The mathematics of the NHL salary cap is worthy of scientific study. Of course, compared to the NBA, where all sorts of “mid-level exceptions” fall on the uninitiated, it is quite simple – but still it takes a long time to figure it out. It’s not just that the NHL clubs keep special assistants to the general manager who are responsible for competent manipulations with the payment.

The main financial feature of the NHL is a hard salary cap. No luxury taxes like in the NBA or baseball, no unlimited frenzy like in European football. Therefore, bad contracts have to either be redeemed, which hits the payment, or thrown off to other teams with a surcharge.



Throw Bobrovsky or Provorov?  Which NHL clubs have problems with the salary cap
Throw Bobrovsky or Provorov? Which NHL clubs have problems with the salary cap

Everything cannot be foreseen – and some players end their careers prematurely due to injuries, but go to the long-term injured reserve. Some degrade earlier than expected – and they have to be bought out.

Such “dead” money takes a total of $ 101 million in payments from 32 NHL teams. But they fall into two categories. Player contracts in LTIR do not hit the ceiling much, they are even used to legally exceed it – as Tampa did a year ago. But the fines for the redemption of contracts, as well as the amount of withholding salaries, can no longer be bypassed – they limit ceiling maneuvers.

Let’s start with the injured. Now there are enough such players in the NHL lists, but most of them – the same Niklas Beckström or Tom Wilson – will return, if not with the start of the season, then in its course. And there are players who have already de facto completed their careers – but their contracts have not ended.

Contracts for players in LTIR
Shea Weber Vegas $7.85 million
Brent Seabrook “Tampa Bay” $6.875 million
Mike Smith and Oscar Clefbom “Edmonton” $6.37 million
Brian Little “Arizona” $5.29 million
Jonathan Bernier “New Jersey” $ 4.125 million
Michael Ferland “Vancouver” $3.5 million

It is significant that the three owners of the most difficult contracts are now listed not for the clubs that signed contracts with them. If “Tampa” and “Vegas” traded stellar injuries in order to legally be able to exceed the ceiling, then “Arizona”, financially tormented, is not the first time taking the contract to step over the floor. Prior to this, Pronger and Gossa “finished” in the desert in this way. At the same time, salary payments to such players are usually made by insurance companies, and not by the club itself.

Brent Seabrook

Brent Seabrook

Photo: Timothy Hiatt/WireImage

It is not known about all players that they will definitely end their careers – but indirect factors speak about this. For example, New Jersey traded Vanechek and already agreed with him on a solid contract: Jonathan Bernier underwent hip surgery, and it’s not a fact that he will return. Enforcer Michael Ferland did not announce the end, but his career was destroyed by numerous concussions.

And now let’s look at that dead space in the payment, which the clubs can no longer throw off or exchange. In addition to buybacks, this includes the tails of players with one-way contracts who play in the farm, as well as relatively rare penalties for cheating contracts. So, who makes their situation the most difficult?

“Dead” cap-hit of NHL clubs
“Minnesota” $12.7 million “Vancouver” $2.4 million
“Chicago” $6.78 million “Dallas” $2.2 million
“Florida” $6.58 million “Nashville” $2 million
“San Jose” $5.15 million “Los Angeles” $1.97 million
“Ottawa” $5.12 million “Pittsburgh” $1.92 million
“Edmonton” $4.2 million “Arizona” $0.99 million
“Detroit” $4.18 million “Montreal” $0.83 million
“Anaheim” $3.62 million “Buffapo” $0.8 million
Rangers $3.42 million “Columbus” $0.44 million
“New Jersey” $2.45 million Islanders $0.25 million

The unrivaled champion here is, of course, Minnesota. When the Savages’ previous management signed huge deals with Ryan Suter and Zach Parise in the summer of 2012, they probably counted on at least one cup final. In reality, Minnesota only went through the second round twice – and a year ago two super-veterans were bought out. The current amounts are not the most critical yet, because the next two seasons, fines under the ceiling will amount to $ 14 million.

