Daoust gives you 12 future salary cap bargains to consider...
We are approaching the anniversary of the end of the NHL's latest lockout, which came to its conclusion January 12, 2013. Among the new CBA items included a changes to the salary cap rules that had major implications in fantasy leagues. Despite no rollback to existing contracts, the ceiling was dropped to $64.3 million for the 2013-14 season. This led to many players having to settle for less than what they could have earned under the old CBA. In fantasy leagues that use player salaries, this created a number of salary cap bargains that are currently playing a key role at a lower cost than many of their peers.
Additionally, the new CBA included a drop in the percentage of revenue going to the players, from 57 under the old agreement to 50. This change has a big impact in keeper leagues as, it would appear, this would slow down the acceleration of the NHL's salary cap ceiling. But with six outdoor games and a massive television agreement it appears that the ceiling will rise at an even faster rate, starting with a projected rise to $71.1 million next year.
All of this is going to have major implications in the fantasy hockey world. Salaries will continue to rise to record levels. But remember the summer of 2013 when the ceiling was lowered. Some of the multi-year deals signed over the last 12 months are going to carry a ton of value in the years to come. Here are some examples:
A trio of Penguins are producing great numbers in support roles at a good salary. Chris Kunitz, James Neal and Pascal Dupuis were covered seven weeks ago as excellent cap bargains in both one-year and keeper leagues. This will especially hold true for Kunitz ($3.85 million / UFA 2017) and Neal ($5 millon / UFA 2018) as the salary cap continues to rise. Their production rivals many of the league's elite and owning them allows you to save a few million. In Dupuis' case, his knee injury at the age of 34 does make him a risk moving forward. But with the cap going up he should still hold good value in multi-category leagues where his modest point totals along with good contributions in plus-minus, hits, blocks and shots on goal will keep him relevant.
A pair of popular players, Matt Duchene and Joe Pavelski, both signed long extensions with a cap hit of exactly $6 million. Duchene has bounced back nicely from a poor 2011-12 campaign with 79 points in 83 games since the end of the lockout. Pavelski, on the other hand, has been a strong multi-category player for years but has stepped up his game offensively this year with 37 points in 40 contests. Both players should be regarded as bargain star forwards.
It may not look like it right now but Ryane Clowe ($4.85 million / UFA 2018) may still have a lot of value in multi-category leagues if he can get past his recent head injuries. If he can get back to his 45-50-point form while providing triple-digits in hits and PIM then his cap hit will not be a difficult pill to swallow. It will be tough to buy low since his cost is significant under the current cap ceiling but he should nonetheless be on your radar if he starts showing signs of durability. His track record simply cannot be ignored.
In deeper multi-category leagues Matt Cooke ($2.5 million / UFA 2016) may be a good player to own. While he no longer produces great PIM totals, he can still get 30-40 points in a season along with more than 150 hits, 40 blocks and 100 shots on goal. Despite his poor reputation in real hockey, he can produce good depth numbers at a reasonable cost. If you do not own him chances are that you can acquire him for less than he is worth due to the overwhelming hatred that people feel towards him.
A pair of Jets, Bryan Little ($4.7 million / UFA 2018) and Blake Wheeler ($5.6 million / UFA 2019), signed long-term deals to stay in Winnipeg. Little has shown glimpses of offensive brilliance and appears set to beat his current peak of 51 points set back in 2009. But his multi-category play over the years has been superb especially if the league includes faceoff wins. Meanwhile, Wheeler has really stepped up his peripheral category production in recent years and as a notorious second-half beast appears set to challenge his personal-best of 64 points. While the Jets may be a difficult team to figure out, these two players are not. Both are very good players to own and can be true cap bargains in the right setting.
There are always productive defensemen available that carry a small cap hit. This is especially true in multi-category leagues. Ben Lovejoy ($1.1 million / UFA 2016) and Jordie Benn ($0.7 million / UFA 2016) are examples of players that can help your roster with some good all-around play. Despite mediocre point totals, both have been good in plus-minus, hits, blocks and shots on goal. If you are looking for someone with a more proven track record, Grant Clitsome ($2.067 million / UFA 2016) can provide some dependable all-around play for the Jets.
These examples are only a few of many that may have looked steep at one time but will prove to be valuable down the road as the NHL landscape changes. All of the players in this article are signed for at least two years beyond this one which gives you a nice cushion to take advantage of their value before their next contract renewal. When that time comes, the constantly-rising cap ceiling will provide new bargain players that can help you maintain a strong team in your fantasy league.
Previously in Capped: