The Bridge Contract Curse



There was an interesting tweet that came from Chris Botta of the Sports Business Journal yesterday:

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Okay, not necessarily a surprise. We knew that with the mammoth deal that Rogers signed to effectively subject us to terrible coverage of the game we love so dear for the next 12 years, league revenues were ultimately going to go on the upswing.

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And boy howdy, are they ever. What this also means, consequently, is a big rise in the salary cap (and the floor, if you’re paying attention) Here’s a little tidbit from this past May from Toronto sports journalism maverick, James Mirtle (thanks to FRIEND OF THE BLOG Thomas Drance for pointing this out):

Nothing final in these numbers here, but there’s a good chance we’ll see the cap rise to somewhere in the 70-71 million dollar range, with the cap floor climbing up the stairs to somewhere in the realm of 53 million sheckels. Yowza.

The Realities


This, to most teams, is probably a good thing. There are a few contenders out there inching dangerously close to the cap that would like a bit more breathing room so they can attract the BIG* UFA attractions out there on the open market. 

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*BIG= pretty much just Paul Statsny

Other teams, like the now laughably dubious Eugene Melnyk owned Ottawa Senators, well…if I finish this thought, he might try to make me disappear.

In reference to your Calgary Flames, with all the cap space in the world already, this is, very potentially, a bad thing, and it could be an immediate test for new GM Brad Treliving’s business savvy. Because of a couple of what I would like to call a very good-intentioned mistakes by Treliving’s predecessor, one Mr. Jay Feaster (more on this later), the Flames need to spend money just to get to the cap floor, and that’s where things get goofy.

In Calgary, according to Capgeek, the greatest resource of anything in the world, the Flaming C are going to start the 2014-15 campaign with just a hair over 39 million dollars of payroll, given all the bodies with contracts currently in place. That’s 8 forwards, 5 defenseman, one Finnish goaltender, and 19 young men with big dreams and no money that want in on the piece of Calgary Flames pie. Some of those kids will get there, but they aren’t yet, so here we are. 39 mil, son. Obviously that means some warm bodies are needed to insulate us all when we’re cold at night. So if you’re a math genius like I am, you’re already aware that Treliving and his Entourage-esque army of assistants need to spend 14 million dollars between locking up their own FAs (whether they’re any good or, more likely, not) and signing others testing the market JUST FOR THE PRIVILEGE OF BEING AT THE CAP FLOOR. Dios mio, amigos, that is mucho dinero.

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The Bridge Is Out


This was going to be a challenge anyway, but, as mentioned, if not for the errors of Feaster going into last season, the damage here could have been, in any small fashion, mitigated to a degree.


Of course I’m talking about the bridge contracts signed one erstwhile summer ago by both adorable young Flame wunderkins Mikael Backlund and TJ Brodie.

You’ll remember, around these parts and pockets of believers elsewhere, we (as long time advocates of both players) have been long time advocates of bypassing the bridge contract options due to the special nature of their budding talents. (at least for Brodie, we probably could have been sold on Backlund’s deal based on his usage and possibly a spotty injury history). This is because the upward trends in both players were obvious, even if they were relatively “unproven” to a lot of fans and media alike. Kent alone had suggested locking up Brodie long term was a great idea and people wanted to have his brain examined. (Would the same detractors be laughing now? WHO IS TO SAY?)

(me. I’ll say it. No they would not)

The arguments for locking up the two Killer B’s is not the same argument I’m making today. The original assessments were made to avoid the potential P.K. Subban style conundrum the Montreal Canadiens find themselves in at the moment. What happens when you take one of your strongest young talents, give them a bridge contract to “prove” themselves, only to have that player far outperform the expectations placed upon him over the term of that contract? This is what happened in Montreal with Subban, and it’s why they’re going to pay through the nose to keep him beyond this season, if they can retain him at all.

This is also what happened to both Brodie and Backlund. All the underlying numbers suggested that over two seasons we’d see their development shoot north. This happened. The worry was that those same players would rocket past the expectations laid out for them. This also happened. Even the most ardent TJ Brodie fans (ie. Flames Nation) did not see him excelling to the point where he was a member of probably the finest shutdown pairing in the league.

And that’s fine. Re-signing them after this season, barring, I don’t know, locusts, should not be an issue. The cap space is ample, and you can probably reasonably convince both camps that they’re going to be key pieces in the Flames continuing rise to relevance as the team develops more talent around them. This is not the Subban mess everyone thought it could be.

