John Chayka (Norm Hall/NHLI via Getty Images)
The Arizona Coyotes have turned cap space into their greatest weapon this off-season, using it to take on big contracts and offer other clubs cap relief in exchange for picks and prospects, and the NHL doesn’t see any need to stop teams from following suit.
Two of the Arizona Coyotes’ most notable moves this off-season have come in the form of turning cap space — of which the team had plenty — into an asset that could be used in trades.
First came the acquisition of Pavel Datsyuk at the draft, which meant relieving the Detroit Red Wings of the veteran $7.5 million annual salary. The second move came when the Coyotes took on what was believed to be a nearly unmovable deal. Arizona picked up the final three seasons of Dave Bolland’s five-year, $27.5-million contract from the Florida Panthers, and grabbed top prospect Lawson Crouse as part of the package.
Some have decried the practice, but in an interview with Today’s Slapshot’s Craig Morgan, NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly said the league isn’t worried about the way the Coyotes and GM John Chayka have used their cap space as an asset.
“I would say that it’s a matter that we monitor, like all other areas of the CBA, and if we believe it starts to be abused in a way that is inconsistent with how the system is designed to work, at that point, we would try to correct it in collective bargaining with the union,” Daly told Morgan. “I would say we aren’t at that point on this issue — we do not view it as the loophole that some describe it as.”
Even with the combined $13 million in cap hits, the Coyotes are only set to pay an estimated $1.1 million to Datsyuk and Bolland because the former has headed overseas and is playing for the KHL’s SKA St. Petersburg this season while the latter is sidelined long-term with an injury.
The contracts for Bolland and Datsyuk are different, though, in that the only money paid will be to Bolland. Datsyuk isn’t due a cent of his contract, which makes his situation similar to that of Chris Pronger, who was also acquired by the Coyotes in a similar cap space deal in 2015. Daly said that’s one reason why the Bolland deal isn’t too worrying for the NHL.
“First of all, I would say that perhaps unlike Pronger (and maybe even Datsyuk), I’m not sure you can fairly characterize Bolland’s contract as dead cap space,” Daly told Morgan. “It’s my understanding the player still wants to play and continues to strive to get to a point physically where he can resume his career. So, I start from the perspective of having a problem with the premise.”
And that is true. Despite the fact he’s currently injured — and could be for the “foreseeable future,” according to Chayka — there’s no indication that Bolland is prepared to call it a career. The 30-year-old is working his way back from injuries, including an ankle ailment, and could be back to play out some of his contract in Arizona. Whether or not he does return, though, is anyone’s guess.
However, regardless of the status of Datsyuk and Bolland, the NHL sees what the Coyotes have done this off-season as above board. Arizona has used their cap space as their greatest asset, and the league doesn’t appear to have any interest in stopping other teams from following suit.
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