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It's a salary cap world



A little more than a month before training camp, the Lightning has a salary cap number of $55.66-million, very close to the limit of $56.7-million. This, of course, is not where the team will end up. Tampa Bay has, hypothetically, spoken in the past of a payroll anywhere between $45-million and $48-million. But asked Tuesday about a target, owner Oren Koules said, "We're not really looking at a number."

There are many ways payroll can be lowered. For instance, no one expects Steve Stamkos to earn all of the performance bonuses that could raise his salary from $875,000 to $3.725-million. Still, for season-opening accounting purposes, those bonuses, along with bonuses for Gary Roberts, Ollie Kolzig and Mark Recchi, have to be included in the cap number. If Jeff Halpern misses 30 games because of his knee injury (and he is not expected back until perhaps Christmas), Tampa Bay starts getting salary relief.

For now, though, what the team is looking at is trades. Though things have been quiet the past few weeks, vice president of hockey operations Brian Lawton said that has not diminished the team's desire to deal. Neither Lawton nor Koules would talk about specific names, but it seems certain Jussi Jokinen, Michel Ouellet and Jason Ward are being dangled. Speculation Ryan Craig also could be moved now seems unfounded. As Koules said, "Ryan Craig can do anything. Ryan Craig can play all 12 forward positions. He can cover guys. He's good at draws. That's a heck of an asset. We signed him for two years because we wanted to get him rolling again."

Given the team's cap number, it is much more likely to swap players for minor-league depth or draft choices. That means the rumors about Bryan McCabe, Darryl Sydor and Pavel Kubina can stop.

I know it's been mentioned a great deal around the Internet before, but it is worth repeating here: Nashville seems a likely trading partner. Think about it. The Predators have 13 draft picks next year and a ton of defensive depth that includes prospects such as Cody Franson, Alex Sulzer and Jonathon Blum.

Two things are at play: The Lightning believes it is set at forward, and, as Koules said, "We feel better about our kids (on defense) than anybody else."

The top five blue-liners are Matt Carle, Paul Ranger, Alex Picard, Shane O'Brien and Filip Kuba. The feeling is Mike Lundin, Janne Niskala and Andrew Hutchinson will battle for the final spot, though Matt Smaby and Ty Wishart will get long looks. Muddling the picture slightly is Lundin has to clear waivers if he was to go to the minors and likely would be lost. So if he loses the battle, he could be moved. Niskala has a clause in his contract that could send him to Europe if he did not make the team. Hutchinson has a one-way deal, so he also could be traded if he bombs.

However it plays out, there are still plenty of moving parts that must bet settled through training camp and preseason.

Follow the money.

Players with one-way contracts, except Lundin. (Salaries in millions):

Player                Salary           Cap hit

Vinny Lecavalier  7.167           6.857

Marty St. Louis   5.0               5.25

Ryan Malone       6.0                4.5

Steve Stamkos     .875            3.725*

Vinny Prospal      3.5               3.5

Matt Carle          2.95             3.438

Filip Kuba           3.0              3.0

Radim Vrbata     3.0              3.0

Ollie Kolzig         1.5              2.5*

Gary Roberts      1.25            2.07*

Jeff Halpern       2.0              2.0

Jussi Jokinen     1.875           1.812

Mark Recchi       1.25             1.5*

Michel Ouellet     1.3              1.25

Chris Gratton      1.25            1.25

Shane O’Brien     1.125           1.0

Marc Denis          1.0              1.0**

Mike Smith           .950            .950

Evgeny Artyukhin  .900            .950

Paul Ranger          .950            .933

Alex Picard           .750            .800

Ryan Craig           .775            .787

Mike Lundin         .738            .688

Jason Ward          .700            .675

Adam Hall            .600            .600

Janne Niskala       .600            .600

Nick Tarnasky       .525            .525

Andrew Hutchinson .500           .500

Totals:                52.030        55.66

*Includes performance bonuses; ** Buyout. 


[Last modified: Sunday, August 16, 2009 4:38pm]


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