Why they should have forgone the bridge contracts is so that both youngsters are committed to larger contracts that count against the cap for this coming season, and for at least a few years after that. Between Mickis and TJ, they currently count for 3.625 million dollars against the ceiling(!). If they had been signed to a longer term deal each, let’s say Brodie making somewhere in the range of 4.5 over 4 years, and Backlund being paid 3 over a similar term (these are completely hypothetical but I don’t think unrealistic contracts given where we had predicted them to be coming into this season), that’s a little under 4 million dollars that you don’t have to spend on a mediocre player just to get to the floor.

And THAT is the biggest issue here. It’s not about losing the two stalwarts to bigger markets with deeper pockets, that is not a valid concern. The issue is that this is a young, developing team that has the potential to be great relatively soon, and if you need to water down that system with big money to middling players just to meet some financial obligations, you mess with the continued maturation you’re trying to cultivate.

It’s perfectly kosher to bring in UFAs that make your team better, but I think we can all agree the availability of fish in that pond this year is preeeettty thin, and anyone worth big free agent dollars will not be jumping ship to Calgary, because unless they’ve been chloroformed and re-educated by Brian Burke against their will, they know the Flames are not a contender, and even though the money is here, the chance to win lies elsewhere.

And the last thing anyone wants to see is Brad Treliving offering term to Brian Gionta.


Taking on cap space when you have enough to offer is not the end of the world. Teams do it all the time. It’s nothing to offer a 3-4 million dollar deal over a year or two to a third line winger that’s worth a fraction of that. The Flames have the space, and they can only infuse the lineup with so many kids.

But revenues are not expected to drop anytime soon. With the new TV deal, they’re a lock to go up. Which means this becomes a re-occurring hassle over a middling period of time. This leads to announcements that sound like “we’re pleased to announce we’ve re-signed Chris Butler”, or “Player X’s new contract is very similar to Dennis Wideman’s, as they were comparable players to begin with”.

It’s wonderful to manage the financial obligations of your future stars for as long as you can. If it weren’t for all the fiscal irresponsibility we wouldn’t be living in a cap era to begin with. And yes, inking Brodie and Backlund to loftier contracts would have been, however calculated, a risk indeed. But sometimes good cap management means opening the vault a little bit wider than you maybe would have intended, especially when it’s for players that everyone predicted would perennially make your team better than it was the year before. For all the talk about players being open to doubt, it’s better to take a little bit of a leap of faith in your homegrowns rather than taking a far riskier gamble on some expired magic beans out in the market.

The challenge now is for Treliving and friends to manage to put an X next to money contracts that are sensible options for the Flames (hello Anton Stralman), resisting the urge to throw money at the annual “this guy is going to inexplicably get paid in the summer” (Matt Niskanen), and maintain this equilibrium while also throwing enough dollars around to hit the floor running. A little bit extra off the top for the guys who are already doing it for you would have been a good way to manage that a little better. That way you don’t have to bring Olli Jokinen back just to get good with the money police.

So, you know, good luck.

(If the Hawks buy out Marian Hossa, this whole piece is moot. GET HIM)

  • Parallex

    Meh, I’m perfectly fine with bringing X in just to get good with the money police.

    I see it as an opportunity. Just go out and sign some guy/s looking to re-establish value to a short-term (1 year) deal (The Heatley types). You’ll pay them more then their worth on that deal but then you just eat $ at the deadline and get a potential longterm asset back for them.

    Yes, in retrospect it would have been better to have locked up Backs and Brodie last year (particularily Brodie) but we can do it this year and I wager it’s not going to cost that much more (It’ll be more for sure but not obscenely more). Raises for those guys (and hopefully Ramo & Colborne) eat up a fair chunk of the obligatory spending for 15-16 and we can just progress from there.

    • yeah, and spending to re-establish value is something the team is going to do anyway, but at some point you’re either overpaying guys or bringing in too many guys who are too much of a risk. It’s fine short term, but if the cap keeps going up and the team keeps getting better this eventually becomes problematic.

      It’s never been an issue of re-signing those guys. My point is that it’d be nice at this stage to have those guys locked up long term because a) they’re worth it, and b)there’s maybe 4 million or so you don’t have to internally debate spending on Heatley. (it’s probably going to be Heatley, isn’t it?)

      Definitely not the end of the world, but a good lesson going forward. in the midterm, I feel like these are the economic realties of the league, so it’s a good way to play the game

      • FeyWest

        Yeah for sure it’s a good learning experience, I don’t think we’ve ever had to deal with this kind of situation in the past.