And here, Minnesota GM Bill Guerin may be doing space drafts and trades, but the prospects for anything good in the coming years are dead. Was there really no way to exchange them? In 2020, insiders reported that Parise almost moved to the Islanders – Andrew Ladd and the first-round pick would have left back. Ladd, of course, is also not a gift for payment, but his contract was corny shorter. The exchange allegedly fell through due to the fact that Minnesota would have given away Mikko Koiv, but he refused to lift the ban on the exchange.

Ryan Suter and Zach Parise

Ryan Suter and Zach Parise

Photo: Jerry Holt/Star Tribune via Getty Images

Everything is more complicated with Suter – insiders reported that an experienced defender poisoned the atmosphere in the locker room, but it’s hard to figure out if this was a deliberate drain from the club. However, Suter could at least have been traded with a hold – even now he plays 23 minutes per game in Dallas. As a result, the “Savages” actually stated that during Kaprizov’s contract they would not have the opportunity to build a strong team.

But Chicago, which has gone into restructuring, will not be affected by a large fine. The Hawks received $5.5 million for Duncan Keith ending his career a year before the end of his contract. The 12-year contract was signed under the terms of the old collective agreement to bypass the ceiling. After the 2013 lockout, the league introduced penalties if the holders of such contracts finished ahead of time – this did not apply to their departure to LTIR. But why didn’t Edmonton, where Keith played, get the fine? Because this contract was issued in Chicago.




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But the situation of Ottawa is interesting in that its payment takes into account five players at once who are not in the squad – this is the deduction of Matt Murray’s salary, as well as fines for the repurchase of Bobby Ryan, Michael Del Zotto, Colin White and Dion Faneuf (while his bought Los Angeles in general, but during his exchange, the “senators” withheld part of the salary).

In addition, players who were sent to the AHL take the extra money – for example, these are John Moore in Anaheim and Anton Khudobin in Dallas. Their contracts remain incomplete in the statements – the caphit amount goes into the payment of the base, from which the minimum NHL salary this season ($ 750 thousand) and another 375 thousand are deducted. Therefore, Khudobin borrows incomplete $ 3.33 from Dallas under the ceiling million, and $2.08 million.

Ilya Kovalchuk

Ilya Kovalchuk

Photo: Jim McIsaac/Getty Images

Who else from our players takes place in the payroll without playing? Of course, Ilya Kovalchuk. When he signed his monstrous contract with the Devils, the league decided to punish the club for such a brazen attempt to bypass the ceiling. The termination of the contract in 2013 caused not only the hatred of the fans, but also financial relief – the finances of the “devils” were rather flimsy. The league penalized New Jersey with a $250,000 annual fine for the remainder of the original contract (until 2027) — certainly not the amount that hurt the team’s prospects.

In addition, there are players who receive payouts from their teams but do not show up in the salary cap. After the 2013 lockout, the NHL allowed special buyouts for some of the ultra-long contracts entered into under the previous collective agreement: players received real money for the termination of the contract, but the cap hit would be zero.

So the teams got rid of many well-known players – Vincent Lecavalier, Brad Richards, Ilya Bryzgalov, who will receive checks from their clubs for several more years. The record holder for the term here is Rick DiPietro – the Islanders until 2029 will send their former goalkeeper one and a half million annually. But Bryzgalov is owed $ 1.6 million until 2027.



Nichushkin's contract - flowers.  Russian players whose contracts were bought out in the NHL
Nichushkin’s contract – flowers. Russian players whose contracts were bought out in the NHL

Now, in the conditions of a “flat ceiling”, a place in the payment has become almost the most expensive currency. Therefore, further buyouts become less likely – but clubs like Anaheim and Arizona, which still have a lot of room under the ceiling, can profit a little at the expense of someone else’s unjustified generosity.

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