Interesting To Watch Burke Towards 2010/11

If you haven’t already read it, get ready, it’s going to be everywhere. You will hear that the NHL salary cap will not go down next season, as for the season after, all bets are off. Remember that the Cap is based on the previous years’ hockey revenue. Given that much of the hockey type revenues for this year are already accounted for, next year’s cap is pretty safe. Next year when sponsorships are expected to shrink, along with ticket sales and luxury suites, the size of the pie to split up for the following season (2010/11) is going to shrink dramatically. So while Cliff did a nice job hacking and cutting the payroll and salary commitments for both now and tomorrow, the pressure is really going to be on Burke to act accordingly so that his team isn’t prevented from doing the things he wants at the time this franchise should be righted. In simple terms, you don’t Burke’s hands to be tied be salaries and contracts that aren’t movable nor desirable internally. Assuming Sundin signs elsewhere this season, we could be looking at multiple seasons where the Buds are significantly below the ceiling. Also Burke’s ability to pedal players this year and next off-season could be dramatically hindered by the almight dollar and teams’ need for cap precious cap space.

Going into 2010-2011, as the leafs sit right now , they are in pretty good shape. 5 committed contracts carrying a cap hit in total of $18,725,000. Jason Blake($4,000,000) and Niklas Hagman($3,000,000) are the only 2 forwards with contracts in that season. On the blueline, Tomas Kaberle($4,250,000), Jeff Finger($3,500,000) and Luke Schenn(2,975,000) are the only players with contracts. The Buds will still be on the hook for Darcy Tuker’s salary at the time, taking a cap hit of $1,000,000. Of all those players (Tucker excluded) I am only comfortable that Schenn will still be here. Hagman’s no trade clause expires after this year and there is no guarantee that come next deadline he couldn’t be a valuable trading asset. Despite a few good games, I am not convinced that Jason Blake will be here by then. Be it the minor’s or re-callable waivers, I am comfortable that he won’t be here. On D, I don’t have to get into Tomas Kaberle as his story has been well documented this past week. The jury is out on Finger. I wouldn’t be stunned if her was still around in 10/11, nor would I be stunned if he were elsewhere.

So, as the NBA sits back and waits on 2010 does the NHL too? How much does this effect what Burke wants to do. At some point down the road, Mats Sundin needs to be replaced. A franchise player is going to have to be acquired. Ideally this will happen in the draft. More likely, this player will come via trade/free agency. As the calendar progresses from year to year the age limits on free agency seems to get lower and lower, which should have resulted in more and more free agents. Instead, thankfully, I think for the leafs, teams have been locking up their younger players to long term deals at big money. How is that to the Leafs advantage? Well, if the cap goes down, teams are going to have to look to trim payroll. The value of cap space at that time will be at an all time premium. The less payroll a team has tied up, the more flexibility they will have. It really is that simple.

Tampa Bay, for example has 34,502,273 already tied up in salary in that year in 9 guys. The New York Ranger’s have 34,782,143 tied up in 7 guys…ouch! The Ottawa Senators have 30,526,496 tied up in 7 players and 1 buyout (emerson). The Flyers have 42,145,833 tied up in 10 guys. Burke is in good shape compared to some of his compadres. Does this guarantee success? Of course not. What it should mean is that if Burke is smart at the time he wants to add those extra pieces to get to or over the top, the could very well be pretty affordable.

These are interesting times indeed. I am interested to see how this plays out. I doubt that the Jeff Finger’s of the world will realize the huge dollars that they saw this past summer when free agency opens up this summer. That is not to say there won’t be a lot of movement. I think the top guys will get their money. Maybe not at the pace as in years past, but the big dogs will eat.

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