        In the future hopefully they look at what’s happened in the past and learn from it for future contract negotiations so, like you said, don’t have to worry about hiring a cap Bandaid player.

  • TheRealPoc

    Just give Westgarth 1 year @ $15 million, healthy scratch him every night and have him facilitate community outreach programs with Harvey The Hound. Problem solved.

    In all seriousness though, this floor crunch is going to suck.

  • Greg

    I don’t see the bridge contracts as a huge issue in this, but it’s definitely an interesting conundrum for the org to be in. Actually seems to be quite a good opportunity and would be nice to see some articles analyzing different constructive things they could do with the cap space this off season.

    A few ideas off the top of my head:

    1) take on a bad contract or two if a team is willing to part with a first or second round pick for the trouble.

    2) Ignore the top UFAs and go after support guys you are going to need down the line anyway. Adding a couple #3-5 defencemen and a couple 3rd/4th line guys that are in their late 20s, even if you over pay them a bit now assuming they’ll fit when the cap goes up, gives you depth you’ll need to avoid the perennial rebuild trap, allow you to bring prospects along slower, and provide some built in veteran mix when you do start to compete again.

    3) sign short term deals for trade bait players like Parrallex suggested.

    Should be an interesting off season…

    • Parallex

      I think the window on 1) is now closed.

      Really there are only two types of bad contract… to much money bad contracts and two much money relative to term bad contracts (with many being both). The time to strike on too much money (but not term) contracts was last offseason with the artificially low cap, that’s gone now and the raising cap will help teams out of cap hell. The Flames should stay away from the too much term bad contracts, bad money is meaningless to us right now but it won’t be later.

  • T&A4Flames

    I m an advocate of the bridge contract, even in the case of the “killer B’s.” There wouldn’t be any #’s to prove it! but who’s to say Back’s and Brod’s would have had the same motivation to push themselves to get even better if they were already making the big dollar figure. Dangling the carrot can be a nice motivation for a young player. Now, they’ll get paid what they’re worth and they have set the standard they will be held to. That is a good thing, IMO.

  • McRib

    I am a fan of bridge contracts as I think locking players into long terms deals is not a good way to get the maximum potential out of young players. Let’s face it giving a 21-23 year old millions of guaranteed money underserved is not going to help motivate them to progress further on the ice. As you are telling them their game is flawless.

    I know guys that grew up with Jordan Eberle and I attended Notre Dame while he was playing Bantam AAA (I was on Midget AAA and he really wasn’t a big deal at that time, one of the more reserved Bantam players, a 7th Rounder in WHL Draft, there were actually much more hyped kids on his team at that time), but must say everyone I talked to (and the few personal experiences I had) says getting all of that money at an immature age changed him significantly. He was the most clutch Canadian Junior Scorer likely in history and as consistent as they get for a WHLer playing in Regina showing up every night without question, but he is now a guy where you’re lucky if he shows up 2 of 3 games in a row. In 2011-12 after scoring 76 Points Eberle looked like he was going to be a career 80-90 point guy, then he signed the big deal during that summer and now he is looking like a career 60-70 guy. That is apparently trade bait for the Oilers (although I don’t buy it or think he shoud be).

    You got to ask yourself does PK Subban win the Norris if he signs a whopping deal prior to that season or does TJ Brodie improve by leaps and bounds this year after inking a guaranteed 5-6 year deal? To me I really don’t think so! I am not against money, I just think forcing those players to earn it for an extra couple of years with a bridge contract is everything, not to mention at 25-26 players are a lot better prepared to handle $30,000,000+ and the distractions it brings.

    • SmellOfVictory

      Professional athletes aren’t motivated solely, or necessarily primarily, by money. Here’s a list of players (off the top of my head) who received big money and term on their second contracts, all of whom I’d argue have continually improved over the years in spite of financial stability:

      Sidney Crosby
      Taylor Hall
      Tyler Seguin
      Alex Ovechkin
      Jonathan Toews
      Patrick Kane
      Steven Stamkos

      “Dangling the carrot” may be the motivation required for some individuals, but I think the intensely competitive atmosphere of professional sports, and the culture in which players are raised, is generally enough to promote growth without a real need for financial encouragement.

