On a WDAE radio call-in show yesterday, Lightning GM Jay Feaster tipped his hat regarding some of his thinking going into next season's roster planning and payroll. Perhaps Feaster is using different mathematical techniques than me, but I can't seem to get his roster plan to add up with the payroll budget he says he's working with. And no one seems to be calling him out on it. So, I guess I'll take a shot...
According to sources who heard the radio show, Feaster offered up the following points of his off-season plan:
- Payroll ceiling is currently $40M
- Feaster wants all of the Big Four to stay (Lecavalier, St. Louis, Richards, and Boyle)
- Feaster not planning on trading Marc Denis
- Scoring line winger for Richards a priority; Eric Perrin back to 3rd line
- Matt Smaby is needed in Tampa
- Cory Sarich and Nolan Pratt will not be resigned
- Ruslan Fedotenko will not be resigned
- Will look to retain Johan Holmqvist for a reasonable salary
- Evgeny Artyukhin has been offered a one-way contract to return to Tampa
- Look for Shane O'Brien to be resigned to a long-term contract
From these clues, I'm guessing next season's roster more or less shakes out like this:
Prospal - Lecavalier - St.Louis
Ward - Richards - FA
Craig - Taylor - Perrin
Artyukhin - Tarnasky - Roy
Boyle - Ranger
Kuba - O'Brien
FA - Smaby
Denis - Holmqvist
Given this information and the current contract status of the Tampa roster from nhlnumbers.com , here's the estimated payroll for the 2007/2008 season that I've arrived at based on Feaster's advertised plan (I'm using actual payroll figures, not the NHL cap hit number):
Already Under Contract
Brad Richards @ $7.8M; Vincent Lecavalier @ $7.167M; Martin St. Louis @ $6M; Vaclav Prospal @ $1.9M; Tim Taylor @ $500k; Andre Roy @ $500k (PIT paying 1/2 of his $1M salary); Dan Boyle @ $3.625M; Filip Kuba @ $3M; Matt Smaby @ $775k; Marc Denis @ $2.8M
Total Under Contract = $34.067M, which leaves approximately $6M to resign RFAs and UFAs to round out the roster.
Now onto to some salary guesses for next season for the UFAs and RFAs...
Likely Resigned UFAs
- Eric Perrin resigned @ ~$600k; raise from $450k last season
- Jason Ward resigned @ ~$800k; raise from $650k last season
- Johan Holmqvist resigned @ $950k; raise from $600k last season
That's a total of $2.35M for these three UFAs, bringing the running total to $36.417M. If Holmqvist walks, Karri Ramo is already signed @ $650k as a backup plan.
Likely Resigned Roster RFAs
Craig and Tarnasky are fairly easily to predict, as they will likely accept their qualifying offers for the mandatory 10% raise the CBA requires for players making less than $1M. Artyukhin will likely accept Feaster's advertised offer.
- Ryan Craig offered/accepts the standard QO of +10%; resigns @ $545k
- Nick Tarnasky offered/accepts the standard QO of +10%; resigns @ $495k
- Evgeny Artyukhin resigned @ $475k
That's a total of $1.515M for these three RFAs, bringing the running total to $37.932M.
That leaves $2.068M left to resign Shane O'Brien, Paul Ranger, a 2nd line scoring winger UFA for Brad Richards, and #5/#6 UFA defensive partner for Matt Smaby!
Just who is Feaster trying to fool? Come on, now. Does anyone really think Feaster can even lock up both Ranger and O'Brien together for $2M, much less sign a scoring line winger and a third pair defensemen also?
If, and IMO this is a BIG IF, Feaster can actually lock down Ranger and O'Brien for about $1M each next season, that puts Feaster right at the advertised $40M budget. That's highly optimistic IMO.
Perhaps he brings back Pratt or someone Pratt-like at ~$600k as a #5/#6 and can maybe snag a UFA winger like Nils Ekman flying under the radar for $1-1.4M. If so, for a payroll at roughly $42M, all Feaster has really done in this scenario is replace Fedotenko with Ekman, Sarich with Smaby, and Karlsson with Artyukin. Marginal improvement, at best. And another nail-biter to get into the playoffs and tee times by mid-April. Rinse. Lather. Repeat.
There's really no way, the Tampa roster can be improved unless Feaster finds a way to dump Marc Denis and his salary. The numbers clearly show that.