Because he’s got an enormous expiring contract. Whichever team drops McGrady at the end of the season will have $23 million US worth of cap room. That’s a lot of freedom to fix your problems. That’s why he’s a valuable asset, even though he’s having zero impact on the court.
The New York Knicks benched a player named Larry Hughes, who wants to be traded. Probably won’t happen, because his expiring contract is worth $14 million.
You’re going to see more of this NBA-style thinking in the NHL. As one hockey GM pointed out Sunday, the cap is more of a factor than ever, because it is levelling off. Since the lockout, its looked like this:
So, the last two seasons have been static, and next year’s will be similar. That’s a major change from 2005-09, when the cap increased by $17.7 million. If you didn’t like your team and were up against the magic number, those increases gave you the ability to overcome. Not anymore. Now, you’ve got to pay a serious price.
Darryl Sutter is Exhibit A.
Last summer, Sutter was hero for boldly snaring Jay Bouwmeester before free agency began. His team looked awesome on paper, with potential Olympians Bouwmeester, Jarome Iginla, Robyn Regehr, Dion Phaneuf and Miikka Kiprusoff locked up long-term.
Only problem is, the Flames weren’t so fantastic on the ice.
Something stunk behind the scenes, and Sutter wanted to get rid of the smell. His realized his nucleus is not Stanley Cup material, and wanted to make more than some weak cosmetic change.
When you’re capped out, the NBA model gives you two choices: You can go after expiring contracts, or you can trade one headache for another.
Sutter went the first route (we’ll get to option No. 2 later).
In Matt Stajan, Ian White and Jamal Mayers, Brian Burke had what Sutter needed: three expiring deals worth over $4 million in cap space (Niklas Hagman has two years left, but is good value).
Maybe it’s not McGrady-sized, but it’s important (White is restricted, which gives Sutter another good player to trade if he decides to do so). Four million can get you a pretty good player. Add that to Jokinen’s $5.25 million, and now you’ve really got some room to play with.
Cap space doesn’t come cheap. Sutter paid a huge price. Phaneuf is an incredibly polarizing player with some serious questions, but he is supremely talented and just 24 years old. Keith Aulie has a chance to be a good defenceman for a long time. There’s the punishment for guessing wrong with your long-term contracts.
That’s why I wonder why Sutter would trade Jokinen to the Rangers. To me, Jokinen is a hugely valuable asset for Calgary. You have to forget about his attitude, his struggles and his inability to mesh with Iginla.
You can’t think, “We shouldn’t let this guy walk away for nothing.” He is something – a $5.25 million chunk of cap flexibility. Undoubtedly, the Rangers are aware of that. For the Flames’ sake, I hope it’s not wasted on Ales Kotalik. Sutter is too smart for that.
I mentioned this before – that the NBA model creates a second option: you can trade one headache for another. That’s (kind of) the rationale for the Anaheim/Toronto deal.
It’s unfair to call Jean-Sebastien Giguere a headache, but his contract sure qualifies. As the Ducks signed Jonas Hiller to a four-year, $18 million extension, Giguere’s $6 million hit (and $7 million actual payout) for 2010-11 became too much for a team with a lower budget than the actual cap number.
Since his deal is not expiring, he doesn’t have Jokinen’s value.
In that situation, Bob Murray had no choice to but take someone who wasn’t fitting somewhere else. All he could hope to do was mitigate the financial damage.
In Vesa Toskala and Jason Blake, Burke had two players who badly wanted out of Toronto. In Giguere, Murray had a player with a no-move who was actually willing to accept Toronto.
Now, there’s no guarantee this is actually going to work. Giguere – targeted by the league for oversized equipment – lost his starting job. Toskala is best suited to being a backup, but goaltending is a big man’s game now. Blake may never regain his Islander touch.
But, when you’re capped (or budgeted) out and, you try this and pray.
1. Very interesting that two of Toronto’s cornerstones – Phaneuf & Phil Kessel – didn’t get along with previous teammates.
2. The Maple Leafs wanted to keep Blake – the organization felt much better about his work ethic than the fan base. They offered Jeff Finger to Anaheim instead, but the Ducks said no.
3. This eliminates some of Ron Wilson’s excuses. The two trades negate several strained relationships (Stajan, Mayers, Toskala and possibly White). He’s got to get more out of his lineup now.
4. I get the sense the team thinks Jonas Gustavsson is exhausted.
5. Great Sedin twins story: To help someone figure out which one is Henrik and which one is Daniel, they made a bet. When one walked into a room, the person had to guess which of them it was. It he was right, the Sedin in question had to give him $20. If the guy was wrong, he had to pay $20. Money is great motivation, but it cost our man a few bucks before he figured it out (more on the Sedins later this week).