      • piscera.infada

        “Professional athletes aren’t motivated solely, or necessarily primarily, by money. Here’s a list of players (off the top of my head) who received big money and term on their second contracts, all of whom I’d argue have continually improved over the years in spite of financial stability:

        Sidney Crosby, Taylor Hall, Tyler Seguin, Alex Ovechkin, Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane, Steven Stamkos”.

        If you’re going to put Brodie and/or Backlund in that group of players, you need to give your head a shake. No one is by any means saying that if you have a legitimate superstar, sign them to a bridge deal. But, in the case of a player where regression is likely (or even expected), then what is the point? I understand what this particular article is saying, but I do think it’s somewhat capricious to give players large-money long-term deals as a function of reaching the cap floor unless they are full value to live up to that. That goes for players within the organization, UFAs, young players, or old players.

        • SmellOfVictory

          First of all, when did I put them in that group? I was simply using them as examples of players who get long term deals and don’t get “lazy” as a result. Every single one of those players did not merely remain stable; they improved substantially. The reason I had to use star players is because teams tend not to give long-term deals to players who are not proven stars (and no, that’s not an argument for preventing other types of players from getting long-term deals).

          Second of all, Brodie and Backlund both showed consistent improvement over multiple seasons, and had been strong possession players for at least two consecutive seasons. How many seasons of good play do people want before a player has shown himself “worthy” of a longer-term deal? Would it have been a risk to furnish them with 5-8 year deals at a mid-level AAV? Sure. Would it have been a risk worth taking? Absolutely.

          You (and I’d wager every person who trashed that comment) are completely missing the point: there is zero evidence that hockey players have money as a primary motivator, and there are multiple cases in which we can see evidence to the contrary.

          • piscera.infada

            I never made the “lazy” argument, so I’ll leave it at that. However, it seems conveniently easy to pick a group of the best players in the league as evidence of players that improved year-to-year and earned their contracts, no? That’s all I was saying there.

            Aside from that, I had no problem with giving Brodie a long-term deal, nor did I have issue with him getting a bridge-deal. Backlund getting a long-term deal on the other hand would have given me pause, just because of injury history and what I viewed as inconsistent play prior to this season (we can argue that, but it’s not the point here). I was primarily in favour of bridge-type deals because what’s the point of rushing to pay players the money and term of corner-stone pieces, when you’re not really sure whether they’ll be corner-stone pieces a couple years down the road? It’s better to play it safe in that regard at the beginning of a rebuild so you don’t pigeonholed later on.

            The basic point I was making was that if I’m a GM I’m not giving a player a long-term larger dollar contract just so I’m closer to the cap-floor for a couple of seasons. It seems capricious at the ground-floor of a rebuild.

            And, I never made the money argument – at least not the money argument you’re making. I have never once said a player becomes less motivated, or “lazy” as a result of getting paid. Regression, however, is a constant theme brought up here, and I prefer to be as sure as I can be about a player living up to his contract before I start shelling out 5-8 year deals. When in doubt, remember those first two years of Stajan, my friend.

            Lastly, I never trashed your post. Frankly, who cares if I did?

          • SmellOfVictory

            Okay, my last response ended up being a combined reply to you and the original post I was replying to.

            To distill it down, one guy said “players need the promise of monetary increases to be motivated to improve.”

            I said “no, they don’t. Here are some examples.” That was literally all my post was supposed to be. Unless star players are somehow all mentally better motivated than non-star players, it doesn’t matter who comprises my list.

            As to what you said, I agree (I missed some of the details on first read); you don’t give players lots of money long term to meet the cap floor. However, I don’t think anyone here has actually argued for that. The argument has been “it would be better if the Flames had ended up spending more money on Backlund and Brodie rather than having to waste it on crappy UFAs to meet the floor”. All of my arguments about the laziness and so on were just further arguments against the original guy I’d responded to.

            Miscommunication aside, I’ve seen Backlund and Brodie as cornerstone pieces for multiple seasons, now (possibly in more of a supporting role, but cornerstones at the very least, nonetheless). And I disagree with being overly cautious with bridge deals on players who are incredibly good bets to improve on their play. The idea is to pay them a little more than they’re worth at the moment so that, a few years down the road when the team may be coming up against the cap, their cap hits end up being smaller because of long term cost control.

            Also, I never said you trashed my comment. 😉

    • mattyc

      Haven’t heard the rumors – but it seems like we’re pretty full on centers with Stajan Backlund and Monahan.

