Ryan Malone’s a player I’ve liked for a while, although I was opposed to the Oilers chasing him last summer because I thought he would be overpaid, both in actual dollars and in term. Turns out that the Tampa Bay Lightning wanted to take a chance, and now Malone has six more years at a 4.5MM dollar cap hit.
But this is where things get interesting. There’s a big difference between cap hit and actual salary – and Malone’s contract is front-loaded, meaning that for the next two seasons he’s going to be paid 6-million actual dollars.
For a cap team (like the Oilers) salary doesn’t really matter; it’s the cap hit that is essential. For the Lightning, though, actual salary matters a great deal. They’re actively looking for new investors, and the ownership group has a 130MM dollar debt load – requiring payments in the neighborhood of ten million dollars each year. They’re expected to play next season with a budget in the 43-45 million dollar range; a budget which already has 39-million dollars committed to players signed for next season. With the remaining money, the Lightning need to sign or re-sign at least three defensemen a couple of forwards, and give Karri Ramo a new contract.
Which takes us to the Oilers. The salary being front-loaded shouldn’t be a concern for Mr. Katz, but the cap space would seem to be a problem – unless Dustin Penner were going the other way. Penner’s contract isn’t front-loaded, meaning that his 4.25 MM cap hit is exactly the same as his 4.25 MM annual salary.
There isn’t a ton of difference between the two players in size or in offensive production. They even play similar roles on the powerplay, so it isn’t like the Lightning would be making a huge downgrade in those areas. And for the Oilers, for 250,000 in cap space and 1.75MM in actual dollars, they’d see a big upgrade in the nastiness and physical combativeness present in their top-six forwards.
This seems like a proposal that would work for both teams – which probably means I’m missing something big. Thoughts?