gaborik, and it starts to sound like a smart choice, giving up Shelley for Boogaard. There's an argument, sure, that we had a good enforcer that was effective and good at some other non-punchy things, and we once again got rid of him for a foreign punching machine (though Boogaard, at least, didn't end last season by incapacitating a beloved Ranger). However, that's not my real problem with the signing. My real problem is the contract's value.

Look, it's no secret that We hAve DeEp salary cap issues, and a little bit of money thrown in here and there ends up hurting. Torts won't play the 4th line more than a few minutes a game, and we know Boogaard won't be scoring too many points, and it's hard to justify $1.625 million. Put another way, let's summarize the signings we've made this off-season so far, in terms of the salary they'll be making this season.

Brandon Prust - $800,000
Erik Christensen - $925,000
Marty Biron - $950,000
Vinny Prospal - $1 million
Derek Boogaard - $1.7 million

Is Boogaard really worth that much more than Prospal, Biron, Christensen, or Prust? 'Cause that's the message our signings so far are sending. That's the issue I have: in a salary-capped league, it's awful hard to justify the above numbers.

Ah, well. Let's see what happens next.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Mid-day updates

Crazy day at work, computer is down, etc. The quick story is: Alex Auld went to Montréal and nobody cared. Real early, we signed Marty Biron as the backup we're looking for: $950,000 this year and $800 next. Fine. Smart move. Then, we locked down Christensen, who we had just let hit the market, for 2 years at $950,000/year. Also really smart. And word is we're renegotiating with Prospal, or trying to. All good things!

So then of course we had to go do something insane. I think Glen Sather doesn't understand how enforcers work. Orr was well-respected and sometimes shot the puck, so we let him go and signed Brashear for more money than Orr ended up with. We know how well that went. So, now, we're at it again: we picked up Jody Shelley, who fought hard and was well-respected and actually had a really good net presence. Then, we let him go sign with Philly for just $1.1 million a year for 3 years. That was stupid. But maybe, you think, maybe we didn't wanna lock down an enforcer for 3 years. Maybe you learn from your Brashear mistake and don't sign that long a contract for someone who doesn't score a ton.

And then, of course, the really stupid. Derek Boogaard, owner of the longest active goalless streak in the NHL (222 games, his last goal was January 7, 2006). He has scored 2 goals and 13 assists in his 265 games over 5 seasons in the NHL. And we signed him for four years at $1.625 million/year.

Four years, $1.625 million per year.

This is, as Larry Brooks tweets, an "inexplicable blunder." This makes no fucking sense. Next season, Colton Orr and Jody Shelley will make a combined $2.1 million from the Flyers and the Leafs. Donald Brashear and Derek Boogaard will make a combined $3.025 million from the Rangers. I do not understand the thinking, at all.

Seriously, can we go one free agent day or trade deadline day without making at least one move that is universally considered terrible by everyone?