Shortly after Ron Francis was named GM of the Carolina Hurricanes, I wrote a blog at Hockeybuzz about a “2 year bridge” that Francis would need to cross before he could finally build his own team. The short version of it was that Francis would be incredibly limited for two years because of the volume of $ already committed to contracts through the 2015-16 season. We are now halfway through the “bridge” phase and have also had a couple other developments that impact this situation.
An interesting way to frame it is to look at how much money the Canes have tied up in overpriced/financially bad contracts by year:
Entering 2014-15, the Canes had the following (real $ not salary cap):
Cam Ward – 2 yrs at $6.8M/yr.
Eric Staal – 2 yrs at $9.4M/yr.
Alexander Semin – 3 yrs at $7M/year.
Tuomo Ruutu (retained salary) – 2 yrs at $1M/yr.
John-Michael Liles – 2 yrs at $3.5M/yr.
Total is $27.7M/yr for 5 players on overpriced contracts.
Entering 2015-16, not much changed except that Ward and EStaal’s $/yr actually went up by a small amount because of escalating contracts and Liles price came down a little bit.
But if you look at next summer compared to this summer the results are astounding. The team gets back $22.5M in salary needing to replace or re-sign only 3 players (EStaal, Ward, Liles). Part of the $22.5M savings is Wisniewski’s contract dipping from $5M this year to $3M next year and also Harrison and Ruutu salary retained of $1.4 ending with the bulk being EStaal, Ward and Liles coming off contract.
If Francis could re-sign EStaal for $7M and either re-sign or replace Ward to fill 1 of 2A and 2B slots for goalie for $2.7M and then replace Liles with one of the kids earning about $1M/year, the team is basically the same but with $11.8M/year saved. Even if the owners want to pocket some of that savings, you can see where Ron Francis finally gains some financial flexibility to make some moves to architect a team that is truly his.
Unfortunately, next summer is not great for free agent shopping, but that is for another Daily Cup of Joe some other day.