Navigating the Salary Cap is probably one of the more important tasks for any general manager to have. Teams that can avert total cap chaos by walking the tightrope of inking players to deals that match their value (or compensate for future value without breaking the bank) remain successful. Those that don’t see struggles and front office changes.
PHR will look at every NHL team and give a thorough look at their cap situation heading into the 2018-19 season. This will focus more on those players who are integral parts of the roster versus those who may find themselves shuttling between the AHL and NHL. All cap figures are courtesy of CapFriendly.
Current Cap Hit: $61,343,333 (under the $79.5MM Upper Limit)
Hischier wasn’t among the rookie scoring leaders when all was said and done but the number one pick in 2017 still made his mark by finishing second in team scoring while ascending to a top-six role as a center quickly instead of being eased in as a winger. That should have him in line to potentially max out his Schedule ‘B’ bonuses ($850K) but he’ll have a hard time locking down the loftier Schedule ‘A’ one. He’ll be eligible for a contract extension next summer and it will be interesting to see if the Devils look to lock him up early or let him play out his contract and wait until the 2020 offseason to work something out.
Bratt was a big surprise last season. Only one year removed from being a sixth-round pick, he wasn’t even on the radar to make the team but wound up playing over 15 minutes a night while providing strong secondary scoring. A repeat performance could make him an early extension candidate as well. Zacha has disappointed over his first two NHL seasons as he has to make much of an impact offensively. He has the size and skills to carve out a big role but has yet to do so thus far. Even if he rebounds next season, he’s a strong candidate for a bridge deal. Anderson has yet to play in the pros but New Jersey thinks highly enough of him that they burned the first year of his entry-level deal in mid-April without him playing even a single game. With that in mind, it’s reasonable to think they expect him to make an impact fairly quickly.
As for Butcher, he made a strong impact coming over in free agency after declining to sign with Colorado. While he was sheltered (as many rookie blueliners often are), he made an immediate impact at the offensive end and is poised to take on a bigger role in 2018-19. He should hit at least some of his ‘B’ bonuses (also $850K in total) but the ‘A’ one is going to be out of reach.
One Year Remaining, Non-Entry-Level
Johansson was New Jersey’s big acquisition last summer but concussion trouble limited him to just 29 games. When healthy, he is still a quality top-six forward capable of playing all three positions and a full season could help him land a nice raise on the open market. However, another injury-filled campaign could have him settling for a one-year deal next summer. Boyle’s start with the Devils got off to a rough start after being diagnosed with leukemia but he made an immediate impact upon his return and scored 13 times for the third straight year while winning the Masterton Trophy. It’s hard to see him really boosting his pay on his next deal, however, as he’ll be 34 and some teams are starting to look for cheaper role players now. Noesen had a career year last season which earned him a $1.125MM raise but if he takes a step backwards next season, he could become a non-tender candidate.
Lovejoy was a regular in his first season with the Devils but was more of a depth player at times for them last year, spending a lot of time as a healthy scratch. That appears likely to continue as their back end remains intact which means that he will be taking a considerable pay cut on his next deal. Mueller missed over 30 games with a fractured clavicle and was also scratched at times which resulted in what’s basically a one-year bridge deal. If he’s in a similar role for 2018-19, he will be in line for another deal like that next offseason.
Kinkaid’s case is particularly interesting. He re-signed last summer as someone without too much of an NHL track record. That changed last season as he got into 41 games, took over the number one job briefly, and posted numbers around the league average. That may not sound too exciting but a similar performance next year will still have him well-positioned for a sizable pay increase.
Two Years Remaining
Hall’s stellar showing last season has been well documented. The Hart Trophy winner shattered his career highs across the board and was a huge factor in them getting to the postseason. Even if he takes a step back next season, he’ll still be in line for a notable raise on an early extension. If he has a comparable performance in 2018-19 though, it’ll likely take putting him close to the league leaders in salary to get him to forego free agency.
Vatanen wasn’t quite as productive as expected after being acquired from Anaheim but he was still able to step up and play a number one role. With the state of their back end, that’s going to be the case again next season which will be helping to make a case for his next deal starting with a six or a seven to be more in line with top-pairing players. Greene has become more of a shutdown player compared to a few years ago which makes his deal a little bit of a premium. Between that and his age (he’ll be 36 next summer), there’s a very good chance that he’ll be asked to take a pay cut on his next contract.