If there were no salary cap, Franson and Kadri would be under contract

via Twitter.com’s @GraphicComments

The second buy-out window for the Toronto Maple Leafs came and went, and it’s good to see that Dave Nonis did not use it to use it on John-Michael Liles. He had the opportunity to give his team the short-term cap relief necessary to have the space to easily re-sign Cody Franson and Nazem Kadri, but at a severe price to the future.

So that didn’t happen, but Al Strachan, the ex-writer sounding off on Gary Bettman last night, used an odd excuse to explain why Nonis has yet to up the Leafs’ second best scorer and top defensive scorer from last season: it’s all the cap’s fault.

The number of small mistakes that have added up include, but are not limited to the retained salary in the Jonathan Bernier deal, buy-outs on Colby Armstrong and Darcy Tucker, twin two-year contracts to two useless facepunchers and Mark Fraser’s unexpectedly large raise. Even if you get beyond the fact that Nonis took huge gambles on Joffrey Lupul, David Clarkson and Tyler Bozak, at least those deals didn’t slowly add up to destroy the team’s salary cap situation if one truly believes they are the right players to lead the team in the future.

Nonis knows exactly what the salary cap is, having been a general manager when the cap was instituted. His first offseason ever in Vancouver he re-signed a good number of key players to contracts and managed to fit everybody under then new cap. It’s not like they were scrubs. He got Markus Naslund, Brendan Morrison, Henrik Sedin, Daniel Sedin, Mattias Ohlund, Ryan Kesler, Sami Salo and others under contract one way or another and the Canucks saw no key departures during that turbulent offseason that saw many players change jerseys.

Every team is playing by the same rules, and while I’m not entirely in favour of a cap, it exists, and needs to be taken into consideration when making hockey decisions. Even without a cap, it’s not like the Leafs are a bottomless money pit that would be fine with letting whomever is the general manager sign every flavour of the year unrestricted free agent to a seven-year contract without any consequence when the signing turns out poorly. Every dollar you spend is a dollar that you can’t spend elsewhere.

Perhaps ten years ago when the Leafs were buying up talent, nobody seemed to care about the deals they were handing out. There wasn’t as much information circulating about contracts back then, but long-term deals generally meant three or four years as opposed to six, seven or eight as we see today. In the pre-cap era, deals like the ones given to Lupul, Clarkson and Bozak would still be considered peculiar, the idea being that the team buys up years to lower the average value of the deal. I’m not sure how a seven-year deal to a player that had never scored 50 points would be received back in 2002, but I’m near-certain some retired writer would have trashed the deal if there was a medium to conveniently share thoughts.

The salary cap isn’t at fault, here.

  • You are over stating your conclusion and this story comes off as more Nonis bashing.

    For some context and perspective, there are plenty of RFAs at this point Pietro, Hodgson, Runblad, Boedker, Cowan, Tanev, Stepan and Henrique all unsigned. Even Burmistrov and Komorov were lost to the KHL but of those two I think one GM made a dumb choice and the second a smarter one by letting that player walk due to the shrinking salary cap.

    Further, every year there are one or two hold outs – last year they were Subban and O’Reilly. The year before that – Turris. This is more an example of two party negotiation of a scarce resources.

    I think you should wait until Franson or Kadri join the KHL or are traded before jumping to faulty conclusions.

    • Things I have mentioned at other times, yet not at all relevant to the subject today.

      The length it’s taking Franson or Kadri to get under contract doesn’t bug me. The fact that the Leafs are going to have to give up a good player to get Franson and Kadri under contract is what bugs me.

      I could care less if a player signs on June 13th or September 13th as long as they play a full season for a good price.

      Getting Franson and Kadri under contract is easy. Just say “yes” to what they’re offering. Making it all fit is the challenge.

  • Set Theory

    And speaking of drawing conclusions, this consistent Nonis bashing is an example of anchoring bias in that anything Nonis does is doomed to failure or idiotic.

  • Set Theory

    You could successfully argue that the cap is in many ways responsible for the “contemporary idiotic” contracts we see today. Pre-cap, it was just money that was idiotic and several teams were priced out of being competitive. Now we see both money and term as idiotic, with term being introduced as a means to mitigate a constraint.

    Take away AAV and you’ll see this sort of crap disappear in a season or two.

    It is the cap. Not entirely, but mostly.

  • Set Theory

    I think Cam mentioned this, but what happens to Kadri/Franson is going to make or break Nonis.

    So unless these two are both (miraculously) re-signed without subtracting elsewhere from the team, Nonis will be just another short-sighted/swing-for-the-fences GM that’s plagued this team for years (exception: Burke, Brian).