6. The magic of buyouts: the Maple Leafs are paying Andrew Raycroft $733,333 this season. To be fair, I don’t think Raycroft worked as hard then as he does now.
7. Roberto Luongo took his Olympic pads on this road trip and plans on using them at some point.
8. Remember when that huge Canuck contingent descended upon that St. Louis/Montreal game? I think one of the players they were really looking at was Tomas Plekanec. But, I don’t think there will be a deal.
9. As for the Blues, don’t expect them to deal anyone who they consider to be a crucial part of their core. That includes David Backes. That doesn’t include Eric Brewer, apparently.
10. GM in a great spot: L.A.'s Dean Lombardi. You’ve got an owner willing to ante up for a big contract. You’ve got a couple potentially available – Kovalchuk, Lecavalier. You’ve got a surplus of assets. And, most importantly, you’re not desperate.
11. I think Atlanta would want Wayne Simmonds in the package for Kovalchuk. I’m not so sure the Kings would be willing to do that. I love Simmonds as a player, but as another GM said, “Is Wayne Simmonds going to prevent you from getting Kovalchuk?” If he’s a rental, maybe.
12. That said, Lombardi has the same issue as Stan Bowman in Chicago. The Kings are similar to the Blackhawks – great locker-room chemistry is a huge factor in their rise. He has to be careful how he tinkers with it. Most of their players got together in the summer for workouts. “That showed their commitment as a group,” Terry Murray said.
13. Then again, Patrick Marleau is one goal off his career high (38) with 27 games left. Who drafted him?
14. Murray, by the way, said Brad Richardson was the player who’s impressed him the most this season. The coach said he wasn’t certain Richardson had the will to be a consistent NHLer after last season. Now, he’s playing with Anze Kopitar and Simmonds.
15. Drew Doughty’s 10th goal was worth a $212,500 bonus. Was talking to Bob McGill that night. Most he ever made in one season? Just less than that.
16. More evidence of Tampa’s trouble: the Flyers wanted Lukas Krajicek, buried in the AHL, so they asked the Lightning to bring him up on waivers. That way, the two teams would split the defenceman’s $1.5 million salary. Instead, Tampa allowed Krajicek to bolt the team, becoming a free agent. Philly then signed him at a prorated $700,000. What a gong show.
17. The word on reported soon-to-be Lightning owner Jeff Vinik: not a huge hockey fan. Definitely not much of a talker (probably a good thing in Tampa). Whoever is GM, though, won’t have to worry about things collapsing around him. It will be stable. Not sure if Brian Lawton will be part of the housecleaning.
18. Curious: How many owners sent DVDs of calls that went against their teams to the commissioner this week?
19. Burke made it sound like he didn’t think he could get a first-rounder for Alexei Ponikarovsky . A bit surprised by that.
20. He also reiterated that Tomas Kaberle will not be traded during the season. I believe him. If it happens, it will be during the summer. Makes sense for the Maple Leafs, because Kaberle can’t control the process then.
21. I hope this person is wrong (and I’m sure he does, too), but a former player took a look at Mike Cammalleri’s injury and said, “He’s not going to be 100 per cent for one year.”
22. Realize Capitals fans don’t like the Mike Green suspension, but strongly agree with Brooks Laich: “Obviously we don’t want to lose Greenie. But at some point you have to take control of the game and protect the players.” Amen to that.
23. Great to see David Booth back in action. At the GM meetings in Toronto, some wondered if he’d ever play again.
24. If I was Steve Tambellini, I’d be irritated at Sheldon Souray for breaking his hand on a personal vendetta. That kills any chance of moving him now.
25. Cory Clouston and Joe Sacco are doing great jobs, but if Phoenix gets into the playoffs, Dave Tippett is Coach of the Year.
26. Would it kill Brent Sutter to smile when his team is pounding Edmonton? I know it’s been a bad stretch for the Flames, but players need to see a light touch once in a while.
27. Pascal Leclaire better be great for the Senators, because the guy he got fired as goaltending coach did a heckuva job with Brian Elliott.
28. Now that Toskala is traded, the number one team/player in need of a divorce: the Edmonton Oilers and Ethan Moreau.
29. One last Leaf note: Mayers and Garnet Exelby made their trade demands months ago. Shows a secret can be kept, if you want it to be.
30. Really, really hope that Clint Malarchuk gets some help.
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