As we’ve written about previously, the current status of many NHL teams is that of limited maneuverability; teams like Chicago, Los Angeles & the Rangers find themselves tightly pinned against the NHL salary cap (set at $71.4 million for next season). Thus, there’s all the reason in the world to believe some teams may pursue free agency with the specific target of performance-bonus levied contracts.
What are performance bonuses?
Based on determined goals and accolades, a player can earn X dollars for accomplishing various objectives.
Performance bonuses are under an umbrella from any effect on a team’s cap hit… so long as a team doesn’t pay out performance bonuses that exceed 7.5% of the salary cap.
Any team can dole out up to $5,355,000 in performance bonuses next season without any ramification against the salary cap.
Teams like Chicago, Los Angeles & Broadway may be especially apt to seek out such contracts, in order to fill out remaining roster deficits at a maximally economic bang-for-buck.
What’s the catch?
There’s only 3 situations where a player can receive a contract with performance bonuses. They are…
- If the player signing the contract is at least 35 years of age
- If the player signing the contract is signing his 1st ever (entry-level) NHL contract
- If the player signing the contract is an established NHL player, but is signing a contract after a significantly long absence from the league due to injury
Look: teams don’t usually salivate when contemplating pursuit of free agents closer to age 70 than birth. However, given the aforementioned advantages of performance bonus eligible candidates, coupled with the current 2015 cap crunch league wide… this summer could be the best summer to be an elder free agent seeking employment for next season.
In order of oldest to youngest, here’s the complete list of players (scheduled to be Unrestricted Free Agents on Wednesday July 1st) who are eligible to receive cap-friendly performance bonuses this summer:
Let's say a team must fill its 12th, 13th, & 14th forward spots. But, the team only has $1.8 million in cap room remaining.
Without performance bonuses?
How does Danny Carcillo, Matt Fraser & Riley Nash... each for $600,000/year... grab you?
Yeah... us neither.
With performance bonuses?
How about Brad Richards, Matt Cullen & Erik Cole? In theory this trio could be paid the same $600,000/year respectively... yet a team like the Rangers could pack a total of $3 million in easily-attainable performance bonuses into these contracts, making them more realistic an idea.
While this list doesn't exactly lend itself as a menu for a contending team's all-important puzzle piece from becoming oodles better than it already is... These skaters inherently hold an advantage against their lengthiness-in-the-tooth: all are available for cap-haven performance-bonus contracts that cap-strapped teams will likely contemplate next month.
The NY Rangers, with only a few million in cap space to spend on a few remaining "depth" roster spots, find themselves as an ideal team to pursue at least one of these forwards.
For better or worse.