Under the previous NHL Collective Bargaining Agreement, player contracts became very complex. In addition to no-trade and no-movement clauses, many contracts have extreme salary fluctuations from one year to the next.This is done to achieve a salary cap hit that is more favorable for the team. Veterans typically sign front-loaded deals with larger salaries and signing bonuses in the early years and lower salary values later in the contract’s lifetime. Young players for their part may opt for back-loaded contracts in anticipation of their projected improvement on the ice.
For leagues that use player cap hits, things are simplified because the only number that counts is the average salary over the life of the contract. However, if your league uses player salaries, things become a lot more complicated as you have to evaluate players based on their cost potentially changing every year.
If your team is not an immediate league championship contender, it is a good idea to look towards next year and beyond. In this case, hopefully you have some cap space available to use to your advantage because there are some very effective players with an inflated salary this year who become salary bargains in 2013-14.
Some of these players may be difficult to acquire but you simply cannot overestimate your rival GMs. Some of them simply do not look ahead or are not as committed to fantasy hockey as you are. It is possible that the rival values his player based on his current salary while ignoring the obvious cost benefits in the near future.
Here are some examples of front-loaded contracts with upcoming drops in salary:
Jason Spezza (Ottawa)
Jason Spezza is one of the most talented players on the planet and usually hovers around the point-per-game mark. The only issue is that he has missed many games to injury over the years. Still, after this year ends, his salary drops to $5 million which is excellent value for a superstar. The fact that he is the offensive pillar on a team that has done a great job developing young talent bodes well for his long-term future. In a points-only league, Spezza is one of the very best and ranks #11 in Dobber’s Top 300 Players list. In roto formats he is less valuable but still holds his own as he is a strong contributor in goals, assists, shots on goal, power play points and faceoffs. He is going to be difficult to acquire but it is definitely worth the trouble to kick tires and see if a trade can happen.
Daniel Briere (Philadelphia)
One of the first extreme cases of a front-loaded contract, Daniel Briere is on the back-half of the huge contract he signed in Philadelphia. His injury history along with his inconsistent production makes him a bit of a tough sell, but when you consider that the final two years of his contract cost a combined $5 million you cannot go wrong.
Looking at the last three years, he has played between 70 and 77 games and produced between 16 and 34 goals along with 49 to 68 total points. The range is wide but considering the cost even the low-end is a good result for your team. In roto, Briere is a solid contributor in goals, assists, PIM and shots on goal. Due to his age, it is possible that owners are eager to move him. Take advantage of this opportunity as he remains a productive fantasy player.
Martin Erat (Nashville)
Continuing with the trend, Martin Erat is another highly-skilled forward who gets hurt often. If he played a full season he could exceed 65 points. Unfortunately, over the last three years he has only suited up for an average of 70 games.
Despite the injury concerns, Erat is a pretty strong bargain player in points-only leagues. His three-year average of 52 points is strong for a winger and if he can ever play all 82 games he could prove to be a steal. His current salary of $5.5 million is solid in this format, but it gets even better next year and the one after.
Unfortunately, Erat’s value takes a hit in roto formats. He is more of a playmaker than a goal-scorer and beyond assists he is not a physical player nor is he a high-volume shooter. He could still be a solid #2 or #3 but his 2013-14 salary is not the same bargain that it is in points-only.
Brent Seabrook (Chicago)
Contrary to Erat, Brent Seabrook is a roto beast but is not very desirable in points-only. Aside from a contract year where he exploded for 48 points, he has stayed in the 24-34-point range. With a contract that pays him an average of $5.8 million, his money Is clearly earned primarily for being a rock at the defensive end.
In addition to putting up modest point totals from the back end, Seabrook is an excellent contributor in hits, blocked shots, shots on goal and plus-minus and also sees minutes on the power play. The overall package makes him one of the best and with a salary that drops to $5 million in 2013-14 Seabrook is clearly a bargain.
Christian Ehrhoff (Buffalo)
Christian Ehrhoff is a skilled defenseman who has been a 40-50-point player prior to joining the Sabres. His first season in Buffalo saw him only achieve 32 points although he did miss 16 games to injury. He has been very durable over the years so expect him to return to the 40-point range.
Ehrhoff signed a 10-year, $40-million contract last summer. This season, the second one of that deal, has him receiving $8 million. After that, the cost drops to $4 million for several years. As a guy who has been a safe bet to hit the 40-point mark over the years, he is a good value player once the salary drops.
In roto leagues he is a surprisingly strong defenseman to own. In addition to his solid offensive numbers including being a threat for double-digit goals, he gets a ton of shots on net, is great on the power play and blocks shots. It is highly possible that his owner underestimates his roto league value or simply wants to sell because Ehrhoff is not a superstar but is paid like one for this season.
Miikka Kiprusoff (Calgary)
Miikka Kiprusoff differs from the others on this list due to the fact that his contract only extends one year beyond this one. However, his 2013-14 salary is so low that it needs to be mentioned. His GAA and save percentage have been all over the place in recent years and he just turned 36 so his owner may be looking to unload him before he retires.
On the flip side, all Kiprusoff has done since the last lockout is appear in 70 or more games in each year since the last lockout. He has posted 35 or more wins each time, including 40-plus on three occasions. Even though the Flames are not a powerhouse by any means, there is no reason why Kiprusoff cannot continue to be a serviceable fantasy asset, especially at $1.5 million.
In the weekly piece "Capped", Eric Daoust breaks down the latest fantasy information from the standpoint of salary-cap leagues - the bargains, the busts and more.
Other posts from Eric Daoust:
- Proven Players vs. Risks
- Offensive vs. Defensive Defensemen
- Finding the Next Salary Cap Bargain
- Overpriced Forwards
- Overpriced Defensemen
- Bargain Goaltenders
You can find Eric on Twitter @DH_EricDaoust.