  • There is lots of time. The Leafs can be 10% over the cap until the end of September.

    Kadri and Franson have not missed a game yet.

    There are no offer sheets, I highly doubt there will be for our two Leaf RFA’s. Most teams don’t have the cap space.

    “The fact that the Leafs are going to have to give up a good player to get Franson and Kadri under contract is what bugs me.”

    It’s not a fact. That might not happen.

    If Nonis manages to strong arm his RFA’s into reasonable deals (because they really have no other choice) then I think Nonis comes out of the summer looking quite good.

    We just have to wait…see what happens and make our judgments at that point.

  • Jeremy Ian

    You are right Cam, the cap represents a binding constraint. But there is more than one way to manage it — or defer its real cost (as you have noted). It might help to distinguish between a firm’s budget management strategy from its bargaining strategy. The two are of course linked. But Nonis is locked into the latter with the player reps. How that comes out will determine how he handles budget management. Just too many contingencies along the way, and several ways to handle the outcome. From the management’s perspective, the impression of a “hard cap” is certainly one way to pressure the agents to come down in their bidding. Don’t know how effective it is.

    I think what we are seeing is that the cap under the current CBA will mean that more of the bargaining will adopt this kind of brinksmanship. Or maybe just this year, the first year of the cap – which no doubt will be the hardest. Whether this is a whole new era or just a one-year adjustment will depends on how high the ceiling gets raised next year. My own prediction is that the cap will rise enough for Toronto, Philly, Montreal, Rangers, Pittsburgh to sign or resign their rosters.

    Much as I want to see Franson and Kadri playing — and with the Leafs! — I don’t think it’s worth getting alarmed. Yet, anyway.

    Still, your general point holds. With a collusive restraint on player salaries, the opportunity cost of stupid contracts rises (and this is where I could not agree more that a 4th line of fists may prove very costly) and the bargaining between RFA’s and their teams gets more frictional.

    PS: Gambles are part of the game. If outcomes were all predictable, what would the game look like?

  • jasken

    Let me see where to begin first assets like increasing morality, aggressive forecheck, puck pressure, hits, toughness and grit, agitating have all become useless in today’s hockey it seems. So much for use of enforcers.

    Clarkson, Lupul signings are a gamble? These 2 are tough competitors who bring it every game, and produce there is no more gamble with them as there was with Kessel at 5 mil except lack of giving up 3 picks Leafs had to with Kessel.

    Bozak avg .63 p.p.g avg last 2 seasons for 1.5 mil and people still going on about him. Move on

    The way I see it Nonis had no reason to buy out Liles. People make assumptions to easily, Liles makes his 3 mil because he is a 40 pt defenceman.

    Franson wants 4 mil for not even 30 pts, he has been anything but consistent, the max offer from any GM is 2.5 mil that is a given.

    Kadri has not maintain consistency in his performance to get himself more then 2.5 mil. You could argue well he got 44 pts in 48 games, and his previous 50 games he got 19 pts next argument.

    The Leafs have them penciled in at around that amount anything more their not getting. They had an estimate value on players, cap or no cap their not paying more then they figured their worth.

    There is no fault here from what I see blaming Nonis for agents are trying to over value their client’s worth wont work either.

  • Why so many fans complain about the salary cap in our sports makes no sense to me. First off, Every other major sport Has a cap, with the exception of baseball. Also, most really good free agents go to American based teams anyways, imagine teams like the Rangers, Boston, Philly, Pittsburgh, Detroit and Chicago with Unlimited funds at their disposal. Those are where the great free agents want to go Now. Plus Montreal would beable to add a couple of good players finally, and we sure don’t want that.

  • nonikhanna

    Punkster makes a good point, and to add to it, how can you blame Anything on the Salary Cap, it has been in existence for years now, All teams have to deal with it. Drafting well, making good trades and not Overpaying for free agents are how you keep your team competitive and fiscally stable.

  • nonikhanna

    Maybe Hockey under Gary Bettman has passed the Canadian based teams by. We provide the Majority of the best players, they then want to play in the States. Our teams also add Million of dollars to Bettmans struggling markets to keep Them competitive, in effect, we buy tickets to help Their teams under the Revenue Sharing program. This whole system favors Bettmans teams at our expense. That’s where the Real problem lies. Or havent you noticed which teams have won the Cup for 20 years.

