Evaluating The Ottawa Senators Cap Situation

It’s no secret that the Ottawa Senators aren’t able to spend as much as other teams, as they have been under a strict budget for number of years now. The last season they were close to the cap was 2009-10, and ever since then they have tried to cut back on their overall spending. Whether it’s the right move or not, we have to account for it and going into next season it won’t be changing.

There may not be much movement on the NHL roster, unless a big move like this happens. So let’s take a look at the Senators cap situation heading into next season.

Heading into free agency, Ottawa was amongst the highest spending teams but now that lots of contracts have been handed out, they are back to 20th overall in spending. They are sandwiched between the New York Rangers and Washington Capitals in that spot which is surprising considering they are both top teams in the East.

And as of now, here is how Ottawa looks:

 

So $10 million is a pretty good cushion for most teams, but there are a few things to consider. Firstly, the Senators budget for next year seems to be about $62-63 million, which doesn’t give them much wiggle room despite having the cap space. Secondly, Mike Hoffman and Alex Chiasson are still unsigned RFA’s, so they have to be included in the plans.

Chiasson should only get about $1 million, but Hoffman could put a real dent into the budget. He reportedly wants quite a bit of money, although he might not get that. However, even if he does get underpaid at around $3 million, that puts the budget at about $1-2 million more than what the team wants.  So no matter what, either Ottawa will have to increase their budget or shed some salary. It would be strange to see them within $6 million of the cap ceiling as they haven’t been that close in five years.

For those curious, here is how each position breaks down. Forwards:

Defense and goalies:

 

Eric O’Dell is listed on there for some reason, but he most likely won’t be in the NHL for very long. Plus, AHL defenseman Chris Wideman will be getting a chance, so his $600,000 cap hit should be included in there too. The disappointing thing is that a lot of the teams problems would be solved if Chris Phillips had retired. His cap hit of $2.5 million would be off the books (and thereby saving the team money on the budget), plus someone like Wideman would be able to get lots more ice time.

However, I doubt Phillips would leave that kind of money on the table. Still though, if he was a true team player and he realized what kind of situation the team was in, he would retire. He needs to be realistic with himself as he clearly isn’t good enough anymore. But we can only dream that will happen, and instead the team will be paying some bad players for another season.

While this coming season may cause some problems, there is hope. If the team is smart and has no interest in re-signing players like Chris Phillips, Chris Neil, Zack Smith, Colin Greening (and even Jared Cowen), then they will all be gone after two years. Phillips and Neil have one year remaining and the other three have two years left, but at least in the 2016 off-season there will be an extra $4.4 million off the books.

The team should be in a better spot financially after this season and next, but the thing is that they still have to spend smart. They can’t give money to Greening 2.0 and they need to identify core players a lot better than they have in the past few seasons. We can talk about the Senators being in a better spot soon, but that will only work if they don’t repeat their mistakes.

It will be interesting to see what they do the rest of the summer, because if Hoffman gets what he wants, Ottawa will be closer to that cap than they want to be. So perhaps there will be a separate move to keep him in or they might be forced to have a higher budget for one season.

This past season there were plenty of soon-to-be free agents like Craig Anderson, Bobby Ryan, Clarke MacArthur, Marc Methot, Mark Stone, Mika Zibanejad, and Jean-Gabriel Pageau. All of them have re-signed, and the only player to leave was Erik Condra, plus Hoffman and Chiasson are RFA’s but under team control. So Bryan Murray has at least done a good job of keeping his team together, although I’m still salty about low-balling Condra and letting him walk.

Dec 27, 2014; Ottawa, Ontario, CAN; Ottawa Senators right wing Erik Condra (22) skates with the puck in the second period against the Detroit Red Wings at the Canadian Tire Centre. Mandatory Credit: Marc DesRosiers-USA TODAY Sports

For next year though, there aren’t nearly as many free agents for Ottawa. The only important players to re-sign are Patrick Wiercioch, Cody Ceci, and perhaps Chris Wideman if he becomes a mainstay on the blueline. Neil and Phillips will (hopefully) be let go, so Wideman would be the only (potentially) important UFA to re-sign. Wiercioch and Ceci will get modest raises, but losing Neil and Phillips is a bonus so the budget should be fine.

In the next couple seasons, the Ottawa Senators should be able to lose some contracts that are undesirable and if they are smart their budget situation should be manageable. However, this upcoming season it may be hard to get them to a cap hit of about $62-63 million. So keep an eye on how they handle Hoffman, as they really can’t afford him.

Man, it sure would be a great time for Eugene Melnyk to open up his wallet.

 

 

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