      The rising cap is also bad news because it puts less pressure on teams who thought they may be close/over the cap to dump someone. I think the Flames really overestimated the leverage they thought they had for taking on bad contracts this year through the summer. Hopefully I’ll be wrong, but it doesn’t look like they’re going to be able to do anything significant that way.

  • Jeff Lebowski

    I totally understood the reasoning surrounding giving Backlund and Brodie a Josi type deal rather than bridge deals. In fact, I initially pounded the table for long terms deals and getting them for a relatively cheap AAV.

    But I think certain players need to do the bridge contracts in order to realize their full potential as players.

    Its more than incentive to play well –> get the pay day.

    You have to train yourself mentally and physically with each contract to get that long term deal. In the process you likely become a committed, self motivated athlete.

    I just think there can be an overly simplistic view that ALL players will continue to push forward on their development curve at the same rate. As if complacency does not exist.

    I usually hate to use one example as definitive proof but a guy like Dion is exactly what I’m talking about.

    Some guys, the money tells them things like, you’re good enough now.

    Now that’s not the case with every player. I think some truly are self motivated and self reliant. My guess is that these are the rare cases.

    Most other guys, need that incentive via shorter term bridge deals, to push them. Then, after this process (maybe call it continually proving themselves), they ‘get it’.

    I saw it in Backlund last year. He was the fittest. I can’t say for certain he wouldn’t have been the fittest if he had been given a payday but to me it makes sense. I think Brodie is in a similar boat. Neither of those guys seem Dion like in their personality but perhaps bridge deals are good for this generation of hockey player.

    Also, I think the EDM model (6×6) and the perception that perhaps these players are entitled without having truly earning it is another example. However, I’m sure a case can be made that (for Hall anyway) they are getting continued preformance/improvement.

  • mattyc

    Ahhh the gift of hindsight is so enlightening. Really, short of Brodie winning the Norris, the bridge contract wasn’t that bad of a strategy. You are also making the assumption that Brodie & Backlund wanted longer terms. Maybe their agents suggested the bridge to them seeing they had a fresh Subban example of why not to give too much of a discount for longer term. Who knows. If both these kids have similar decent years next year, I have no issue paying them long term 5-6 mill. deals. The way I see it, the cap floor will only be a struggle for the Flames next year. After that, depending on next year, we have several young kids ELC’s coming up we will either have to pay or cut bait. If Tampa gives us a 2nd or 3rd to take Malone’s contract for next year, whatever. Do whatever is required, but do not give a UFA any kind of term for more than 1 year, overpay fine. Term, noooo.

  • Jeff Lebowski

    I have been wondering, is a sign and trade deal possible with Cammy? Signing him to the contract that he is more interested in and retain salary so the contract is more appealing on the other end. I know there are many details required, but is it doable? I keep hearing the “we are willing to spend” song but haven’t seen the dance.

    Again I am over simplifying the pipe dream but Florida may be interested in a Wideman (heard in a recent interview they are more interested in 3/4D than Ekblad, a good salesman could sell it) with retained salary as 4th. Money being the issue in that market. And Cammy at 3.5 looks pretty good and may be a significant piece in aquiring an early pick. (NYI?)

    Yes I know I am dreaming big here, but retaining salary on those two players could make for about 4 in salary cap, and geting 5th overall to trade for 1st. 5th + Wideman +? For 1st. (Based on Florida having their sights set on Nylander) So we get some Ekblad to go with our Sam.

    Ok so the wake call comes and I know how much of a stretch this is, but it is the kind of thinking I expect million dollar management teams to come up with. Or better on a doable scale.

    • Burnward

      Per mattyc I agree the rising cap hurts the Flames in 2 ways…teams against the cap have reduced pressure and the requirement to spend to get to the floor is increased for the Flames.

      However Tonk per your strategy of essentially targeting Budget teams (e.g. FLA, NYI etc) may have some merit to “buy” their #1 pick (framed in much nicer language in order to avert a review by Gary).

      While I might quibble with the players and the amounts, the concept may be valid to pick up a pick from those two teams or CAR, WPG, NSH, PHX, CLB, TBL, NJD…that’s 9 teams who might possibly want to play let’s make a deal.

      They receiving budget team gets a player they otherwise may not be able to financially afford, while the Flames buy some Cap salary and another 1st round pick to speed the rebuild. Other players & picks would undoubtedly be thrown in the muddy the clarity of the deal to avoid “winner-loser” talk…but it could be a nice “win-win” for everyone involved…always the essence of any deal.

