As the NHL heads towards free agency later this summer, all eyes turn to the mystical salary cap: the number that will determine how many assets teams can add (or must subtract) from their rosters. For the Arizona Coyotes, the consideration this summer is a little bit different.
The Arizona Coyotes have apparently been greenlit to spend more than last season in an effort to be more competitive. That's a good thing for the Coyotes, because right now they're going to need to hit the salary floor with some contracts this summer.
How Much Do The Coyotes Need to Spend?
The salary floor, like the salary cap, is created via a formula in the Collective Bargaining Agreement. While the details are a little more convoluted, the gist of it is that the salary cap is based on the percentage of hockey related revenue the League receives after each year.
For 2015-16, what the cap is going to be is still in a state of flux. The decline in value of the Canadian dollar over the past year has pushed the actual amount of revenue down from where it was expected in late 2014. And as the salary cap falls, so too does the floor.
But for the sake of argument, let's use the salary floor for the 2014-15 season: $51 million. The actual number may increase or decrease slightly, but not substantially in either direction. So $51 million is a good place to start.
How Much Are the Coyotes Spending Now?
Arizona's roster was already among the leaner in the NHL last season, as several Coyotes were playing the last season of relatively affordable deals, including Martin Erat, Antoine Vermette, Zbynek Michalek, David Moss, B.J. Crombeen, Mark Arcobello, Andrew Campbell, David Schlemko, Devan Dubnyk, and Rob Klinkhammer.
Of those, Vermette, Michalek, Schlemko, Dubnyk, and Klinkhammer did not finish the year with Arizona. They are also joined by Keith Yandle, who's hefty $5.25M cap hit partially went to the New York Rangers. As a result, here is what Arizona's contract situation looks like in 2015-16, courtesy of Spotrac.com:
The number on the left is the player's base salary, which is of far more interest to the Coyotes and their budget, but is of no bearing on the salary cap figure. The cap number is on the right.
Even without doing the math, not a lot of money is committed to next season. But what it actually adds up to is a team-wide cap hit of $35,362,902. That leaves the Coyotes with $15,637,098 to go before hitting the salary floor.
CORRECTION: An earlier version of this article mistakenly placed the total amount the Coyotes needed to spend to reach the salary floor at $25 million, as opposed to $15 million. The article has been updated to reflect the change, and the author is being sent back to elementary school to learn how to add again.
Climbing to the Bottom
The Coyotes should not have too much trouble getting to the floor. Mikkel Boedker, Klas Dahlbeck, Brandon Gormley, and John Moore are all restricted free agents, and are all due for a raise. While Gormley, Moore, and Dahlbeck all made less than $1 million this past year, Boedker's cap hit was $2.55M in a year in which he was on pace for another 20+ goal season before a spleen injury derailed the year. He's arguably the Coyotes most proven offensive weapon at this juncture, and he will likely make more this coming year than last.
Let's assume a modest increase for all four RFAs: $1.2 million for John Moore (an increase of $300k and Michael Stone's current cap hit) as well as Brandon Gormley (a $400k increase) and Klas Dahlbeck (an increase of $700k). Let's also say that Mikkel Boedker gets a one year deal worth $3.5 million. In total, these four players would cost $7.1 million next year.
By adding no additional players, the Coyotes would now be $8.5 million away from the salary floor. But they still have three guaranteed forward spots open (eight if you assume Arcobello, Tye McGinn, and Craig Cunningham do not return, while Henrik Samuelsson and Jordan Szwarz are not guaranteed roster spots), as well as one defensive spot.
It seems all but certain at this point that one of those open spots is Max Domi's for the taking. Indeed, many of the Coyotes' younger prospects will have a legitimate chance to earn a place on the team next season. Here's what their cap hits look like, again courtesy of Spotrac:
Brendan Perlini, Anthony Duclair, and Tyler Gaudet should all have chances to make the team. The Coyotes could play all three of the above mentioned prospects at a cap hit of $3.122 million. The Coyotes would be only $4.4 million away from the salary floor with five forwards and a defenseman to fill.
With the desire to add more veterans down the middle and on defense, the Coyotes will hit that number with ease, as five players making league minimum would still put the Coyotes over the line.
It becomes even easier to see the Coyotes clearing the cap floor now that the NHL Draft Lottery has not gone their way. None of the prospects in the mix at third overall (Noah Hanifin, Dylan Strome, and Mitch Marner) are NHL ready, which leaves another spot to be filled by a veteran. With Don Maloney's desire to add a first line center via trade, the Coyotes will likely take on a large contract that should be more than enough to get over the line.
The Arizona Coyotes should have little to no trouble making it to the salary floor. In fact, the Coyotes are not likely to be a cap team for a long time, so less important are the cap numbers compared to the actual salary the Coyotes are paying out.
But one thing seems to be clear: even if the Coyotes' ownership group approves a budget increase for the team's payroll next year, it may not even be that necessary. The Coyotes will likely have a considerable portion of their roster still on their first or second contracts. So don't be too surprised if the payroll doesn't increase much from 2014-15 to 2015-16. The Coyotes youth movement may also have the unintended benefit of maximizing return for minimal cost.