Thrashers among teams over salary cap
Five teams spent more than $39 million last season
By JOHN MANASSO
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Published on: 06/30/06
Five teams — including the Thrashers — went over the NHL's inaugural salary cap limit of $39 million in 2005-06.
NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly did not identified the teams during a briefing last Saturday at the NHL draft but the Thrashers were one of two teams to spend over the limit.
In their case, it was because of the $1.75 million performance bonus paid to winger Peter Bondra at season's end that will count against the Thrashers' cap in the neighborhood of about $1 million towards next season's limit, which was formally announced on Tuesday as being $44 million with a $28-million bottom limit.
Three other teams went over because of an injury exception that is allowed for teams with players on the long-term injured reserve list (Patrik Elias' injury put New Jersey over).
Thrashers general manager Don Waddell has said repeatedly this offseason that he would not be nearly as close to the cap for 2006-07 as he was for the previous year.
He also said the Atlanta Spirit ownership group's legal issues with partner Steve Belkin have not affected how he has had to do his job.
"No issues from my end," he said.
And as for recent ownership meetings to set his budget, he said, "We're still working on it."
One area in which the team's bottom line could get a nice lift is from the NHL's revenue sharing plan, a result of the new CBA for which the owners fought so hard that they canceled the 2004-05 season. Twelve teams will receive re-distribution of revenue.
Daly revealed that the team with the lowest revenue - speculated by many to be Nashville - will receive $12.5 million this season.
"We're assuming we're one of the 12," Waddell said. "We haven't been notified yet because they haven't finished those numbers yet. We were just in the [NHL board of governors meeting on Wednesday] and they said they hoped by the middle of the July they'll have it to each team. We'll be toward the bottom of that one. The bottom eight to 12 range there."
Waddell said he thought such a large cash infusion would be a "one-year" situation because the league's revenues were so much larger than expected.
(The revenue increases were so large, Daly said, that the players will receive bonus checks in the fall. The players receive 54 percent of revenues under the CBA and as Daly put it, "It's not just a limit, it's a guarantee. As it turned out, we underestimated" the revenues.)
Said Waddell of the Thrashers' anticipated portion of the revenue sharing: "Any time you can get money like that, that you can get to the bottom line, anything helps."
No more bonus deals
Having gone through one season with a player — Bondra — having bonuses on his contract, Waddell said it's not something he is eager to do again; namely with Scott Mellanby. Under the new CBA, the only players eligible for bonuses are players on entry-level contracts, players who are 35 and older (like Mellanby) and players who have played 400 games or more and have missed 100 days because of injury the previous season (but only if they sign a one-year contract).
The problem with offering bonuses is that they all count against a team's salary cap until it is impossible for the player to fulfill them. Thus, Bondra's $2.9 million in possible bonuses — all of which involved the team's ability to make the playoffs — all counted against the cap until the final day of the season when the team was eliminated from the playoffs.
Thus, even though $1.15 million of those bonuses went unpaid, they affected Waddell's ability to make a move at times during the season.
"It's something we prefer to stay away from now that we've been through it," Waddell said.
The new CBA also eliminates option years on contracts.
"As an organization, we're pretty happy to see him out of the division. No disrespect to Todd Bertuzzi, but he only plays 20 minutes per game and [Roberto] Luongo plays 60 minutes."
- Thrashers coach Bob Hartley on Florida's trade of goalie Roberto Luongo and Lukas Krajicek to Vancouver in exchange for Todd Bertuzzi, Brian Allen and Alex on Friday.