Today’s Daily Cup of Joe offers an eclectic mix of thoughts on a couple salary things.
More so than any other single thing, how Andrei Svechnikov performs on the score sheet will play a role in the Hurricanes near-term roster situation. After spending pretty much the entirety of the franchise’s existence in North Carolina without having the worry about the salary cap, the Hurricanes are now a cap team. Suddenly being able to keep current players or sign new ones is not about luring them or getting approval internally. Instead it is about making the salary cap math work.
Next summer figures to be a challenging one in that regard. Andrei Svechnkov and Dougie Hamilton are both up for new contracts. Hamilton, if the Hurricanes re-sign him, is not as big of a challenge year over year because his current salary is $5.75 million. Even a reasonable raise will only increase his cost by a few million. But Svechnikov is coming off his entry-level contract making only $925,000 per year plus bonuses. The range on what he could make for his next contract is quite wide. If he slows a bit and takes only a modest step upward, his salary could possibly land in a $6-7 million range per year. If instead, he continues on his current pace and finishes among the NHL leaders something in the neighborhood of $10 million per year. A swing of up to $4 million per year is significant and will play a role in whether the Hurricanes can/choose to re-sign players like Martinook, McGinn or Dzingel, what the options are for a backup goalie and even possibly whether Hamilton returns.
In addition, the potential exists for Svechnikov to earn Svechnikov figures to earn $800,000 plus of Schedule A bonuses. If Svechnikov blows the doors off and plays his way up into upper echelon of the NHL, he could earn in the neighborhood of $2 million more bonuses. If the Hurricanes do not have cap space to pay those bonuses in 2020-21, the salary cap hit would roll into 2021-22 and create even further strain on the budget.
A strange upshot of all of this is that the team has a significant incentive to tamp down Svechnikov’s 2020-21 performance. In terms of how the team is managed, I doubt it matters. Rod Brind’Amour, who makes ice time, line and special teams decisions that could affect Svechnikov’s production, is singularly focused on winning hockey games. But very clearly the sweet spot for the Hurricanes in terms of building the best team possible going forward would be for the Hurricanes to have success but for Svechnikov to have somewhat modest season scoring-wise.
The payoff of NHL ice time for fringe AHL/NHL players
With the Canes recent COVID issues, the taxi squad has been put to use which gets players like Max McCormick and Sheldon Rempal a couple games at the NHL level. That might not seem significant, but for a player who has not already made millons as an NHLer and might never do so, the financial impact is significant. CapFriendly estimates that 25-year old Sheldon Rempal has earned $465,631 thus far in his professional career. In a line of work that ends in a players early 30s or even sooner, players like Rempal are very much trying to earn a living and ideally some savings for post-hockey adjustment. With a per game difference in salary of about $7,300 every game is significant financially. A week (three games) at the NHL is worth $21,900. So though I obviously never want to see a Hurricanes player get injured, I do root for AHL level players to collect a few games and a higher paycheck for doing so.
On the topic of the Hurricanes salary cap challenges going forward, Nedeljkovic could be a key part of making it all work for 2021-22 and beyond. If the Hurricanes do need to cut salary for 2021-22 and beyond one obvious possibility is the goalie position. For 2020-21 the salary cap hit for the position is $6.5 million split about evenly between Mrazek and Reimer. If the Hurricanes begrudgingly parted ways with Reimer and made Nedeljkovic the backup, around $2.6 million would be saved (dependent on Nedeljkovic’s next contract). Just like the range on Svechnikov’s possible salary, that amount is significant and could play a key roll in building the roster for 2021-22 and beyond.
What say you Canes fans?
1) Is anyone else hoping that Andrei Svechnikov continues to score in 2020-21 but not so much so2 that his next contract price goes through the roof?
2) Assuming he does not raise significant doubt with poor play in 2020-21, is Alex Nedeljkovic destined to be the Hurricanes backup goalie in 2021-22 partly out of salary cap necessity?
3) Has anyone ever thought how significant a couple games in the NHL can be for career AHL/fringe AHL players? A random break here or there could be worth $10,000s.