Getting Under the Salary Cap


Imagine, if you will, that it’s suddenly September 30th and you are Darcy Regier. You find yourself in a salary cap dilemma since your team is still $3,595,357 over the cap with some difficult choices to make. Do you place some players on waivers to send them down to the AHL? Do you attempt to make last minute trades? Who do you send down or trade? These are all tough decisions to make and should not be taken lightly at all. Unfortunately for the real Darcy Regier, these are the decisions that must be made within the next 29 days. So what do you do?

With a new focus on winning (is that not always the focus?) under Terry Pegula’s ownership there comes a the expectation that each player will perform to the best of their abilities. While a few slips here and there are permissible, there are going to be some players that are consistently not performing well. There exists a portion of the Sabres’ fanbase that would love to see Brad Boyes, Shaone Morrisonn, and Ales Kotalik depart from Buffalo with a final destination of Rochester and the AHL. But is that really a smart choice for the Sabres organisation?

Certainly from a business standpoint it makes perfect sense. But if you look at the Sabres organisation as a family (as Pegula has said it now is), then this move would be a bad idea. If they want to send a message to the NHL that things are different now in the Sabres organisation, then making a move such as this certainly send a message. That message, however, is anything but positive. Sending a player to the AHL simply to get under the cap, essentially tells players everywhere that management doesn’t have the foresight to plan ahead. In other words, it says that you are willing to overpay the new guy without consideration of the players already on your roster; that almost no roster position is safe if your salary is detrimental to the cap situation.

The better option would be to make every possible attempt to make trades. While this could also potentially send a negative message, this at least makes it apparent that your organisation is willing to try and keep you playing in the NHL. That even if your salary is causing cap issues, management still cares enough about you as a player to make an attempt to keep you in the NHL. That is the message that you want your organisation to send. If the organisation is truly a family, then they will do everything in their power to support them. Doesn’t every player want to feel that their team values their talent?

The Sabres did just that when dealing with former captain Craig Rivet. Before they ultimately put him on waivers, they made every possible attempt to keep him in the NHL via trades. Fortunately for him, he was ultimately claimed by the Blue Jackets instead of heading to the AHL. While a trade may certainly may be seen as being somewhat selfish (wanting to get something for a player you ultimately may part with for nothing), it certainly looks better than simply stashing someone in the AHL.

I will admit that I’ve been on the bandwagon for sending Morrisonn and Kotalik to the AHL, although I’d rather see them leave on good terms by remaining in the NHL. Preferably not with the Sabres, of course. Boyes, on the other hand, should not be written off just yet. There are many reasons why he may not have lived up to the expectations of many fans, but it’s not soon enough to call him a bust. Kotalik, does have a No Trade Clause, so that complicates his situation somewhat. There may be no other option than sending him to the AHL if his performance is not NHL worthy. Only his performance in training camp will dictate what moves will be made with him. Morrisonn is the best trade candidate of the three. The Sabres have a deep core of defensive prospects in waiting, so losing him would not be a giant loss to the organisation. Trades would likely involve either prospects or picks, as taking on additional salary would be counter-productive. Allow me to say that again for those folks who believe in the rumours about Jarome Ignila being traded to the Sabres for Jason Pominville. TAKING ON ADDITIONAL SALARY AT THE NHL LEVEL WOULD BE COUNTER-PRODUCTIVE!! Pominville’s cap hit is $5.3 million, while Ignila’s cap hit is $7 million. Does that make any sense to take on salary when you’re already over the cap? No, it does not!

Darcy has said that he’d rather look into trades to get under the cap than dump salary in the AHL. It’s a win-win for all parties. The player remains in the NHL, the Sabres address their salary cap issues, and they likely get additional draft picks that could be used as part of other trade deals. Perhaps Darcy can take some hints from the Peter Chiarelli’s playbook and make some sort of lop-sided trade that benefits them. You know, like getting the 2nd overall pick the year before winning the Stanley Cup and then getting a Top-10 draft pick in the same season as winning the Stanley Cup.

So before we write-off anyone on the Sabres’ roster and send them packing to Rochester, let’s give them a chance to keep playing in the NHL. There are teams out there that still have defensive spots on their rosters remaining. Perhaps there is a team out there that is still under the salary floor that could take on a $2.075 million defenceman. Even if that team has no chance of making the playoffs, I’m sure a player would rather play in the NHL than the AHL. I know I’m likely in the minority, but I think (most) everyone deserves a second chance to live out their dreams. Isn’t that what family is all about?

In Tylers we trust.

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