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The Arizona Coyotes are winning the salary cap battle

The Coyotes may have unknowingly used something that could start the next lockout. Not cap circumvention, but creative cap usage.

2016 NHL Draft - Rounds 2-7 Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

In the early hours of August 22nd, 2016 the Coyotes announced the trade for Lawson Crouse and Dave Bolland from the Florida Panthers. New prospects are always good, but the move also raised three questions.

Question 1: Why did the Coyotes make a trade so early in the morning?

Answer 1: John Chayka doesn’t sleep, he waits.

Question 2: Why did they trade for Lawson Crouse?

Answer 2: He's a large left winger of size, with upside if the Coyotes can develop him the way they want. He fits the team profile of young, skilled players.

Question 3: How are they going to take on Dave Bolland's three-year cap hit?

Answer 3: Dave Bolland will be placed on long term injured reserve as soon as the season starts. He is going ‘to be out a while.’ It's worth noting that he waived his no-trade clause for this deal.

Here is where you start to see the genius of John Chayka and a possible cause for the next lockout. Is it just cap management, or is it cap circumvention?

The Coyotes' Cap Situation

As it stands, per General Fanager, the Coyotes have $2,342,162 in cap space with a total cap hit of $70,657,838. That puts the Coyotes at 11th in use of total cap space, just above the Chicago Blackhawks and below the Minnesota Wild. The Coyotes are usually at the bottom of that list, hanging out with the Hurricanes, Senators and Ducks of the world.

The Coyotes have been an internal cap team for years because of ownership woes and having been given a working budget from the league. The new ownership group has been very vocal about spending what they need to build a winning hockey team. On paper, the Coyotes are almost a cap team, but really they aren't.

If the Coyotes did not have the Chris Pronger, Pavel Datsyuk and Bolland contacts the Coyotes would be sitting at $52,716,409 dollars. Which is $1,283,591 dollars under the cap floor of $54 million. Being an internal cap type team makes everyone curious about what Chayka is doing. When speaking to Greg Wyshynski of Puck Daddy earlier in the week, this is the type of creative bookkeeping that when the cap came to be, teams would do.

People have argued that this space could be better used to sign players to big contracts or even finish signing all of the Coyotes RFA's.

I think this is the genius behind these cap moves. If the Coyotes place Bolland on LTIR, which seems to be the case, insurance will cover his salary up to 1.1 million dollars, while Pronger's actual salary is $575,000. With Datsuyk playing in Russia, he is not being paid any actual money from the team. The total salary that would be paid to Pronger and Bolland would total $1,675,000.

When the Red Wings moved Datsuyk's contract to the Coyotes for the 16th overall pick, that seemed to get lost in the 'oh my god what did this kid just do?'.

Chayka is playing the cap game well. Very well.

What Does It Mean?

Having the cap space to take on contracts that fall off in the next year or so gives the Coyotes time to evaluate the young players coming up and start to plan contracts and what the financial future of the team would start to be. If the Coyotes could have an active, competitive budget, it would go a long ways on the road to becoming a playoff bound team.

Going into the expansion year, there will be a lot of money being thrown around by Las Vegas to get who they want. The Coyotes have Martin Hanzal to extend after this season, could the space that will be opening up go to him? We don't know, it's a little early to try to guess.

As cap casualties start to fall during training camp, I think the Coyotes could look different by opening night.