Saturday, September 1, 2007

The cost of extensions

In the wake of Marleau's extension, I mulled over potential cap figures using and the Sharks, for the 2008-09 season, will have roughly $38.75 million committed to these 13 players (in order of cap hit): Thornton, Marleau, Nabokov, Michalek, Rivet, Cheechoo, McLaren, Grier, Couture, Setoguchi, Vlasic, McGinn, Greiss and Murray. Breaking it up, those are eight forwards, four defensemen and two goalies. Rounding out the forwards will likely be RFAs Steve Bernier, Marcel Goc, Ryane Clowe and Joe Pavelski, although the Sharks are high on both prospect Torrey Mitchell, who would make $715,000 playing for the big club and potential RFA Lukas Kaspar, either of whom would replace Pavelski. The remaining two defensemen would likely be RFAs Matt Carle and Christian Ehrhoff.

Rough, and rather conservative, estimates would likely see Bernier and Clowe receiving contracts with cap hits of around $2.5 million, unless one or the other has an exceptional year. Goc should be looking at $1 million, as should Pavelski. Carle and Ehrhoff is where it gets tricky. Would Carle be willing to sign a contract similar to what Phoenix Coyote Keith Ballard agreed on earlier this week, one that averages slightly over $2 million? Ballard posted similar rookie numbers to Carle in his inaugaral campaign, with 39 points where Carle scored 43 last year. If Carle has a similar or better season offensively this year, which he should, quarterbacking the Sharks power play, it's likely contract negotations would enter Paul Martin territory, with a $4 million average likely coming into play. I'll predict a $3.5 million/year cap hit, which may be too low or perhaps even high depending on how well Carle performs this coming season. Predicting Ehrhoff's contract is largely a crapshoot, as the German defenseman has been anything but consistent thus far in his career. He could very well ride his booming slapshot to a 15-goal, 50-point season or his lack of work ethic to a 25-point season. $1.5 million is probably a decent estimate.

So assuming Bernier, Clowe, Goc, Pavelski, Carle and Ehrhoff are signed to contracts worth those estimated numbers, that would represent an additional $12 million against the cap, increasing the Sharks' overall cap figure to $50.72. The NHL's current salary cap is $50.3 million. If the cap increases by 13%, as it did this year, it would potentially equal a $57 million upper limit, but that will largely be rendered irrelevant by the Sharks' internal budget. San Jose spent roughly $42 million on salary last season and unless the team wins a championship or changes owners, that amount is likely to stay static. For every action there's a reaction, and the response to an active offseason in terms of doling out contract extensions, the latest to Marleau, will likely be tickets out of town to more than a few 2008 RFAs.

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