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Monday, July 30, 2012

NYR August Report: Del Zotto, Doan & Endgame Diagnostics

As the first week of August rolls through, Glen Sather's offseason allocating appears to be complete... or at least as complete as it possibly could be right now. First, let's look at the NYR roster & payroll as of 07/30/

   The only restricted free agent remaining is Michael Del Zotto, coming off his entry-level contract. What does this mean? Unlike Anton Stralman, MDZ cannot file for salary arbitration, and is at the mercy of Glen Sather's best lowball offer. But perhaps more importantly, Glen Sather has all the time in the world to deal with MDZ as well. Why is this relevant? Hint: the 30 NHL General Managers still don't know the exact salary cap ramifications and/or amendments of the upcoming season.

   In other words, the team payroll is $58.5 million (factoring in Chris Drury's $1.67 mil buyout tax). That is probably four-to-ten million under next season's salary cap. But what if there's a 5-year decrease in the cap? What if there's a buyout window and suddenly the free agent pool receives a unique September-boost? Who knows. What we do know is MDZ and his contractual rights will not be going anywhere, and there is no need to actually commit payroll to him until there's more clarity on the NHL's next collective bargaining agreement.

   Does Sather go long-term on Del Zotto? Is it a shorter two-or-three season agreement? As of now Sather is doing the correct thing and waiting for more environmental information before striking a deal with Mikey. The same concept applies to the potential signing of Shane Doan, except Doan is unrestricted and NY must surrender significantly more leverage; If Sather is apt to squeeze the last few contracts under the salary cap for the much anticipated 2013 campaign, it helps to know what said cap is going to be.

   As for Marian Gaborik: two points regarding the upcoming CBA impact on the tides of the NHL...

   1) Gaborik is supposedly not expected before Thanksgiving. That would usually imply a long-term injury for ~25 games, except there's a chance the season could be delayed from stalemated negotiations. So what? If Gaborik is destined for the long-term injured-reserve list, NYR are entitled to cap relief. Problem? We don't know what the new CBA will change with regards to the current LTIR system. If Gabby's $7.5 mil becomes a theoretical $5 mil the summer before the season, it becomes all the more relevant to pricing Shane Doan to a competitive, calculated price.

   2) The departure of Brandon Prust, John Mitchell and Mats Zuccarello, along with the current injury of Marian Gaborik, leaves the RW the most vulnerable of positions heading into October. Lest we forget, Ryan Callahan is no stranger to injury either, whether it be historically or a natural consequence of his high-temp physical style. Shane Doan won't be paid like a 3rd line RW'er, he will be paid like a 1st/2nd line RW'er based on legitimate assumptions that the top 3 RW'ers may never play a single regular season game together. The affects of big change on the right, as well as potential injuries, make the Gaborik/Doan financial deliberation even more keen to the team's forwards

   MDZ's cap hit next season will probably be between two-and-four million/year, which would boost the team payroll to the low sixty-millions. Doan's cap hit next season will probably be between five-and-six million/year, which would take the team's payroll to the mid/high sixty-millions. Gaborik (or even Michael Sauer) placed on LTIR for substantial time could slightly lower the overall payroll a few million.

   As the rules (old or new) are re-established, Sather has at least given himself the opportunity to sculpt the final pieces of his team this August to strategically fit snugly under the cap. The Nash trigger has been pulled, Henrik Lundqvist is (probably) at his athletic prime. The time is now. Glen Sather has positioned this roster as best he can, all that remains is the owners/players endgame and its final ramifications. Win, lose or draw, Sather deserves massive credit for the team's Stanley Cup poise.

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