Cap crunch means lower spend­ing

China Daily (Hong Kong) - - SPORTS -

Aside from de­fense­men Kevin Shat­tenkirk and Karl Alzner at­tract­ing $20 mil­lion­plus con­tracts, NHL free agency isn’t what it used to be.

Though plenty of play­ers switched teams once the sign­ing pe­riod opened on Satur­day, miss­ing were the high­priced, long-term con­tracts that were once the norm.

Shat­tenkirk, con­sid­ered the top free agent avail­able , signed a four-year, $26.6 mil­lion con­tract with the New York Rangers. And af­ter nine sea­sons in Wash­ing­ton, Alzner signed a five-year, $23.1 mil­lion deal with Montreal.

Shat­tenkirk noted he turned down a more lu­cra­tive of­fer to sign with the Rangers, in part for the op­por­tu­nity to

Score­board

play closer to his home­town of New Rochelle, New York. Alzner said he had few op­tions be­yond Montreal, which was the only city he vis­ited over the pre­vi­ous week.

The ex­pan­sion Ve­gas Golden Knights stayed busy by trad­ing de­fense­man Alexei Emelin to Nashville for a 2019 third-round draft pick. Ve­gas se­lected Emelin from Montreal in the ex­pan­sion draft last month.

The most lu­cra­tive deals were to re­tain young stars. The San Jose Sharks locked up de­fense­man Marc-Edouard Vla­sic with an eight-year, $56 mil­lion deal, while Anaheim signed de­fense­man Cam Fowler to an eight-year con­tract worth $52 mil­lion.

The Sharks also ex­tended the con­tract of goalie Martin Jones by sign­ing him to a sixyear, $34.5 mil­lion deal.

That’s a dras­tic change from a year ago, when three free agents signed seven-year con­tracts, in­clud­ing ag­ing vet­eran Milan Lu­cic’s $42 mil­lion deal with Ed­mon­ton.

“There’s a whole lot of fac­tors,” Detroit Red Wings gen­eral man­ager Ken Hol­land said, not­ing age was one and so were the moves by teams to sign their play­ers to ex­ten­sions well be­fore they might have hit the mar­ket.

Long-time player agent Steve Bartlett said teams are hand­cuffed by long-term deals and a flat cap, while Rangers GM Jeff Gor­ton noted there was a limit on how high he would go to sign Shat­tenkirk.

“We try to stay away from those six-, seven-, eight-year deals right now and fig­ure out where the cap’s go­ing,” Gor­ton said.

The salary cap has barely budged, go­ing from $69 mil­lion in 2014-15 to $75 mil­lion next sea­son.

Teams are in­stead re­sort­ing to a pay­roll model used by the Pitts­burgh Pen­guins and Chicago Black­hawks. It’s one in which teams com­mit high salar­ies to their best play­ers — such as Pitts­burgh’s Sid­ney Crosby and Ev­geni Malkin and Chicago’s Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane — and fill sec­ondary needs with young­sters and lower-priced jour­ney­men.

That’s the ap­proach Sharks GM Doug Wil­son took in re-sign­ing Vla­sic, Jones as well as Nor­ris Tro­phy-win­ning de­fense­man Brent Burns in Novem­ber.

“These are guys who fit for now and the fu­ture,” Wil­son said. “They are core pieces for our team at key po­si­tions. Get­ting these guys un­der con­tract was a re­ally high pri­or­ity.”

The pace of sign­ings didn’t change, with more than 30 play­ers switch­ing teams within the first 90 min­utes.

Nick Bonino left the Stan­ley Cup-cham­pion Pen­guins to sign a four-year, $16.4 mil­lion deal with Western Con­fer­ence cham­pion Nashville. The Preda­tors freed up cap space to sign Bonino by trad­ing cen- ter Colin Wil­son to Colorado for a 2019 fourth-round pick.

The Pen­guins re­stocked by sign­ing de­fense­man Matt Hun­wick and goalie Antti Niemi. Hun­wick takes over af­ter Ron Hain­sey signed with Toronto. Niemi fills the spot va­cated af­ter Marc-An­dre Fleury was se­lected by Ve­gas.

The Pen­guins also re-signed de­fense­man Justin Schultz, a re­stricted free agent, to a three-year, $16.5 mil­lion deal.

AP

De­fense­man Matt Hun­wick left the Toronto Maple Leafs to sign with the Stan­ley Cup cham­pion Pitts­burgh Pen­guins on Satur­day. The Pen­guins also signed for­mer Dal­las Stars goal­tender Antti Niemi, but lost de­fense­men Trevor Da­ley and Ron Hain­sey and cen­ter Nick Bonino on the first day of NHL free agency.

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