Fans are becoming more and more interested in the inner workings of the CBA, specifically the salary cap. I know not everyone loves it, but Scott Howson came on my show before the season started for some CBA 101.
Here is the conversation. If you have any other questions you’d like answered email them to me firstname.lastname@example.org and I will try to get you the answer.
Jason Gregor: October 1st is officially day one of the salary cap, and does it work on a day to day basis Scott?
Scott Howson: It does work on a day to day basis. It starts Tuesday October 1st.
The league will have all of the information, they’ll make sure that everyone is compliant with the salary cap because there is no grey area, you can’t be over the salary cap based on how they calculate it. If your roster is offside, then they are going to talk to you. So everyone will be under the 64.3 number starting today with some exceptions, like long term injury and what not.
Gregor:Do you have to be compliant to the $64.3 million every day or how does that work?
Howson: Yes, they watch every move and they are calculating it on a daily basis. It can get really complicated with long term injury, with performance bonus and what not. The Oilers, we are in a really unique position because no one had the number one over all picks that carry the heavy performance bonuses that we have. This year we have [Nail] Yakupov, [Ryan] Nugent-Hopkins, [Justin] Schultz, who is like a number one pick, with these heavy performance bonuses. So we are in a really unique position. They [the NHL] have someone watching the rosters every day, and if you make a move that is going to take you over the cap, then they are not going to allow it.
Gregor: There is now a performance bonus cushion; can you explain how it works?
Howson: Well they give you a cushion and it’s 7.5% of the cap, so it’s almost, not quite $5 million. So the Oilers, because we have almost $9 million in potential performance bonuses, they would give us a cushion of $5 million to go over the cap. The problem with that is that if you do in fact go over the cap and all of these players hit their bonuses, then you get punished next year. That amount that you exceed the $64.3 million will come off of your cap next year. It’s something that we are cognisant of and we are monitoring on a daily basis.
Gregor: Let’s say you went over, by one million, and next year’s cap was $70 million, you guys technically would only be able to spend $69 million because of the $1 million penalty from this season?
Howson: That’s right, and that’s exactly what happened to Chicago. And it’s happened to some teams, not to that extent. I think that Chicago has been the team that has been punished the most; of course they won the cup the year before. But it happened to Chicago and it could happen to anyone. If you go over the cap, you’re going to get punished next year.
Gregor: So you said you won’t have anyone on LTIR (Long term injury reserve). What’s the benefit of putting a player on LTIR and how does it count against you cap wise?
Howson: Well it’s a complicated procedure, but the benefit is that if we were at the cap, which we are not, we are going to start $1.2 or $1.3 million under the cap, if the roster stays as it is, as I expect it will, but if you are at the cap and we put Sam Gagner on then we would get his salary relief for as long as he was on LTI. So you could bring in another player and if you think about it, it makes sense. If you have a player that’s out long term you should be able to replace him even if you are at the cap. So you could use the money that you would save where you would otherwise pay Sam in cap dollars and bring in another player.
It’s a complicated procedure, it’s a very strategic procedure that you could pick, but because we are not at the cap yet, we don’t need to do it. If we have another run of injuries and we have to start recalling players and we get close to the cap, then it’s something that we can do retroactively and it’s something that we can consider at that point but hopefully we don’t have to go there.
Gregor: Today (Monday) you had 21 healthy players on the ice, Denis Grebeshkov was skating afterwards. Do you expect to have 21 healthy guys on the roster, and the rest of the players on IR to start the season? How does that work?
Howson: You have to declare it. We’ll start with 22 active players, Grebeshkov will not be on IR. We could put him on if we wanted to but we don’t need to because we are well under the 23 man limit. We’ll start with Nugent-Hopkins, [Corey] Potter, Gagner, and [Steve] MacIntyre on either injured reserve or injured non roster which is another technicality which just means that they didn’t pass their physical in training camp or they were a minor league player basically last year and they got hurt during camp which is what happened to Steve MacIntyre. But for all intents and purposes we will have 4 players on the injured list tomorrow and 22 active players.
Gregor: Did Corey Potter fail his medical and if he is put on the unable to perform IR, does it count differently against the cap at all?
Howson: No, I thought he had failed his physical too, but he did not, he passed his physical but even if he had failed his money would count, he was an NHL player all of last year even though he was on injured reserve.
Gregor: Has the new CBA made it more difficult with the changes to the LTIR and the bonus structure for the players, or has it made it easier from your vantage point?
Howson: No it really hasn’t affected too much. The biggest change now that you have, I think, which doesn’t factor into Ricky Olczyk’s or my job much, but now you can’t bury players in the minors. So in the old system once Wade Reddon was down, he was never going to be called up again because someone would take him for half of the money and half of his contract would stay on the Rangers cap for the length of the contract. So he was sitting there in year three of his six year deal or whatever it was, he was never going to get called back up.
