In this post I will evaluate this trade from the perspective of a New York Rangers fan. I plan to evaluate the following aspects of this trade:
Statistics-based performance review
Statistics-based usage review
Brief “eye test” statements
Contract, cap, and asset considerations
1. Statistics-Based Performance Review
Unless noted otherwise, all of the charts to follow were constructed using 2014-16 data for 5v5 situations with zone-, score-, and venue adjustments where applicable. The data has been sourced from Corsica. I will frequently use stats that say “/60”, which means the stat is adjusted to “per 60 minutes of time on ice.” This addresses any difference in time on ice by these players.
Here are some basic player data just to set the stage:
J.T. Miller became the first of four arbitration-bound New York Rangers to ink a deal. On July 13th, he signed a 2-yr, $2.75m AAV contract, leaving him just one year shy of UFA status. Many have proclaimed this contract is a steal for the Rangers, but I think it is right on point. I also believe it will provide a benchmark for many of the other players lined up for arbitration right now. Thus, I have used Miller’s contract to develop a simple cap hit prediction model for those other players.
Above, in the featured image, you can see what I believe is an accurate set of data about teams with cap advantage currently on their books. All of the points represent the level of cap advantage currently accrued by the off season of any given year. For example, the Chicago Blackhawks have $31.6m in cap advantage on their books at the time of the 2016 off season. This number will be true until the first day of the season (Oct. 12), when the AAV and salary numbers stick ticking up for the 2016-17 season. I have tried graphing the correct day-to-day changes of the contracts, but it just comes out overly complicated. It’s only really important when either trades or contract terminations occur mid-season; that makes up only about 25% of events that affect cap advantage accrual to date.
If there is a problem (or praise) you’d like to share with me about this different service I am trying out, please contact me at @Chris_Beardy on Twitter, by comment below, or even on Reddit at /u/ChocolateAlmondFudge.
Yesterday I introduced Part 4 of my series on the Cap Advantage Recapture Penalty (CARP), detailing a way the League could help the Predators out of their Shea Weber cap advantage situation using available cap space in previous seasons. Today I will provide a more simple and perhaps more likely solution to the Predators’ possible future woes.
(Just a quick note, my first, second, and third posts on this topic can be found at the links provided. I highly suggest giving them a read if you need some background info on what the CARP is and how it works.)
The Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA), which introduced the CARP has a rather straightforward passage that might be interpreted to help the Predators:
Section 50.5(d)(ii)(B)(2):Notwithstanding the provisions of Sections 50.5(d)(ii)(A) and (B), in the event that any such Long-Term Contract is Assigned during its term, each Club for which the Player plays under the terms of that Long-Term Contract shall be subject to being charged with any and all “Cap Advantage Recapture” amounts it receives pursuant to that Long-Term Contract, provided, however, that if a Club Traded a Long-Term Contract prior to the execution of this Agreement (including any binding Memorandum of Understanding) under which it gained a “cap advantage,” the “Cap Advantage Recapture” shall not apply to that Club for that Long-Term Contract. For purposes of clarity, the Club to whom such Long-Term Contract was Assigned after the execution of this Agreement (including any binding Memorandum of Understanding) shall be subject to the Cap Advantage Recapture (if any).
[emphasis in the original text]
To put it more simply: Contracts that could incur a CARP that were acquired by trade prior to the signing of the 2013 CBA will not accrue cap advantage against the recipient team.
One thing I’ve grown to appreciate is the ability of teams to find loopholes in the current Collective Bargaining Agreement. It’s fun to see how teams find a way to give themselves an upper hand over other teams (at least, until the other teams follow suit). Just now, while perusing the CBA, I came across a piece of text that could have easily been a loophole had the NHL not been more careful:
Section 50.5(h)(ii): A Club shall be permitted to have an Averaged Club Salary in excess of the Upper Limit resulting from Performance Bonuses […] provided that under no circumstances may a Club’s Averaged Club Salary so exceed the Upper Limit by an amount greater than the result of seven-and-one-half (7.5) percent multiplied by the Upper Limit (the “Performance Bonus Cushion”).
The key here is that the Performance Bonus Cushion is an allowed exceedance over the Upper Limit (more popularly known as the cap ceiling or salary cap). It does not actually change the Upper Limit. This is also the case for the Bona Fide Long-Term Injury/Illness Reserve, typically referred to as the LTIR. It is described in detail in Section 50.10(d) of the CBA:
Section 50.10(d): […] the [LTIR] replacement Player Salary and Bonuses of such additional Player(s) may increase the Club’s Averaged Club Salary to an amount up to and exceeding the Upper Limit, solely as, and to the extent and for the duration, set forth below […]
Just like the Performance Bonus Cushion, the LTIR allows teams to exceed the Upper Limit, but does not actually change the Upper Limit for that team. So why is this a big deal?
Well, let’s make up a scenario where a team can expect to have a significant amount of performance bonuses to pay out for a specific year. Let’s say that in the near future, bionic technology is mastered and Wayne Gretzky and Bobby Orr are both implanted with cyborg technology, allowing them to play at a level beyond their peaks during their dominant careers. They’re both 35+ and thus can qualify for performance bonuses of up to a maximum of $2.85m each. At $5.7m total in bonuses, you’re already at 7.8% of the 2016-17 Upper Limit of $73.0m. So what could you do? Well, if the LTIR actually changed your team’s Upper Limit then you could maneuver a player or two onto the LTIR to create $3.0m worth of cap relief. This would up your Upper Limit to $76.0m and increase your maximum allowed Performance Bonus Cushion up to exactly $5.7m.
More realistically, we see a team that has an Aaron Ekblad type of player on an Entry Level Contract (ELC) as well as a Jaromir Jagr level talent on a 35+ Standard Player Contract (SPC). And in addition, you have other lesser players on ELCs and 35+ SPCs that reach only a fraction of their potential Performance Bonuses. For example, Michal Roszival got $200k for reaching his games played threshold in 2015-16 with the Blackhawks while Teravainen made $850k for reaching various bonus milestones that same year. Panarin earned the maximum of $2.85m for the bonuses he earned. So the need for additional Performance Bonus Cushion wouldn’t be too far-fetched in my opinion.
Fortunately, this loophole is addressed with the nature of the CBA. These two mechanisms seem to have been carefully constructed to avoid this sort of shenanigans. (In addition, the Performance Bonus Cushion overage ends up rolling over to the next year’s salary cap so my hypothetical situation would have repercussions.) However, there are many incredibly smart individuals out there now working on ways to break the system for their own benefit and it will be very exciting to see how they do it.