    • Lucius

      I agree, but the cap is not in my opinion the problem. What it does is stop salary inflation like we see in European football -As much as I love Ronaldo I for one do not think that he deserves 17 million Euros after tax to kick a ball (yes the industry merits those type of prices however competition falters. There are only 2 teams in La Liga) YES I think that Bettman has passed the Canadian based teams. But The salary cap is a fair way to keep competition, Revenue sharing is not there I disagree. Punkster (7:38pm) is right in saying that teams with unlimited funds us included will inflate salary and kill the game

      I do not think that Nonis plays the “We are the maple leafs” card correctly Nor has he managed the cap space. He is not a good GM. Do you want to play in the greatest hockey city in the world and play for the leafs or do you want to go live is Columbus?? that should entice any player.

      Its not the Cap, its the mangement

  • While there are many good comments here, one thing Nobody mentions is that with the salary cap, and the fact Canadian teams have to Overpay to bring decent players to Our teams, that hurts us alot. Becuse we overpay (IE Clarkson), we are limited and hit the cap sooner than US based teams. And dont think Bettman doesnt know this. Something has to be done to keep the American Favortism from continuing.

    • Lucius

      Clarkson left money on the table to come play for the Leafs. He gave a hometown discount.

      Free agents are always overpaid when they change teams, regardless of what country they play in. GMs get caught in a bidding war. See: Brad Richards.

    • Jeremy Ian

      This is not me folks. For starters, I have a perverse affection for proper grammar.

      Looks like someone is hijacking identities.

      Cap vs Management? Team vs League? This presumes that there’s something terrible going on that needs to be pinned on someone, Nonis or Bettman. I am neither a defender of Nonis, and certainly not of Bettman. Both are the creatures of corporate structures making decisions according to their incentives and constraints. I doubt we can remove one ailment or one person and thereby change the situation.

      Bettman is not anti-Canadian; his strategy was to ape the NBA, move into new markets in the demographically (and real estate-driven) bloating markets in the American sun belt, with an eye to catching TV audiences. Supposedly, there would be TV revenues to supporting the “venture” teams. It just didn’t work out that way. Between the long-term effects of the last lockout and the bursting of the real estate bubble, that now looks like a stupid gambit. Many warned him that it would be; but what did Bettman know about hockey that the money-guys didn’t spoon-feed him in their own lust for the US (aka “national”) TV contract?

      And now we have half the league teams earning losses.

      But the thing is, once you’re in, it’s hard to pull out. Like a fishhook. It’s called sunk costs. So, now the league puts them on tax payer-supported lifelines (just be glad you don’t live in Arizona folks; now the team will be named after the state in acknowledgement at least that it’s not just the city that’s on the hook for the team’s losses and the owner’s gains).

      Sorry, I don’t see how this is anti-Canadian. It’s just a failure.

      Besides, if we really, really wanted something pro-Canadian, we’d have to have another team in Toronto. But of course, Leaf management would never allow that to happen; why would they want competition? The monopoly is one way in which the team gets to make record profits, enables the Leafs to be the only hockey franchise in Forbes’ top 50 sports franchises in the world, and still manage its assets in ways that keep the blogosphere alight.

      So, if we really want a pro-Canadian NHL AND something to force the Leafs to wake up, we need another team in Toronto.

      But then the most pro-Canadian of teams is what’s standing in the way of that outcome. Not Bettman. He’s just in damage-control mode now.

      I’m always a little leery of where nationalism goes — even as a patriotic Canadian.

  • Jeremy Ian

    Nonis should’ve had the balls to walk away from the Bozak negotiations when Bozak asked for so much. How he got over 4mil/per, I will never understand. He’s a 2.5-3mil/per max, and that’s MAX, I personally probably wouldn’t pay him that, especially when I have to sign two actual young players developed within the system.

    Bozak should’ve stupidly priced himself off of the team, but Nonis isn’t only known for making some pretty suspect moves in Toronto.

    Vancouver fans (like myself) are haunted by names like Ritchie, Chouinard, Bulis, Santala, Krajicek (ok, he wasn’t SO bad, but he was not good in any way), Carney, Weinrich, Pyatt (again, not SO bad, but not good), Pettinger, Isbister.

    Nonis makes a ton of pretty stupid moves. His incompetence with regards to cap management in Toronto is not surprising at all.

  • Jeremy Ian

    I’m so honoured to have the infamous name-copier use my name! Make no mistake, I don’t like Bozak. Why anyone would imitate someone who barely posts here more than 5 times a month and no one knows, is beyond me.

    Seriously, does anyone know who I am? Why would someone imitate someone who no one knows.

    Nonis is an awful GM, plain and simple.