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Photo Credit: Stephen R. Sylvanie-USA TODAY Sports

Tuesday Tidbits: Salary Cap, Capitals and the Legend of Vegas

The Las Vegas Golden Knights continue to find different ways to win. Their top line has been great all playoffs, but in game one of the Stanley Cup Finals, their fourth line dominated. They didn’t just score the tying goal, the game winner and the empty net insurance goal, they shredded the Capitals on virtually every shift.

Pierre-Edward Bellamare played 11:12 and had a CF-CA of 20-8 and his scoring chances were 11-1.
Tomas Nosek played 11:39 with a CF-CA of 24-9 and scoring chances 14-3.
Ryan Reaves played 9:43 with a CF-CA of 18-8 and scoring chances 9-3.

For good measure, defender Deryk Engelland played 20:46 with a CF-CA of 34-25 and scoring chances 13-9.

Reaves and Engelland have been mocked mercifully by some analytics people for years, but on the biggest stage they were very good. Reaves has a two-game goal scoring streak. Vegas continues to write the most unpredictable script we have seen in NHL history, and it will be almost impossible to match in the future.

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1. Tom Wilson’s hit was late, no question, and it should have been a minor penalty, which he was assessed. The NHL got it right by not going any further. I understand many cringe because it is Wilson, but it wasn’t a headshot, it was simply a late hit.

2. This is the 79th time the Stanley Cup has been decided in a seven-game series. In the previous 78, the winner of game one went 61-17 (78.2%). Can the Capitals buck the trend?

Since the NHL expanded to 21 teams in 1979/1980, we have watched 37 seasons, and ten times we have witnessed a team win game one, but lose the series.

1985 Flyers (lost to Edmonton 4-1)
1986 Flames (lost to Montreal 4-1)
1991 Minnesota North Stars (lost to Pittsburgh 4-2)
1993 LA Kings (lost to Montreal 4-1)
1994 Vancouver Canucks (lost to NYR 4-3)
1999 Buffalo Sabres (lost to Dallas 4-2)
2002 Carolina Hurricanes (lost to Detroit 4-1)
2004 Calgary Flames (lost to Tampa Bay 4-3)
2009 Detroit Red Wings (lost to Pittsburgh 4-3)
2011 Vancouver Canucks (lost to Boston 4-3)

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Detroit and Vancouver (2011) were actually up 2-0, but lost the series, and both were at home to start.

The Flyers, Flames (1986) and Red Wings won game one at home, but then lost the series.

The odds aren’t great for the Capitals, and since the 21-team expansion, teams losing game one have won the series 27% of the time, but it is worth nothing the last two teams to lose a series after winning game one were both up 2-0 in the series. It isn’t over yet, Capitals fans.

3. The NHL confirmed the salary cap will be between $78-82 million yesterday, and most are projecting it to be $80 million, which would be a $5 million increase from this past season. The Oilers shouldn’t have any cap problems even with Connor McDavid’s new deal kicking in. Here is how they look today courtesy of NHL Numbers.

4. The Oilers have nine forwards totaling $37,075 million in Connor McDavid ($12.5m), Leon Draisaitl ($8.5m), Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Milan Lucic ($6m), Zack Kassian ($1.95m), Jesse Puljujarvi (925K) Ty Rattie (800K), Jujhar Khaira (675K) and Pontus Aberg (650K).

They have four D-men compiling $17.833 million in Andrej Sekera ($5.5m), Oscar Klefbom ($4.167m), Adam Larsson ($4.166m) and Kris Russell ($4m).

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And two goalies at $6.66m between Cam Talbot ($4.166) and Mikko Koskinen ($2.5m)

That is 15 skaters at $61.574. We can also add in $1.33 for Benoit Pouliot (buyout), so they sit at $62.9 million. I didn’t include Al Montoya’s salary, because I expect he will be waived to the minors and his $1.06 million cap hit won’t count against the cap, even if he isn’t claimed.

That leaves the Oilers with essentially $17.1 million to fill out eight roster spots, between five forwards and three defenders. Ryan Strome (projected $2.5m), Drake Caggiula ($1.2m), UFA vet winger ($2m), Darnell Nurse ($4.5m, six-year deal), Matt Benning ($1.6m) and UFA RD, Ryan Sproul ($750K). These six total $12.55m, leaving the Oilers five million to fill out two more forward spots. The Oilers shouldn’t be in a major cap crunch, and in fact, they should have a few million in cap space when the season starts, so if they are in playoff hunt at the deadline they could add a player without too much difficulty.

5. I’m sure some of you are wondering who is Sproul. He was the 55th pick in the 2011 draft by the Detroit Red Wings. He has spent the past four seasons in the AHL, while playing 44 games in the NHL. He was traded to the New York Rangers last season, and is a group VI free agent. He turned 25 in January. He is 6’4, 205 pounds and shoots right.

