Tuesday, 9 September 2014

Salary Cap Strategies of the NHL : Colorado Avalanche

I have been doing a lot of research on Western Conference teams lately.  Simply because teams like Minnesota and Colorado have become very talented in such a short time.  Today, I want to assess the Avalanche roster as they have certain salary cap traits which have not been attempted since the Red Wings in the early 2000's.

Essentially, the entire concept is to take your best player and sign him to a long term deal.  When doing so, the GM makes that particular amount of money the most any individual can make on the team.  When the Red Wings did it back in the early 2000s, they had phenomenal success as all the players took moderate pay cuts in an effort to strengthen the team.  In turn, they had a dominant lineup for years, and had ample amounts of money to spend on their depth players.  

Currently, the Avalanche have Matt Duchene signed until the end of the 2019-20 season at six million dollars annually.  I know it seems like a lot of money for a twenty three year old kid.  However, he already has an Olympic gold, a World Junior Gold, and produces roughly a point per game.  Consider the fact that Patrick Kane and Johnathan Toews are now making over 10 million dollars a season in Chicago.  These are two players who have been in the league a few years more than Duchene, but followed a nearly identical path and put up very similar offensive numbers.  By the end of this season, Duchene could theoretically be worth 8 or 9 million dollars.

With that considered, it makes it very difficult for any other player on the Avalanche to demand anything more than six million dollars.  Imagine in a few years, when Nathan Mackinnon is entering his prime.  If things go as planned, the Avalanche will have Duchene, Mackinnon and Landeskog signed long term for just under 18 million dollars a season.  In free agency, most of these guys would pull in contracts from other teams worth 7-8 million dollars.  This is where I find the only flaw in the system.  It is my strong belief that Mackinnon will be a better player than Duchene will ever be, and that is not to take anything away from Duchene.  It is only a matter of time, but I believe that two years from now, we may see the Avalanche struggle to sign Mackinnon for 6 million as his value is going to be through the roof.  Nonetheless, it is a bold strategy and it has paid off thus far.  Signing Mackinnon will be crucial to the long term success of the team.  If they pull it off, expect the Avalanche to be dominant once again.      

Back in the mid 2000s, the Red Wings perfected this strategy.  A shocking number of long term Red Wings bought into the team concept and pulled off two Stanley Cup Wins in both 2002 and 2008.  Some key players during this time were guys like Brendan Shannahan, Steve Yzerman, Pavel Datsyuk, Thoman Holmstrom and Henrik Zetterberg.  All of these players have been with the team basically their entire career, and it proves that the strategy has legitimacy.  Despite the legendary status of many of these players, we sometimes forget that Nicklas Lidstrom was the invisible guideline which set the standard for Red Wing contracts.  

I guess now we are left with the question; Can it work for the Avalanche in the modern day NHL?