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Will Sharks cap free agents?
Wilson has room to manuever starting Sunday
6/30/07 - By Mike Lee

Just hours before the NHL free agent market opens up, I tried to dabble in the salary cap situation that the Sharks find themselves in. My numbers are unconfirmed, so bare with me here. Unless you track this stuff on a daily basis, figuring out NHL salaries in advance of the current hockey season is like trying to understand astrophysics. It can be done, you just need to dedicate yourself to the science.

I'm looking at the problem in simple terms. What are the Sharks 2007-08 salaries and what holes do they need to fill? The NHL salary cap for 07-08 is $50 million. The important thing to understand is that a team's aggregate salary for any given year is not the number that teams need to be worried about. What matters is the sum of all salary averages for its players over the life of each individual contract.

Player Pos Cap Hit 07-08 Salary 08-09 Salary
Thornton C 6.667 6.67 UFA
Nabokov G 5.375 5.000 5.500
MarleauC4.167 4.500UFA
GrierR 1.775 1.7751.775
CarleD1.294 0.942RFA
Michalek R0.6280.942RFA
Pavelski C0.6270.810RFA
CloweR0.542 0.600RFA
Patzold G0.5260.526RFA
In other words, if a player makes $2 million in season one of a contract, and $4 million in the second year of that contract, the cap hit that player's team takes in both of those seasons is $3 million ($4 mil + $2 mil / 2 years). Now there are a number of other factors that go into the salary cap hit a team must incur, such as number of days a player is on the NHL roster and bonuses, but for the sake of this discussion, I'll keep it simple and only factor in base salaries to estimate salary cap hits.

Craig Rivet, as an example just signed a $14 million contract that lasts 4 years. So his cap hit is $3.5 over each of the next 4 years.

Given that primer, the Sharks appear to have roughly $35 million in committed salary obligations, with Joe Thornton's $6.7 million cap hit the biggest. The Sharks have 9 players with cap hits over $1 million and 9 under that mark. The important number here is the 9 & 9. An NHL roster consists of 23 players (20 active during any game). That means the Sharks still have to sign five players just to fill a roster.

The notable Sharks unrestricted free agents (UFA) not currently under contract are Scott Hannan, Bill Guerin and Mark Smith. The 18 players I list also only includes one goaltender. With the Sharks trading Vesa Toskala to Toronto, they will need to promote a goaltender. Dimitri Patzold seems the likely choice, since the Sharks tendered him a qualifying offer earlier this week (rumored to be in the $525,000 range). The netminder will earn a slight raise over the $495,000 he earned last season.

All indicators suggest that Hannan won't be back, so the Sharks will either have to find a replacement on the open market, or plug the hole with a prospect. The Sharks tendered Rob Davision a qualifying offer earlier this week, which would give the Sharks 7 defenseman under contract.

Assuming Patzold signs for roughly $525k and Davison inks his qualifying offer for somewhere in the $500k range, add another $1 million to the Sharks cap hit. That leaves them with roughly $14 million sign another three players.

San Jose wants Mark Smith to return, so that would most likely tie up another $1 million. That leaves the Sharks with $13 million to sign two players. Keep in mind that the Sharks don't need to hit that cap number, it's just the ceiling.

They also want to lock up Thornton to a long term deal, which would command somewhere in the $8-9 million range per season. To do that, they lop off another $3-4 million from their available cap space.

Enter Chris Drury. I keep reading that the Sharks need to dump Patrick Marleau's contract in order to sign Drury under the cap limit. By my math, this doesn't add up. If Hannan does depart, the Sharks will have free'd up close to $8 million in space if you also add up Mark Bell's $2.2 million, Toskala's $1.4 and Guerin's $520,000 (Guerin is an UFA, but the Sharks ate ~$500k in cap hit from the remainder of his contract).

So that leaves the Sharks with $10 million to sign a Chris Drury. Again, you don't need to pay the guy that much (nor are the Sharks likely to come close to the cap limit), but if they're serious about bringing in the pieces to win a Stanley Cup, they certainly have the space to do it.

Again, there is a lot of ball-parking here, but my cocktail napkin math should provide an idea of what the Sharks have available.

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