Sunday, December 21, 2008

NHL Salary Cap Issues For the Penguins?

Dave Molinari has an interesting little piece in the Post-Gazette today about the NHL Salary Cap and how the recession could end up dragging it downward. As he mentions, the person this most affects right now is none other than Mr. Jordan Staal, with whom the Penguins are continually negotiating an extension that would likely have to end up in the 3-4 million dollar per year range.

As Molinari puts it, it's unlikely that next year's cap will be affected too much by this. And while that certainly is true that the cap certainly won't go down, with potential hardship on the horizon, I find it hard to believe it will go up much, either. The cap is currently 56.7 million, and in my mind, I have trouble seeing it go much beyond 58 million or so next season, a relatively small increase given the jump this past offseason.

However, even though the NHLPA is basically on life support at this point after Gary Bettman broke them in half, I'd be more than a little surprised if the NHL's power was so vast over the union that they could bring the cap downward. I'd guess it'd be more likely to remain stable at 58 million for the following season (2010-11) instead of going down.

But even if that's the case, I don't see the Pens having any more or less difficulty handling the cap than most other teams. Granted, they may have more long-term deals than most, but most of these deals seem wildly favorable (Sid and Geno for anything less than the league max is a bargain, Talbot and TK have small deals, and Fleury's is very reasonable if he continues to mature). The one deal that probably isn't too favorable of course belongs to one Ryan Whitney. While everyone (myself included) is wildly excited to see the return of Whitters next Tuesday, his deal is a little unwieldy, and I fully expect that, given the emergence of Kris Letang and Alex Goligoski this season, this will be the final season we see Whitney in a Pens uniform. If he comes back and plays well, that deal suddenly becomes a bargain for many teams in need of a top-flight defender who can contribute offensively. For the Pens, those kind of defenders seem to grow on trees, which leads to me think that if the Pens can ink Staal this summer (and I think they will as too many teams will be afraid of the same coming doom that Molinari forecasts) to make an overly aggressive pitch for Jordan, then a Whitney trade will be the accompanying move with that deal. Of course, all this also means that the Pens will continue to have to shop at the bargain bin for some of their complementary pieces, but I think that just seems to be the way of the New NHL, and it's worked out well so far for us, so I see no reason to fret just yet.

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