In 275 AHL games, he has produced 34 goals and 120 points. I believe the Oilers #7 defender needs to be a right shot, and while Sproul has yet to prove he is a regular NHLer, I’d take a chance on signing him to a cheap one-year deal. He would be somewhat of a project, and with Trent Yawney’s track record I’d take the gamble. You are signing him to bring some offence, not be an elite defender. I’ve been watching him for the past few years, and I see him as someone with good potential.

6. “He has a huge shot, a huge shot and he skates well. He could be a powerplay specialist with his shot, but he is also a bit of a freelance defender. I see him as a low risk project,” said Craig Button when I asked him about Sproul.

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7. Engelland and Reaves are proving no respected media person or blogger should ever write “not good at hockey” when referring to a player who is in the NHL. All it does it show readers the author is a buffoon. Are those two as skilled as Connor McDavid and other stars? Of course not, but Reaves would still skate circles around 99% of the hockey playing population. Don’t ever forget that. You can dislike a player and their style, but the “bad at hockey” takes are idiotic. Not surprisingly, I haven’t seen those who loved taking the pot shots apologize.

8. Often it is too difficult to answer a question, or statement, on Twitter correctly with the limited word count.

I don’t see how adding a good coaching staff is an indictment on the head coach. When the Pittsburgh Penguins added one of the best scorers in the NHL, Phil Kessel, to their team, was that an indictment on Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin? I don’t think so. The goal is to ice the best team, and in coaching you should strive for having a great staff. A head coach can’t coach by himself, and adding quality coaches should only make, and the team, better. I think the Oilers made three solid hires and I suspect we will see some different approaches in how they attack and defend this season.

9. Reading this reply from Curtis Lazar illustrates why he was so respected by his teammates and those who have played with him in junior and in the NHL. He is one of those players you pull for, hoping he carves out a solid NHL career. If not, I have no doubt he will be successful elsewhere because of his personality, work ethic and how he treats people.

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10. I have seen many NHL media people ripping the NBA because Golden State and Cleveland are in the Finals for a record-breaking fourth consecutive time. Both teams trailed in the conference final 3-2, before winning games six and seven. Even with these two teams going at it for the fourth time, the NBA has had six different champions since 2009, while the NHL has had four.

If the NBA isn’t your thing, that is fine, but I don’t see the need to tear it down and say it is predictable and boring because the same two teams are in it. Golden State could go down as one of the greatest teams ever, and Lebron James is, without question, the greatest of his generation and one of the best of all-time. I’ve enjoyed both playoffs, and the NBA conference Finals were closer than the NHL’s, but I suspect the Stanley Cup Final will be more competitive than the NBA final. The Warriors are stacked.

Both leagues are good, and both have offered some great intrigue this spring.

ULTIMATE SPORTS FAN

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My eighth annual Ultimate Sports Fan package in support of charity is here again. On June 9th and 10th, I am riding in the 190km MS Bike Tour, and I’ve come up with a pretty good package for the diehard sports fan.

Here’s how it works: You make a $125 donation and you get one entry. If you make a $250 donation you get two entries, and so on.

We only take 100 entries and we will raise $12,500 for MS. The draw will be the week of June 5th.

This year’s winner will win the following prizes and more.: The final package is valued at over $6,000.00

  1. The “Oilers experience” at the Oilers home opener in October, which includes tickets, parking, dinner and a behind the scenes tour.
  2. A pair of Edmonton Eskimos season tickets in the lower bowl.
  3. A game used Ryan Nugent-Hopkins stick.
  4. A signed Mike Reilly Eskimos jersey (you pick the size) courtesy of The Sports Closet.
  5. Twenty tickets, and a hot dog and beverage (non-alcoholic), to an Oil Kings home game. Also, you will get an Oil King player of your choice to come to your backyard rink or minor hockey practice for an hour. (Between November 1st and December 15th.)
  6. Ten tickets to the Rugby match Canada v. Scotland on Saturday, June 9th at Commonwealth presented by MB Events.
  7. A signed Matt Barzal jersey
  8. $500 GC at Match Eatery and Public House (either location).

We are already 70% sold out in four days, so if you want a chance to win and help end MS get in the draw today.

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You can make your donation here. (click Donate Now to the right of my picture).

Thank you and good luck.

Recently by Jason Gregor:


  • OriginalPouzar

    Jason,

    How do you figure the Oilers do not have cap problems. Their 23 man roster is at an $80M cap without any material acquisition:

    Cam,

    Are you including the Pouliot buyout and making any cushion for Puljijarvi’s bonuses?

    Are you also replacing the lost UFAs? Slep, Pak, and Cammy were on the roster at the end of the year each for under $1M so they need to be replaced.

