Salary cap bargains are easy to find. Some are young players on entry-level deals, and others are late bloomers who are hitting their stride. In most leagues, you can find some cheap quality labor to fill your last few roster spots on the waiver wire and give your team some space under your league’s cap ceiling. Unfortunately, most of these players will be due for a contract renewal within a year or two with most of them likely to be asking for a nice raise.
Given that your salary cap bargains will not retain their affordability for long, you may be forced to make moves down the road to keep your team within the league constraints. More importantly, you will have to find new bargains to replace those who are no longer helping you. This article will focus on how to obtain the next salary cap bargains to help keep the core of your team intact.
Obviously, the prospect draft is an important tool when building your keeper league teams. In addition to providing your team with new talent, these players begin their professional careers on entry-level contracts, many of which are extremely affordable. The cap discount generally does not apply to the high NHL draft picks though. Consider some recent rookie contract examples:
- Ryan Nugent-Hopkins - $3,775,000
- Tyler Seguin - $3,550,000
- Mark Scheifele - $1,594,167
- Mikael Granlund - $2,100,000
- Ryan Murray - $3,525,000
This is why your later picks are even more important because you have an opportunity to find some quality lesser-hyped prospects that are a step down from the elite but can contribute at a much lower cost. Here are a few examples:
- Gustav Nyquist - $875,000
- Charlie Coyle - $975,000
- Brandon Saad - $894,167
- Brendan Smith - $875,000
- Marcus Foligno - $900,000
In the end, if you have success at the draft table you can find your cap bargains without having to look outside for a solution. Why help your rivals by giving them assets in a trade when you can have everything you need within your own organization? Sure, you want to swing for the fences and get an instant star out of every prospect you draft, but remember that prospects rarely develop overnight. On the way to their prime they can still be excellent contributors to your fantasy team. If you put in the effort in preparing for your next prospect draft, you will likely have some nice cheap prospects coming up through your pipeline in the coming years.
Unlike prospect drafts, you are far less likely to find future stars on the waiver wire in most leagues. However, you will usually be able to find NHL-ready talent that can contribute decent numbers at a cheap salary.
If your league has farm teams, you have a great opportunity to use the waiver wire to test the waters on new players who are making some noise without affecting your pro roster. If your league does not have a farm, then you will have to be a bit more careful because the players you acquire are thrown right into the mix and are expected to contribute immediately. However, without farm slots you are more likely to find better talent on the wire.
While this method allows you to make your team better without trading with a rival GM, these same opponents will be competing with you to acquire free agents. Generally your free agent claims are either first come first serve or follow a priority order, meaning that you will have to act fast and always have an eye out for new talent if you want to land the best that the wire has to offer.
One thing to be aware of is the fact that top undrafted free agents that sign entry-level contracts with NHL teams generally have an inflated cap hit. This is because multiple teams are bidding for the same player which drives up the price. Here are some recent examples:
- Torey Krug - $1,704,167
- Tyler Bozak - $3,725,000
- J.T. Brown - $1,350,000
- Damien Brunner - $1,350,000
- Roman Cervenka - $3,775,000
There really is no excuse not to use the waiver wire to your advantage. These guys can be had for free and they are right there under your nose in the free agents list of your league’s host website. It is up to you to find them.
This is the least desirable of the three options because trades must be agreed to by two parties. It is a strong possibility that your opponent will seek something of value in return for his cap bargain player. But there are still opportunities for favorable deals to be made. You simply cannot overestimate rival GMs. Everyone has a different level of dedication to fantasy hockey and everyone has different views on players. You can take advantage of this and acquire cheap players that will help your team.
There are many reasons for a rival GM to undervalue his cap bargain players. He simply may not be the type that plans ahead and understands how much these players can be helpful in accommodating other contract renewals on the roster. He could also be painting himself into a corner with young players approaching their farm eligibility limit. He may not see these guys as household names and be more flexible on the trade front. Whatever the reason, it is worth the trouble of kicking tires on the trade market, especially if the player you are targeting maintains a low cost for multiple years.
An added benefit to putting effort into your prospect drafts and the waiver wire acquisitions is that the new assets you possess can be used in trades. At this point you could even afford to overpay for a substantial piece if you want. If you put in the time and effort on all fronts, everything comes together and you will have all of the necessary tools to maintain a very competitive franchise over the long haul.
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