      • supra steve

        Would be nice if they could make this work, but I think you would have better luck moving a reduced cap hit Cammi (for example) to a cap team. I can’t see Cammi agreeing to the whole thing just so he could go to Winnipeg (etc.), he is not going to sign a contract with the Flames without some kind of trade clause.

        • MattyFranchise

          re Cammi…I made no mention of Cammi but agree with you I can’t see any sign & trade with him. Besides any player 3 weeks from July 1st with high demand and short supply for his skill set would be nuts to do would cost him million(s).

          However it could sensibly be used to support trading Hudler, Jones, Stajan, Wideman or Smid in a package in return for a 1st rounder.

          • MattyFranchise

            I think the only way this happens is if the flames and the other team are all in agreement during the Free agency frenzy. For instance Let’s say cammy wants 7 mill/ 2 years but cammy’s desired team won’t pay that much. Maybe they can only afford or only wants to spend max 5 on a FA. Flames can say “we’ll sign him for 7 mill 2 years and trade him for your first rounder while we retain half is salary (3.5 mill) and a 4th rounder to sweeten the deal.

            This probably won’t happen but it kinda seems like a win win for everyone.
            -Helps us get closer to the cap floor
            -cammy goes to a contender/desired team
            -contender gets cammy at a discount that other teams would of paid more for
            -we essentially paid 7 mill to upgrade our 4th rounder for a 1st. Tons of money yes, but money we have that gets us a better prospect.

            Should this happen? I think so, will it happen? Only in my dreams 🙁

  • mk

    Remind me again why the Flames traded Stralman in 2009? I get that we had the big 4 of Phaneuf/Bouw/Regehr/Gio, but did the team really think Pardy/Sarich/Kronwall/Johnson were better than Stralman (also considering the good contract he was on)?

    I ask not from the perspective of look-they-made-a-mistake, but because I don’t remember what the (apparent) factors were that made this trade happen.

    • The Flames had two guys on the fringe of the d-corps that year: Stralman and Staffan Kronwall. Both were waivers eligible if sent down to the AHL.

      They decided to keep Kronwall. He played 11 games for the Flames before going back to Sweden.

      I was pretty annoyed by that move at the time.

      • Parallex

        Same. Personally I thought Stralman was better then both Kronwall and Pardy in camp/pre-season that year. Was a really puzzling decision by the Flames IMO. I always figured it was something like this…

        Flames Guy: Okey, time to make some cuts, Stralman is clearly a better puckmover…

        Sutter: Is he 6’4 or taller?

        Flames Guy: No, but he also has a hard slapper…

        Sutter: But he’s not 6’4?

        Flames Guy: Right, but he’s the best skater amoung the contenders, hell Pardy has trouble skating backwards…

        Sutter: You’re sure Stralman isn’t 6’4?

        Flames Guy: We’re sure, but he has an active stick and is positionally sound.

        Sutter: Who do we have that’s 6’4?

        Flames Guy: *Sigh* Kronwall and Pardy

        Sutter: I’ll trade Stralman… 6’4.

  • T&A4Flames

    Apologies if this has been asked and answered elsewhere. How does it work with bonus?

    Could they not offer substantial incentives for performance to get themselves to the cap without disrupting the guarantee salary?

    If they can, and the players don’t hit their bonuses, is the team penalized for falling below the floor?

    • There’s 3 levels of bonus structures i believe. Entry level bonus structure which means you can earn like 900k but end up make closer to 2m. 1.9 ish.

      then there’s level a performance bonuses and goal oriented level b target bonuses. But, I believe the CBA caps these at certain amounts so as to avoid that kind of “cheating” to get around the cap floor.

  • PrairieStew

    In the short term it looks like the Flames might have to take on a bad contract to get to the floor. If you qualify RFA’s Colborne, Bouma, Byron, Galiardi; promote Gaudreau, Sven, Wotherspoon and Reinhart and then sign a backup UFA goalie ( $1m ) and another defenceman ( Fayne $3.5?) you are still $6m under the salary floor for this year with 23 bodies. That’s huge ! I’d hate to see them bring in a 4 of 5 million dollar player through free agency that is not going to be any better than our RFA’s. So while signing a guy like Setoguchi might get the team to the floor what message does it send if he gets benched with regularity in favour of a guy making a quarter of the salary. I would far rather acquire someone else’s mistake if he comes with other assets. So if and when he is benched, you can distance yourself a bit from the money issue by pointing to say the second round pick acquired as part of the deal.

