Welcome to the World Cap of Hockey, a new series that dives into international waters and projects what a tournament featuring six national team rosters would look like today if each national team was required to be compliant to the NHL’s salary cap structure.
The six teams in this series will be Canada, USA, Russia, Sweden, Finland and a group consisting of top Europeans from nations such as Slovakia, Switzerland and the Czech Republic, and each roster must fit under the current $81.5-million cap hit using only players currently under NHL contract.
Today, we break down Team Canada.
If you value your sanity, do not attempt to assemble a cap compliant Team Canada roster.
That's what I did, and while the end product is a club capable of challenging for gold in the fictional World Cap of Hockey tournament, none of the decisions were easy. Obviously, some of the nation's top players were sacrificed for the sake of the budget. Mark Scheifele, Steven Stamkos, Brayden Point, Mitch Marner, Mark Stone, Brent Burns, Aaron Ekblad, Jordan Binnington and Carey Price, among others, would be top picks on a team with no restrictions (and would lead a mighty fine Canada B squad, too).
But among those that did make it, there are a few obvious locks heading into it. Connor McDavid, Sidney Crosby, Nathan MacKinnon, Mathew Barzal, Pierre-Luc Dubois, Brad Marchand, Cale Makar and Carter Hart were the easiest names to sign up – a mix of superstars and cost-effective youngsters that one just can't pass on. From there, it was evaluating the goalie options. Fortunately, Tristan Jarry picked a great year to explode as a pending RFA, and, without injuries, Darcy Kuemper and his $1.8-million hit was a great choice to lead the charge in the crease, even if it meant cutting 2019 breakout star Binnington.
Moving to the blueline, Dougie Hamilton and Alex Pietrangelo have proven they're among the top defenders in the league and would be a perfect 1-2 combo to lead the blueline. Colorado Avalanche defensemen Makar and Samuel Girard are two of the best young defensemen in the world and while they don't skate together in Colorado on a regular basis, they've got some familiarity with each other and inexpensive deals to boot. Chabot's still on his ELC, too – his $8 million AAV hasn't kicked in yet. Ryan Pulock and Josh Morrissey provide great value, so really, the biggest cost is just the top pairing.
Up front, clearly, the team didn't need to worry about depth. Barzal's ELC really helped the cause and has there ever been a better contract than MacKinnon's $6.3 million AAV? After that, saving money while maximizing output and potential had to be the next goal.
Travis Konecny was having a breakthrough season before the break and his $5.5 million AAV is a perfect fit – but don't show Flyers fans who he's lined up beside in this theoretical lineup. Say what you want about his selection, but Tyler Bertuzzi, an NHL all-star this season, gave the Wings incredible value this season at $1.4 million. A pending RFA, Bertuzzi is capable of 50 points and will earn a nice pay raise on the struggling squad. For now, his contract fits perfectly on Canada's fourth line. Same with Anthony Duclair, one of Ottawa's few bright spots this season, who costs $1.65 million. Anthony Cirelli, a pending RFA himself, was a leading candidate for the Selke Trophy before the shutdown, and while this team is made up of mostly top-line forwards, few centers could fill the 13th forward role as well as Cirelli. He's reliable in all situations and a two-way machine.
Canada had the largest list of omissions, but with more than 400 players in the NHL, there was no shortage of reliable replacements. Putting together a competitive roster was easy – it was making sure that the best team possible was assembled. With just less than $200,000 in leftover salary cap space, there wasn't room to do much else. It's safe to say that with two generational talents at the helm, this roster is in good hands, and perhaps the favorites to win the imaginary World Cap of Hockey.
Here's a look at Canada's full World Cap of Hockey roster:
Pierre-Luc Dubois – Connor McDavid – Sam Reinhart
Brad Marchand – Sidney Crosby – Travis Konecny
Jonathan Huberdeau – Nathan MacKinnon – David Perron
Tyler Bertuzzi – Mathew Barzal – Anthony Duclair
Dougie Hamilton – Alex Pietrangelo
Cale Makar – Samuel Girard
Thomas Chabot – Ryan Pulock
All rosters can be found here.
Total Cap Hit (Per Capfriendly): $81,339,164