Good Friday to you – and to Scott Gomez, who, rumor has it, went to Disney World after scoring his first goal in more than a year Thursday night. As always, I thank you profusely for your questions and apologize more profusely for the ones I can’t get to, either here or in The Hockey News magazine, or on THN Radio. On to this week’s inquiries:
Adam, do management costs affect salary caps for NHL teams? Things like player development and scouting and coaching costs? Which teams spend the most? Do they get bang for the buck?
Peter Fitzpatrick, Minesville, N.S.
No, there is no NHL salary cap for management, or player development, a fact that gives teams either in big markets or with committed owners the opportunity to leverage themselves above franchises on stricter budgets.
Teams don’t make available any information regarding what they spend on off-ice employees and development, so it’s impossible to identify who spends the most. However, if you follow your team’s news closely, you should have a general idea of what they’re investing.
For instance, when Brian Burke became Leafs GM, he drastically ramped up the organization’s non-capped expenditures, hiring a number of new assistant GMs – right now, they have four (Dave Nonis, Claude Loiselle, Dave Poulin and Rick Dudley), which beats any other team in terms of sheer numbers.
Another example is the Buffalo Sabres, who, under former owner Tom Golisano, had just nine amateur scouts. Now, under new owner Terry Pegula, they’ve nearly doubled that number to 17. As for “bang for the buck,” I think that’s a subjective call. I mean, when the Sabres had just nine amateur scouts, they were able to draft and develop the past three American League rookies of the year. How do they top that now that they have a much bigger development budget?
As you can see, the non-capped aspects of the game are hardly straightforward, spend-and-reap-the-benefits areas. It’s an inexact science at best.
Adam, I am a huge Red Wings fan, have been since I was a kid. With some cap space this year and being first in the West right now, the Wings have an interesting situation that most teams do not find themselves in. With the looming retirement of Nicklas Lidstrom (not necessarily this year, but possibly after next) and the cap space that will open up, I think Detroit should talk to Shea Weber and Ryan Suter. If they enjoy playing with one another and would agree to a slightly reduced salary, is it possible for Detroit to trade for Shea Weber at/before the deadline and then court Ryan Suter in the off-season?
Lidstrom is making $6.2 million and Detroit has $5 million free this year and of all the players signed on the team for next year Kronwall is the only one set to go up ($1.75 mill more next year). That leaves $9.45 million. Weber is making $7.5 million and Suter $3.5 million, so the numbers don't really add up unless Weber takes a cut to $6 million and Suter accepts something like $5 million. They could at least be close in range. Are there any teams that might pull this off?
Adam Maher, Halifax, N.S.
That is one heck of a situation you’re imagining there. Unfortunately, for a variety of reasons, there is no chance whatsoever of it happening.
For starters, Weber is a restricted free agent after this season. As such, he can’t be offered a salary that is a reduction in pay from his current deal. And the prospect of Suter (an unrestricted free agent) turning down a million dollars or more per season just to stay alongside Weber is highly unlikely. Suter already has said he’s going to wait until the off-season to sign, leaving many to suspect the Predators will have little choice but to trade him by the Feb. 27 deadline.
The Preds may yet be able to keep one or both players, but most NHL people I’ve talked to think they’ll have to trade one of the two. The Red Wings could be front and center for one of them, but both? I think you’re setting yourself up for disappointment.
Adam, concerning Ben Ferriero with San Jose – why do all the announcers call him Ferrio instead of Ferriero? What happened to the ER? It bugs me when I hear it. I guess it's because my name is often mispronounced.
Armand St Marseille, Yorba Linda, Calif.
Look at my surname. I’m right there with you. Unfortunately, in a league with players from around the globe, pronunciation butchering is a fact of life.
My biggest pet peeve is with announcers who feel the urge to pronounce a player’s name as if the announcer hailed from that country. If those folks who did that also did so for everybody – and, for example, said Ryan O’Byrne’s last name as if they were a leprechaun – I’d be more understanding. But that’s just the muddied, multicultural times in which we live.
Adam, who do you think is going to win the Calder Trophy this year?
Jason Robertson, Northville, Mich.
At the start of the year, it seemed Edmonton’s Ryan Nugent-Hopkins was a lock to be named the NHL’s best rookie, but now he’s sidelined with an injury for the second time this season. That may not be enough to have voters lean toward someone else – say, New Jersey’s Adam Henrique, Nashville’s Craig Smith or Philly’s Matt Read – but who knows? A lot will depend on how all of these guys finish the season. For example, maybe Colorado’s Gabriel Landeskog comes on like gangbusters the rest of the way.
If I had to choose, though, I’d still go with ‘The Nuge.’ His top-end talent really sets him apart.
Hey Adam, why don't NHL players be more cautious when making a hit? There have been many concussed and injured players but players don't seem to be aware of the victim's head. They know they will get suspended, but why don't they stop?
William Donovan, Toronto
The brief answer is that players have been trained their whole hockey-playing lives to hit the opposition with everything they’ve got, that a guy who has his head down with the puck is a bunny rabbit deserving to be sacrificed. And the NHL’s lack of truly consequential fines or suspensions gives them no reason to reconsider that philosophy.
Now, there are some players who have had the message sink in and do take a fraction of a second before barreling into someone. But the league and the game need an extensive education program that gives players a deeper insight into the ramifications of reckless play before we see a fundamental change in that type of play.