As training camp comes barrelling down the calendar at us, the time is getting short for teams with which Mats Sundin will not sign to finish their rosters for the coming season. For many teams who need to add a body, that will mean picking up a remaining free agent or two. For others, it'll mean tweaking through a trade. The latter will act like Christmas has come when teams whose GMs have spent the summer acquiring players like Imelda Marcos collected shoes have to shed contracts in order to get under the salary cap.
According to nhlnumbers.com, there are seven teams currently over the cap, in amounts ranging from San Jose's 226, 000 to Philadelphia's 4.517 million. Those teams must either comply with the cap by the first day of the season or they will forfeit games until they do. That means they'll be courting trade partners...the Sundin rejects or those who need to take on salary to reach the cap floor being likely candidates...and trying to get rid of some expensive spare parts.
Bob Gainey has mentioned he'll be looking at those over-the-cap teams for potential players to fill his own top-three centre vacancy, should the big bald Swede choose to either sign elsewhere or ride off into the Scandinavian sunset. I hope looking is all he does.
I don't care if there's a player with Chicago or Philly that Gainey can get for picks or prospects, and who might be a decent plan B. The way I see it, the teams whose GMs have run out and recklessly added players until they're over the cap shouldn't be let so easily off the hook. Anaheim, for example, signed Mathieu Schneider last year for 5.65 million bucks a season. Now the chickens have come home to roost in that Brian Burke has had to cough up the money to keep Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry. In the process, he's put himself over the cap and now needs to dump Schneider or a combination of lower-salaried players just to compete this season. AND he still wants to add Teemu Selanne as well.
Of course, there'll be a lineup of teams interested in Schneider's services. Despite his advanced age, he's still capable of playing the PP, making a nice breakout pass and bringing a little nasty to the game while rounding out a team's top-four D. Some GM will offer Burke a nice package of picks and prospects for Schneider, in the hope the veteran will be the piece his team needs to improve. While that may or may not pan out for the team acquiring Schneider, Burke will be the winner of any Schneider deal. He gets to lock up his best young players, clear room to bring Selanne back, solve his overspending dilemma and collect a package of building blocks to help ensure his team's future, all while choosing the guy he's willing to sacrifice.
What I don't understand is why a competing GM would want to help Burke out that much. If no one bites on Schneider, what's Burke going to do? He'll have to trade a player he doesn't really want to part with for little or nothing. Or he'll have to waive a guy like Schneider whom an opposing team can then pick up for free. It seems to me the twenty-three GMs who are NOT over the cap should sit back and force the tied hands of the seven who are. A little patience would force cap-strapped teams to offer up much juicier bargains than they want to in order to fix their problems.
But, of course, that won't happen. As is the case with the free agent feeding frenzy, Brian Burke will announce Mathieu Schneider is available and the line will form to his right. Burke will win. So will Paul Holmgren and Dale Tallon. The fear that some team might score a deal another team will regret missing is too great to allow GMs to wait it out. So the cowboys will escape unscathed from their little off-season spending sprees. No one will make them pay for their short-sightedness, and it's too bad. It seems to me to be a perfect situation for the teams that stayed within the rules to capitalize on the misfortunes of those who didn't. But self-interest will blind them to the chance and they'll jump at the opportunity to pick up whatever players the cap-stressed teams want to jettison.
I hope Bob Gainey's not one of them.