They’ve gotten rid of that re-entry waivers now so a player like Philip Larsen who has been assigned to Oklahoma City he’s on a one-way deal, so now that he’s cleared waivers, he can come back now without re-entry waivers.
The new system now dictates that the first $925,000 from any deal is exempt from being counted on the cap and the rest of it counts. In the case of Philip Larsen who makes $1,025,000, we count $100, 000 of his salary against the cap. Ryan Jones is down in OKC, he makes $1.5 million, and we count $575, 000 of his $1.5 million on the cap. So we’ve got $625,000 from players not here counting against the cap.
Gregor: The CBA is spread out over 187 days. Do you and Rick Olczyk sit down on a daily basis and calculate this, do you guys just have a formula that spits it out to you guys every morning that says you have this much in cap space?
Howson: We’re calculating it daily, we do have someone that sends us a daily update of where we stand but we are doing it ourselves too. Ricky is doing it every day, probably every minute. Every time that there is a call-up he is looking at it and making sure that we’re OK because you really have to plan for the future here. You can’t put yourself into a box where you’re not going to be able to make moves, or at least you try not to. Sometimes as we’ve seen in the past some teams have had to ice rosters that were under the 20 player limit because they couldn’t bring anybody up.
So you never want to get there but sometimes you run into the string of injuries, and we’ve run into them here in pre-season, and we’re hoping that they’re going to stop, but sometimes you can’t control that.
Gregor: If you were to run into anymore serious injuries, would you look for relief on the LTIR?
Howson: Probably, yes.
WHO IS GADZIC
Gregor: What was your scouting report on Luke Gadzic?
Howson: He’s a young emerging player, he’s put in his time; he spent 3 years in the Dallas system. He’s big, he’s 6’3, 6’4”, he’s well over 200lbs, we think that he moves well enough to play at the NHL level and I think that that is probably the biggest question mark on him.
But our scouting staff and particularity our AHL staff with Todd Nelson, Rocky Thompson, Bill Scott, Gerry Fleming were very strong on him, they’ve played him a lot because they play Texas a lot which is the Dallas Star’s farm team. We were going over all of the names all summer and in sitting down and talking to them they said that we should really take a look at Luke and we did. We did during the pre-season, we looked at some film on him, and we decided that this is a player that we had some interest in him. When he went on [waivers] we of course made the claim.
Gregor: You’ve been covering the league for a long time, analyzing players, scouting them, how do you feel that Taylor Hall has done with the transition to centre?
Howson: I’m really optimistic and pleased with what he’s done. I was one of the more sceptical ones during the summer. I’ve seen too many players try to do this, and it’s a really, really difficult transition. I think that he’s made it very, very well and I’m sure that there are still some bumps in the road here but especially with Sam going down and out our 2 top centres, I don’t know where we’d be if he hadn’t done this so well and he’s really picked up on what he needs to do and I think that the transition has been better than I had expected and certainly than what could have been expected.
PARTING SHOTS…RETURN OF THE NUGE
- Ryan Nugent-Hopkins took part in contact drills today, and it looks very likely that he could return next Thursday vs. the Habs. There is a slim chance we’ll see him sooner, but unless he suffers a setback, I think we will see him no later than next Thursday. His return will be a huge boost for the Oilers.
- When RNH returns, Eakins as two options: slot him in for Marc Arcobello, or keep move Hall to the wing and slide Ryan Smyth down to the 4th line. Strength down the middle is more important for me, so I’d move him in for Arcobello.
- Henrik Sedin will play his 630th consecutive game tonight, tying him for 6th all-time with Andy Hebenton. Contrast that to the Oilers, they don’t have one player who played all 130 games the past two seasons in Edmonton. (N.Schultz did play 130, but the first 62 were with Minnesota). Having your best player in the lineup every game is a huge advantage, and if the Oilers could ever dress RNH or Hall every game we’d have a much better idea of how good this team might be.
- Jay Bouwmeester is the active leader in consecutive games played, 637, which puts him 5th all-time. He plays over 25 minutes a night. That is incredible. The Oilers would be ecstatic if they could find a guy who is an automatic in their top defence pairing.
1. Doug Jarvis…964
2. Garry Unger…914
3. Steve Larmer…884
4. Craig Ramsey.. 776
5. Bouwmeester… 637
- Patrick Roy is emotional and his players will like playing for him, but he needs to stop yelling at opposing players. Coaches coach, they don’t play and he’ll need to learn that. Nothing worse than a coach yelling at the other team.