Canucks Roster Decisions and the Salary Cap

With just one preseason game left tonight against the Anaheim Ducks, the Vancouver Canucks still have several personnel decisions to make about their opening night lineup.

From Jason Botchford (Vancouver Province):

The preseason means nothing. But it’s a lot easier to take when it’s about something.

If not winning games, then winning jobs. If not answering questions, then narrowing them. At the least, you hope for unexpected moments or look for unheralded players. You want to see them force difficult decisions. But not because there’s an abundance of safe, mundane, low-rish play. You want gusto and accomplishment. Reach for the brass ring, and who knows, maybe you’ll grab a second-line winger’s spot. Goodness knows, no one else has.

And when the Canucks finally do make their decisions after tonight, expect the salary cap to have played a major role.

And where do the Canucks stack against the salary cap?

First, a primer:

  • The salary cap for the 2010/2011 season is $59.4 million.
  • A team’s salary cap hit is calculated on a daily basis. This season, there are 186 days in the regular season.
  • That means that each team has a daily cap allowance of $319,354.84 (or $59.4 million divided by 186).
  • Placing a player on LTIR does not give teams more cap space. The LTIR player’s cap hit still counts against the team’s cap; however, teams are given some relief (i.e. exemption) and are allowed to go over the cap by a similar amount when replacing him on the roster.
  • The LTIR exemption cannot be banked – the amount not used on any given day doesn’t carry over for use the next day.

Here are the Canucks’ current cap numbers, including the players who I think, for all intents and purposes, are guaranteed to make the team.

PlayerAnnual Average SalaryDaily Cap Hit
Henrik Sedin$6,100,000.00$32,795.70
Daniel Sedin$6,100,000.00$32,795.70
Mikael Samuelsson$2,500,000.00$13,440.86
Alex Burrows$2,000,000.00$10,752.69
Ryan Kesler$5,000,000.00$26,881.72
Mason Raymond$2,550,000.00$13,709.68
Manny Malhotra$2,500,000.00$13,440.86
Raffi Torres$1,000,000.00$5,376.34
Jannik Hansen$825,000.00$4,435.48
Rick Rypien$550,000.00$2,956.99
Sami Salo$3,500,000.00$18,817.20
Dan Hamhuis$4,500,000.00$24,193.55
Keith Ballard$4,200,000.00$22,580.65
Alex Edler$3,250,000.00$17,473.12
Christian Ehrhoff$3,100,000.00$16,666.67
Kevin Bieksa$3,750,000.00$20,161.29
Shane O'Brien$1,600,000.00$8,602.15
Andrew Alberts$1,050,000.00$5,645.16
Aaron Rome$750,000.00$4,032.26
Roberto Luongo$5,333,333.00$28,673.83
Cory Schneider$900,000.00$4,838.71

As you can see, the Canucks already have $61,148,333.00 ($328,754.48 per day) committed to 10 forwards (including Burrows), 9 defensemen (including Salo) and the goaltenders. Assuming that they want to start the season carrying 13 forwards, 8 defensemen, and Alex Burrows and Sami Salo on LTIR, that means they still have to add 4 forwards.

Here are the players fighting for those 4 forward spots.

PlayerAnnual Average SalaryDaily Cap Hit
Jeff Tambellini$500,000.00$2,688.17
Tanner Glass$625,000.00$3,360.22
Victor Oreskovich$575,000.00$3,091.40
Brendan Morrison*$750,000.00$4,032.26
Peter Schaeffer*$750,000.00$4,032.26
Joel Perrault$510,000.00$2,741.94
Guillame Desbiens$550,000.00$2,956.99
Alex Bolduc$500,000.00$2,688.17
Darcy Hordichuk$775,000.00$4,166.67

The Canucks will get some (temporary) cap relief by placing Burrows and Salo on LTIR. By doing so, they can exceed their daily cap amount by $29,569.89 (Burrows’ $10,752.69 + Salo’s $18,817.20) each day both are on LTIR. This means that, at least to start the season, the Canucks can spend $348,924.73 per day in player salaries.

The good news is, any combination of 4 bubble players won’t push the Canucks past their daily cap allowance. Even assuming Brendan Morrison and/or Peter Schaeffer are willing to sign for close to what Eric Belanger signed for in Phoenix ($750,000) – if either or both make the team – the Canucks can keep everyone on the roster and won’t spend more than $348,924.73 in daily salaries.

What does complicate things, however, is that, unless there are further changes to the roster (i.e. trades), the Canucks will most certainly exceed the daily cap allowance of $319,354.84 before the LTIR exemptions. This is important because if the Canucks want flexibility during the season – whether it’s to replace injured players or adding players at the trade deadline – they need to be under this amount and “save” cap space. The cumulative amount they save every day – i.e. the total amounts under $319,354.84 that they don’t use on any given day – is the amount in cap savings they can spend later in the season.

As an example, if the Canucks want to acquire a $2 million player at the trade deadline, they need to either get rid of a player making a similar amount from their roster, or have accumulated roughly $500,000 in cap savings. The latter requires them to have saved approximately $3,700 per day – i.e. they need to have only spent an average of $315,600 of their daily cap allowance – from the start of the regular season to the trade deadline. If you do the math, the Canucks need to shave about $28,000 in daily salaries from their current roster to get there. And if you look at the numbers, Kevin Bieksa’s and Shane O’Brien’s salaries add up pretty darn close to this amount.

