July 22 2009 12:30PM
With that Radim Vrbata trade yesterday, it looks like it's officially open season on trading problem contracts to Phoenix.
We saw it already a few weeks ago when the Flames traded Jim Vandermeer's way-too-big contract to Phoenix for Brandon Prust and I think a lot of people were left scratching their heads saying, "Uhh, I don't get it." Certainly, it pissed off The Vancouver Province's Tony Gallagher enough that he wrote an hilarious column decrying the Coyotes and Flames for being able to wrangle a trade of this kind in an NHL where a salary cap hinders big-market teams. Yes, he actually argued FOR a return to the league-wide economic inefficiencies that more or less directly contributed to the lockout because of a Vandermeer-for-Prust trade.
But now with this latest move, it's pretty obvious what's going on here, and it's something that will make Tony Gallagher descend into apoplectic rage: It's salary acquisition for the sake of actually getting up to the cap floor.
To wit: even with the bonus cushion, NHLNumbers.com has Phoenix a little under a million dollars below the cap floor of 40.7 million. (And it's interesting, by the way, that the cap floor has climbed that high since the lockout. The original cap ceiling was just $39 million.) And thus, Phoenix has to acquire salary by any means necessary.
This Vrbata trade, on the surface at least, makes a little bit of sense from Phoenix's point of view. Vrbata ran off to Tampa, chasing a contract that is, for him, pretty good money, after posting 27-29-56 in 76 games with Phoenix the prior season. And as with all things Lightning-related the last few years, his stay there was an unmitigated disaster: 3-3-6 in 18 games. And for just $3 million dollars per season over the next three years. What a steal.
So Tampa, obviously, needed to get rid of that stupid contract as soon as possible, and Phoenix, needing to take on the money and also feeling like maybe they can recapture that lightning-in-a-bottle season, was more than happy to oblige, sending David Hale (look upon his NHL-record goalless streak, ye mighty, and despair!) and the ever-useful Todd Fedoruk down to the Sunshine State in return.
So since the June 21 trade with Florida of part-time NHLer Stefan Meyer, who later signed a one-year contract, for the rights to Steve Reinprecht, the Coyotes have dealt out about $3.3 million in salary (I'm estimating roughly $800k on Enver Lisin's new RFA deal with the Rangers because that's slightly higher than his salary last year, but at any rate, it's a significant portion of the contracts dealt out) and gotten back approximately $7.1 million in return, is an increase of about 10 percent of their total salary, and that's a pretty significant portion.
But because they're still technically below the cap floor, they might not be done with these trades. And maybe Calgary, clearly an amenable trading partner over the past few years, can dump one more bad contract on them. Start packin', Primeau.