    There are guys out there that are giving their employers buyers remorse – the question is how long of a commitment can the Flames afford. Next year it would be easy to absorb David Clarkson but what about the following 5 years ? In 15-16 you need to sign Backlund, Brodie and decide on Glencross, McGrattan and Ramo. In 16-17 you are looking at new contracts for Monahan, Gaudreau, Giordano and Russell but Jones and Hudler (4 each) are coming off. I think both those years are doable, so that starts to look like it is possible.

  • Parallex

    Calling up Knight and his bonus-inflated cap hit would help, no?

    If Chicago needs to cut salary, might they be tempted to trade Patrick Sharp (5.9 mil)? Give them Glencross+, that’s a net-cap gain of 3.5 million.

    Obviously Sharp is a better player than Glencross, so it depends on what the + is. They need a 2nd line center… don’t know if the Flames can help them there without moving Backlund (yikes!) or giving them too much salary back (Stajan).

    And then of course there’s Curtis’s NMC.

    If the trade goes through, those two moves have a net gain of about 6.5 million without wasting cap on useless free agents.

    Would this work?

  • Burnward

    Yes to Patrick Sharp a million times over.

    You know what? Yes to Richards, yes to Marchand, yes to whoever makes them better. And even better, bring in players who know a thing or two about winning.

    The longer I think about it, the more I realize how little appetite I have for a full-blown rebuild.

    Bring in a few better vets. Keep about 10 million in space and they’re still laughing.

    The kids can develop in the A, no need to rush em in. (except for Monahan and maybe Gaudreau, they’re all down there for me)

    Nice thing is, they’re not building from scratch anymore. There is talent in the pipeline, potentially elite talent.

    Let’s go upwards and keep changing the culture of this team.

  • beloch


    Projecting how rookies will develop is hard. Even projecting how established NHL’ers will continue to play is far from trivial. Long contracts are basically bets. If the player outperforms his contract, the team wins and the player loses, at least until his contract is up. This provides entirely the wrong incentive for players until they’re a year from their next round of contract negotiations! i.e. If you’re a great player who is making peanuts compared to his inferior team-mates and your contract runs another 7 years, how motivated would you be to keep improving?

    Short contracts remove most of the ability for teams to win big by signing an excellent player to a long, cheap contract. They also remove the chances of the team being screwed over by a long-term contract with a player who turns into a big, fat, useless cowpie! Additionally, short contracts ensure that players are constantly motivated towards and rewarded for development. On the down side, roster volatility can be higher and some players do value the stability of staying in one place for a long time.

    In this particular situation, yes, the team could have saved money by signing the Killer B’s long-term. However, given the cap situation, I don’t see anything wrong with giving them a raise for their performance. Heck, I’d rather the team renegotiated their deals to give them a raises this year instead of blowing cap on inferior players just to meet the floor. Also, how do we know that giving these two players bridge contracts didn’t light fires under their butts and make them push hard during formative years?

    But now:

    The Rogers deal can be seen as a sort of “Black Swan” event for GM’s. The overall talent of the league didn’t just suddenly increase by a large amount, but the cap floor/ceiling did. That means talent just got pricier. The UFA contracts we’re going to see inked this summer will be ridiculous by last season’s standards. Any player signed long-term before this season is going to have a very cheap contract by the time it’s up. A lot contracts that looked freakin’ stupid last season are going to look utterly brilliant in a couple of years entirely because of the Roger’s deal. Feaster managed the Flames in a way that would have left the team in great shape if the cap rised slowly or even dropped. That’s not what happened, and a lot of very poorly managed teams are going to see their mistakes erased and possibly even gain a lot of value from the bad contracts they’ve inked.

    While normally I am in favor of shorter contracts, now is an exception. Right now is a good time to sign players like Brodie and Backlund to long-term contracts. After this off-season’s UFA signings are over, things will look very different. If Treliving waits until Backlund and Brodie’s bridge contracts expire they’re going to get a *lot* more expensive. Will long term contracts hurt their development? Probably. However, the salary-inflation we’re likely to see over the next couple seasons is significant enough that it’s probably worth sacrificing a little development for the sake of economy.

    • supra steve

      ” Heck, I’d rather the team renegotiated their deals to give them a raises this year instead of blowing cap on inferior players just to meet the floor.”

      THAT would be great, give Gio, Brodie, Backlund big raises and the cap floor is no longer a problem. But, you can’t do that.