    The following isn’t what I want to happen but its to show how limited the cap space is. I believe I was reasonable when resinging the RFAs (Nurse – $4M, Caggulia $1.25M, Strome – $3M Benning – $1.75M) and I replaced the three UFAs with PRV, Brodziak and Marody just as examples of filling out the lineup with players under $1M.

    —————————————

    Nuge ($6M) / McDavid ($12.5M) / Rattie ($800K)

    Khaira ($675K) / Drai ($8.5M) / Puljijarvi ($925K)

    Lucic ($6M) / Strome ($3M) / Aberg ($650K)

    Caggulia ($1.35M) / Brodziak ($950K) / Kassian ($1.95K)

    Magnus ($950K) / Marody ($925K)

    ———————-

    Klefbom ($4.167M) / Larsson ($4.167M
    Nurse ($4M) / Russell ($4M)
    Sekera ($5.5M) / Benning (1.65M)

    Gryba ($900K)

    —————————–
    Talbot ($4.167M)
    Koskinen ($2.5M)

    ———————————
    The above lineup has two outside acquisition, 12th/13th forwards for less than $1M each.

    The cap hit for the 23 man roster (which includes Marody, Rattie) is $77.5M

    That doesn’t account for the Pouliot buyout of $1.33M which will take it to $78.8M.

    It doesn’t take in to account any of Jesse’s bonuses which are maxed at apx. $2.5M so lets give a cushion of $1.25M which essentially takes us to $80M.

    So, we are at $80M without any material acquisition.

    • OriginalPouzar

      Sorry, I’ve now read the rest and we are essentially on the same page about their cap situation and that it may leave a couple million for an improvement.

      That is a cap problem for a team that needs to improve (although I’m one that doesn’t want major moves).

      • Jason Gregor

        It helps to read the article before commenting….:)

        I had them with three forwards signings and a puck moving RD instead of Gryba. I don’t see Oilers making a major move, because most of their improvement will come from within. Signing overpriced UFAs is not way to build a winner. Oilers need to find a few value, short-term UFA contracts.

        They can sign the players they want, Nurse, Benning, Strome and Caggiula and then add, ideally, a veteran RW. I don’t see them being in cap crunch.

    • Kneedroptalbot

      Kassian, and Klefbolm may be trading pieces? That could free up some room. Not sure what they plan to do with Strome?
      Team needs way more speed and Strome isn’t a great skater.

  • ubermiguel

    Watching John Scott at the All-Star game a few years back (a no pressure game if ever there was one) reminded me that even the worst player in the NHL has a lot of skill and is really good at hockey.

    RIP Steve Bluett, your piece on his life was remarkable. I cheer for the Oilers and a select few single players on other teams; Lazar is one of those players.

  • 24% body fat

    so head shot is the only thing the NHL is using to define “intent to injure” this hit had nothing to do with the game, and whether or not it was a head shot or not, we all know what he was trying to accomplish.

    Also am i the only one who thinks it was a blind side.

  • crabman

    Gregor,

    I love the addition of Sproul as the 7th D. And agree the Oilers aren’t going to have too much trouble getting in under the cap. I hope you are right about the Nurse salary estimate but think his camp will be pursuing a $5M+ contract on a longterm deal, although at the moment I don’t think he has earned it and expect a $3.5M×2. I wonder who you would target as a $2M UFA winger? I would like to see Grabner or Vanek in short deals but suspect they will be closer to $3M than $2M, which would still fit under the cap in your scenario.

  • OriginalPouzar

    Sorry Jason, I will disagree with the position that the Oilers aren’t in a cap crunch – we both agree they have apx $2M to improve with an $82M cap.

    Seems like highly limited cap space and is an example of just how egregious the Koskinen contract is (even before Francoz signed for $690K and then won KHL goalie of the year).

    • crabman

      Using Gregor’s numbers in the article;
      Forwards $37.075
      defence $17.833
      goal $6.66
      Pouliot $1.33
      UFA winger $2
      Sproul $750K
      4 RFAs $9.8
      adds up to $75.45M with 2 forwards to sign. No this doesn’t include a bonus cushion for Puljujarvi but it does leave $4.55M for that cushion and 2 bottom roster forwards with an $80M salary cap not an $82M cap.
      Not a lot left over to upgrade the roster but not in cap hell and needing to send out talent to get under the cap.

  • Gravis82

    “The Oilers shouldn’t be in a major cap crunch, and in fact, they should have a few million in cap space when the season starts, so if they are in playoff hunt at the deadline they could add a player without too much difficulty.”

    umm no. this is what happened last year. Spend that money on as many value depth contracts or young players as possible right from the start. The oilers are nowhere near competing for a cup.

    In addition to the players they have here are the players who are a drag on performance and need to be let go and replaced with a better player with the same or less salary
    -Lucic
    -Russel
    -Kassian
    -Cajjuilia

    These players would not be playing in their spot in the lineup with their current salary on a cup contender. So we actually need 12 new skaters, half of the roster.