In The GM’s Chair – Managing the Cap While Building The Team Pt 1


Now that Bryan Murray has saved his job, and will be in control of the team for the next 3 seasons, his next task is to figure out how to manage the salary cap and not put the club in the same position it was at the start of this season.   This involves having players in certain roles not making too much money for their level of production.

In this edition of my In The GM’s Chair series, I will be proposing a simple template for General Managers to follow in order to manage the Salary Cap.  I have broken it down by position and by percentage of salary cap space that should be allotted to each spot.  Granted, there are always exceptions, and this template is by no means a hard and fast rule.  What gets teams in trouble is allotting too much to a certain spot, for whatever reason, and it throws a team’s whole salary hierarchy into turmoil.  Managing the NHL Salary Cap is much like a game of Jenga, where you can take a block from the bottom and put it on top, but that leaves a hole somewhere else that must be monitored carefully or this happens:

That being said, there is a relatively simple formula that can result in a successful management of a team’s salary cap.  Basically it is allotting a certain value for players slotted into particular positions.  Here is how I would break down my team’s cap, by position:

FIRST LINE:                                 LW – 8%,      C – 12%,     RW – 8%

The first line is the backbone of your team, and traditionally the center is the engine that makes the line go.  That is why the first line center should traditionally be the top paid player on your team. These players are your go-to guys and should be paid as such.

SECOND LINE:                           LW – 5%,     C – 8%,       RW – 5%

The second line usually consists of players who are either on their way up or on the decline.  As a result the percentages can vary greatly due to contracts that are either coming to an end (slightly higher) or still in entry level or second contract status (slightly less).

THIRD LINE:                               LW – 2%     C – 3%,      RW – 2%

The third line is generally a defensive shutdown line with more physical players, with limited offensive potential.

FOURTH LINE:                           LW -1%       C – 2%        RW – 1%

The fourth line is made up of physical players who are counted on to go play 5-10 shifts per game and contribute 7-8 minutes of ice time and not get scored on.  Sometimes a spot is reserved for an enforcer

1-2 DEFENSE PAIR                             LD –  8%       RD – 8%

Traditionally an offensive, puck moving pair who can play in their own end.  Power Play production is expected and jumping into the rush is an asset.  These players must be capable of logging 20+ minutes per game.

3-4 DEFENSE PAIR                            LD – 5%        RD – 5%

Traditionally more defensively oriented, shutdown pair that matches up against opponents top lines and kills penalties, block shots and hopefully can add some offense once in a while.

5-6 DEFENSE PAIR                            LD – 1.5%    RD – 1.5%

Like the third and fourth lines, this pair of defensemen ideally are a combination of offense and defense, toughness and aggression, and one of the pair would be an adept penalty killer, while the other could be a power play specialist.  They should be able to play 10-12 minutes per game.

STARTING GOALIE:                                             7%

The starter is counted upon for 60-65 starts, and must be consistent night in and night out.

BACKUP GOALIE:                                                   1.5%

The backup goalie must be available to step up when called upon, 15-25 times per season, and be a practice workhorse.


I know that this template is not possible for all teams to follow.  Certain positions demand more, depending on the type of player you are dealing with.  True superstar players will eat up more than the allotted salary on the top line, and the lower levels will have to be adjusted accordingly. But this is how I would set up my team for future success, if I had the chance.

Obviously these are very round numbers, and using a basic cap of $60 million for arguement’s sake, 1% would equal $600,000.  You can do the math. Next season is going to be a different season for the NHL, as it will be in the final year of the current CBA, so any rookie bonuses that COULD be earned must be counted in calculating a players’ cap number.  This could handcuff a lot of teams, and means there might not be as  many rookies around the league as you would normally find.  This will also affect how much certain positions can be allocated, as high end players such as Cowen and Runblad will likely have higher level bonuses in their contract.

Next week, I will go over the current Senators’ roster, evaluate how the players and their contracts fit into the template and identify holes that exist as the club enters the off season.


Thanks for reading and as always, comments are welcomed.

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