      So you bring in some UFA (Heatley for example) on a FAT contract to meet the floor. Your current players grumble to themselves about making less then Heatley, so that when their contract comes up for renewal, they want payback and demand big $$$. I can’t say that I blame them either, human nature.

      The big issue with the bridge deals with Backs/Brodie is that they could have cost averaged their salary in the later years to a lower amount by paying more early, when they had cap room to burn. Nothing can be done about it now, but that is the bigger issue here…fitting Brodie in at an AAC of $6.5/yr in a few years instead of the $4.25/yr long term deal he may have signed last contract. Either way TJ makes a pile of money, but the Flames would have been better spreading that $$ out more evenly (so they can fit Monahan/Gaudreau/etc. in easier in a year or two).

    • DragonFlame

      It doesn’t look to me (if I am reading correctly) that the top six teams in terms of salary have any issues at all. No truly decent players causing re-signing concerns. In fact, all of the following six teams have more than enough room to sign one of the few players actually worth signing in this year’s UFA pool to a truly stupid contract if they want. If they want to remain statusquo, that is also a distinct possibility.

      Chicago: No immediate concerns.
      Philadelphia: No immediate concerns

      Boston: No immediate concerns

      San Jose: No immediate concerns

      Vancouver: No immediate concerns

      Los Angeles: No immediate concerns

      The Flames are going to have to be exceptionally creative and pull a rabbit out of the hat this summer. There are teams out there that don’t have the ticket prices and attendance to justify spending to the ceiling, but most of those teams seem to be close enough to the cap floor that they don’t have the problems the Flames do.

      I hope one of the main questions Burke and the Flames’ ownership group asked Brad Treliving during the interview process was:

      “Look at our roster and the crop of UFA’s and RFA’s that will be available to all the teams this summer and tell us how you will sensibly get us to the cap floor. Take a few days and get back to us on this matter.”

  • MattyFranchise

    Just read the comments section in that article you linked. HILARIOUS.

    Anyway, bridge contracts are an excellent motivator for most players. Someone listed superstars and how they got long contracts in their second deal but superstars are superstars for a reason. They already have the motivation they need and the money is not a primary motivation for said players.

    Other players, and I’m gonna single out Subban on this, need the motivation to earn the big payday. In hindsight, should Brodie and Backlund have gotten bigger paydays after their ELC expired? I think they should have gotten marginally better deals. But who’s to say that those shorter cheaper contracts didn’t help to motivate them?

    Especially with a guy like Brodie, nothing against him personally because I don’t know him and it likely wouldn’t have effected him one way or the other, but what would have happened if you gave a 4th round player 1st round player money? What would that do for the player and by extension what would it do for the other 4th rounders in your system?

    It’s hard to say, pro athletes can be fickle, usually at the worst possible time.

    • SmellOfVictory

      I think of it this way: let’s say money is a major motivator that noticeably affects NHLers’ long term performance (just to humour you guys, since I don’t think that’s the case).

      Why doesn’t paying a player more money motivate him to “play up to his contract”? Why is it simply the promise of potential paydays down the road that would motivate? If you’re paying a guy in a way that says “we value your contribution to the team”, what’s to say that won’t make him want to improve?

      • DragonFlame

        See David Clarkson, Scott Gomez, Martin Lapointe, Chris Gratton, Wade Redden and Dennis Wideman (among many other high-priced signings that didn’t work out in the team’s favour).

      • MattyFranchise

        Try the opposite approach: you’re 22 years old, you’ve been playing a game for most of your life and now you’re getting offered millions of dollars to get play said game.

        A lot of these guys have gotten to the NHL just by being more naturally talented than other players. This is why a guy like Gio is so valued, because he had to work for it, and from the rumblings out of Edmonton this is a reason why Eberle is not so valued anymore.

        When you are that age and making that kind of money what do you do? Do you constantly try to improve to make that your living for the next 15 years and retire? Or do you do just enough to not get fired for as long as possible and retire at 30 with millions in the bank?

        In my mind, the bridge contract separates the wheat from the chaff. Taylor Hall strikes me as the former while Eberle strikes me as the latter.

        Really all it comes down to is if the management behind these decisions really knows their players as well as they think they do.

      • T&A4Flames

        It all depends on the player. But we see it all the time. A player is good on their ELC. They get a massive raise, the play average maybe even regress. Contract year comes up, suddenly they’re super stars again. GM signs them to huge, max term contract, team sucks. See Maple leafs, Toronto/ Clarkson, David.