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From the Press Box: Cap-Driven Decisions

Paul Bruno

Paul Bruno is co-host of the RotoWire fantasy hockey podcast, The Great Ones. He has been an accredited member of the Toronto sports media for more than 20 years. Paul also helps with RW's DFS podcast and is a contributing writer for RW NFL, MLB and CFL content. Follow him on twitter: @statsman22.


It's a quiet time in the offseason, so we can recap some of the moves that we think will be the bigger impacts of the upcoming season. As a part of this analysis, some salary cap aspects will also be made clearer.

Philadelphia trading Scott Hartnell to Columbus for R.J. Umberger

This was a cap-relief situation where the Flyers shed the last five years of Hartnell's deal ($4.75M/year) and assumed the remaining three years of Umberger's pact ($4.6).

Even with this deal, the Flyers are over the salary cap by just over $3M dollars. They will get back under when the remaining years of Chris Pronger's pact ($4.9M) for each of the next three years come of the books, due his forced retirement due to injury. This brings up an interesting point about the salary cap. The Flyers have been able to receive this cap relief by placing Pronger on the LTIR (long term injury list) at the beginning of each season. He is eligible for this exception because he signed the deal prior to 35 years of age.

If he would retire officially, the Flyers would not have that relief and his full salary would count against the cap. He would also forfeit the ability to receive the rest of his contracted compensation, so while he won't play again, he will formally retire in three years (nice loophole, huh?).

The Bruins have had a quiet offseason

Boston's Marc Savard is in the same boat. So, while it looks like the Bruins are currently $809K over the cap limit, they will also get some cap relief when the three remaining years of Marc Savard's contract ($4.027M) come off the books prior to each of the next three seasons.

They still have to resign Reilly Smith (20 goals, 51 points) and Torey Krug (14 goals, 40 points). Those were important contributions last year and it looks like the B's will need to move some other salaries to accommodate them. Furthermore, it is worth noting that Boston will likely lose any cap flexibility that might allow them to be in talks at the trade deadline. That's how they were able to scoop up a player like Jarome Iginla a couple of years ago. It's also a bit ironic that they could not compete for Iginla's services this offseason. Instead, the veteran power forward was scooped up by Colorado for three years (annual hit of $5.33M) after producing 30 goals and 61 points last year.

Speaking of the Avalanche

Colorado went into the offseason knowing that they were going to lose of their top centers. Paul Stastny went into the offseason as the most attractive UFAs and it was long speculated that the Avalanche were not going to be able to afford the luxury of retaining his services. That's because they already had Matt Duchene and Nathan MacKinnon locked up as two scoring centers. In addition, they had to resign Ryan O'Reilly as a pending restricted free agent. Their final decision was to extend a two-year deal to O'Reilly (for an annual $6M cap hit). They also added Daniel Briere to the fold (one year at $4M) as something of an insurance policy.

More Headlines in St. Louis

The Blues moved some pieces around and still look like a major contender for the upcoming season. They did acquire Stastny to beef up a deep offense and he should provide an excellent 1-2 punch with Alex Steen. They also made a two-year commitment to Finnish import Jori Lehtera to add another talented forward to this deep group.

In a bit of a surprise they did not re-sign goalie Ryan Miller, even though he looked to be an excellent fit as the top backstop here. The fact that the Blues made a quick exit in the first round of the playoffs and Miller's well-known desire to play on the West Coast made this an easier split for the Blues to reconcile. In looking back earlier in the year, they may not have dealt Jaroslav Halak to the islanders. In the end they made a three- year commitment (cap hit of $2.5M) to Brian Elliott, who looks like the clear number one goalie after playing for a share of that role in each of the last three years.

The Blues other key offseason move was to flip tough defender Roman Polak to the Maple Leafs in exchange for Carl Gunnarsson, who despite some decent all-around skills was miscast as a top-pairing defenseman in Toronto. He will settle into a more appropriate depth defenseman role here, yet he does have the skills to mesh with the skilled depth on this entire roster.

The Leafs make news on and off the ice

For a team that has extended a 47-year Stanley Cup drought, the Leafs still remain a team that forces the hockey world to notice them all year around. The first stage of this newsreel began with the introduction of Hall of Famer, Brendan Shanahan as the new team president. He spoke of a new vision and commitment, but the most hopeful aspect of his resume is the fact that he was a winner as a player and became a respected member of the NHL Executive once his playing days ended.

On the ice, it looks like the Leafs are going to retain some cap flexibility because they did not leap aggressively into the free agent pool. Instead, they chose to address the lack of depth and experience on defense, by adding veterans Roman Polak (St. Louis) and Stephane Robidas (Dallas). Up front, the club did not employ a fourth line that could play regular minutes last year, instead opting to dress the likes of Colton Orr and Fraser McLaren, who skated less than five minutes per game, when they dressed at all. This offseason, the Leafs added the likes of Mike Santorelli, Petri Kontiola, Leo Komarov and David Booth, who are all expected to contribute to a four-line attack that will relieve the scoring pressure on the club's top guns.

Dallas joins the Western Arms race

The Stars made a big trade last year to acquire Tyler Sequin as their number one center, looking at the former first round pick of the Bruins (2010) to be a lynchpin of their offense. This offseason they went out and added Jason Spezza in a trade with the Ottawa Senators. Clearly, they realized that the outstanding depth of the Western Conference necessitated these moves and they look better prepared to fight their peers as a result. Give GM Jim Nill credit for pulling the trigger on these deals, when it has long been suggested that you can't trade for depth down the middle. He's gone out and done it.

These are just some of the big movers in this offseason and the savvy fantasy pool player needs to be fluent with all of them. There will some more roster-juggling before teams enter their training camps. We will keep an eye on them and other stories, so please keep an eye out for this column, in the coming weeks.