Two points on this:

1) This is exactly why Salo’s injury sucks. While his LTIR status helps the Canucks get temporary cap relief, his salary still counts against the cap. If Salo was healthy, the Canucks could’ve iced a bottom-pairing with one of Salo or Keith Ballard on one side and one of Andrew Alberts or Aaron Rome on the other. What is more likely now – or certainly what may make more sense given their cap situation – is that the bottom pair will have one of O’Brien or Alberts on one side and Rome on the other.

2) Given point no. 1, the bigger decision for the Canucks will be on defense. There may be more roster spots up for grabs up front, but regardless of which forwards end up filling those spots, their cumulative impact on the salary cap is minimal. (In fact, I don’t see any salary cap impediment to signing Morrison to a contract.) If the Canucks want some cap flexibility during the season, the bigger moves to be made are on the back end where the big salaries are.

To put these points into context, it’s worth noting that the Canucks entered the last postseason with O’Brien, Alberts and Rome as their no. 5 to 7 defensemen; with Salo injured to start the season and Bieksa and O’Brien possibly on the trading block, the Canucks could enter this season with Alberts, Rome and Lee Sweatt in those depth positions. (Which then begs the question as to whether or not the Canucks actually have a deeper defense this year.)

Now, it’s possible that Mike Gillis and Laurence Gilman feel comfortable operating over the salary cap and the Canucks don’t end up making any moves before the start of the season other than to send the bubble players to Winnipeg. Certainly, they can keep the depth they have now, though in the process they’ll have to sacrifice some flexibility during the season.

J.J. Guerrero

Founder and Executive Editor of Canucks Hockey Blog. Proud Canadian, hardcore Canucks fan. I would like nothing more than watching the Canucks win the Stanley Cup. Against the Leafs.

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7 Responses

  1. NuckFan says:

    I have been reading that in order to get the LTIR relief both Salo and Burrows need to be on the “opening day roster” and then put on LTIR. How do the Canucks handle that? Briefly expose some players to waivers and hope they don’t get picked up?

  2. I’ve heard that, but I’m not entirely sure that’s true. Section 50.10 of the CBA gives several illustrations for opening day. The one that is relevant in my opinion is this one:

    Illustration #4: The Upper Limit in a League Year is $40.0 million. A Player who has an SPC with an Averaged Amount of $2.0 million becomes unfit to play on the last day of Training Camp, and on the
    same day, his Club exercises the Bona-Fide Long-Term Injury/Illness Exception on such Player. On Opening Day, the Club has an Averaged Club Salary of $41.5 million (excluding Earnable Performance Bonuses up to the full amount of the Performance Bonus Cushion). The Club is deemed to have already fully replaced the unfit-to-play Player with any Player or Players on the Opening Day
    Roster. If these replacements are maintained through the conclusion of the season, the Club’s Averaged Club Salary is $41.5 million, as the Club is permitted to exceed the Upper Limit by $1.5 million because of the Bona-Fide Long-Term Injury/Illness Exception.

    This to me says that they are allowed to place Salo and Burrows on LTIR without having to expose anyone on waivers. The league will just assume that their replacement is already on the roster.

  3. Kel says:

    Nice detailed analysis, but I really don’t think the Canucks would sacrifice a lot of depth to start the season only to save cap space for short term injuries. The team was over the cap to start the season last year because of LTIR to Demitra and M Schneider. I don’t think it will be different this time.

  4. Kel says:

    Nice detailed analysis, but I really don’t think the Canucks would sacrifice a lot of depth to start the season only to save cap space for short term injuries. The team was over the cap to start the season last year because of LTIR to Demitra and M Schneider. I don’t think it will be different this time.

  5. That’s a good point Kel. I remember thinking the same thing last year, but also thinking that the team was “lucky” that there always seemed to be someone on LTIR so they could still make moves.

    I guess my worry this year stems mostly from looking at the defense. We’ve essentially replaced Mitchell and Salo with Hamhuis and Ballard. In terms of durability this is an obvious upgrade. That said, the bottom part looks scary. We’ve waived SOB now and who knows if they’ll keep Bieksa. If they keep Bieksa, then having him as no. 5 is a nice luxury, especially if they can find a way to keep him when Salo comes back. But, if for cap purposes, they have to trade Bieksa, then we’re looking at Alberts, Rome and Sweatt as nos. 5 to 7 and I’m not convinced yet that’s better than where we were last year.

  6. Kel says:

    I share the same concern, JJ, if the Canucks indeed end up not having any upgrade in the bottom pairing of defensemen. I think they’ll keep Bieksa unless one of Alberts, Rome or Sweatt show that they can play better than what they have shown lately. It’s a waste not to use the LTI exemption when your team is close to the cap and one of your regular $3.5M guy (Salo) gets injured.

  7. Kel says:

    To clarify, I meant to say that if the Canucks indeed end up trading away Bieksa and therefore is not able to ice a better D-group overall than last season, I would be concerned as you are. I guess we’ll just wait and see, but it looks like Bieksa is staying for now, until (or unless) Salo becomes healthy enough to play.

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