Roberto Luongo might be off the books, but the Vancouver Canucks haven’t escaped cap hell.
It’s one thing to have multiple bad contracts on your books. It’s another entirely when you have to allocate millions to dead cap space.
In the Canucks’ case, they have a mix of both.
You can see why Patrik Allvin and Jim Rutherford continuously talked about the need to create cap space after they were hired.
One problem: the astronomical price associated with clearing cap space this offseason prevented them from taking action.
Now, the Canucks are once again right up against the salary cap limit, thanks to inefficient contracts and the fact that the Canucks are among the league leaders in dead cap space.
While Allvin and Rutherford can thank Jim Benning and the Canucks previous management team for this mess, they have to be especially frustrated with some of the dead money on their books.
Let’s focus on that here, looking at how the Canucks compare to teams around the league in terms of dead cap space.
Canucks still top-10 among dead cap space
For the purpose of this list, we’re looking at a combination of buyouts, retained salary from transactions, and carryover bonus overage.
In terms of carryover bonus overages, the Canucks lead the league in that department this season, with those cap overages totalling $1.25 million.
That was thanks to the Jaroslav Halak bonus, which was written up so that the bonuses were purposefully easy to hit. The structure of his contract allowed the Canucks to punt their cap issues down the road for another season.
Halak hit his first bonus, meaning he received $1.25 million for playing 10 games last season.
He actually missed his second bonus, which would have seen him make another $250,000 if he maintained a save percentage of .905 or better.
The veteran netminder narrowly missed that bonus, finishing the season with a .903 save percentage.
Aside from Halak’s bonus, buyouts for Braden Holtby and Jake Virtanen are taking up another $2.4 million under the cap, meaning the Canucks have the eighth-most dead cap space in the NHL at $3.65 million.
The glass-half-full perspective here is that the Canucks are whittling down the amount of dead cap space allotted to their cap, thanks to past buyouts (Sven Baertschi and Ryan Spooner) expiring, and also thanks to the disappearance of Roberto Luongo’s cap recapture penalty.
However, it’s hard to shake the frustration that the Canucks still have $3.65 million allocated to buyouts and bonuses they couldn’t afford to pay last year, even after getting out of having Luongo on the books.
Cup contenders keeping clean cap sheets
If you break down this list, there’s actually an even amount of playoff teams and non-playoff teams in the bottom half of this list.
However, you can see that many of the top Cup contenders are keeping their cap sheets clean.
The Tampa Bay Lightning and Colorado Avalanche, for example, are two of the best teams in the NHL this season in terms of not having to pay players not to play for them.
Other top Cup contenders, including the Toronto Maple Leafs and Carolina Hurricanes, also don’t have any buyouts or retained salary on their books, while paying out minimal bonuses.
That logic isn’t perfect. The Florida Panthers, last year’s Presidents’ Trophy winners, have the second-highest dead cap space total, in large part thanks to Keith Yandle’s buyout penalty jumping up $2.3 million last season to $5.4 million this year.
At least in Florida’s case, they were able to find good players off of low-cost gambles, while teams like the Canucks had their cap space eaten up because they paid middling, replaceable players like Tanner Pearson, Jason Dickinson, Tyler Myers, and Tucker Poolman.
Here’s hoping that the new management regime will learn from those mistakes.