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Potential performance bonuses driving cap and roster decisions in New York

October 15, 2020, 10:14 AM ET [126 Comments]
Jan Levine
New York Rangers Blogger • RSSArchiveCONTACT
Besides drafting Alexis Lafreniere and the minor free agent signings, the biggest conversation has been on the roster construction. Trading Marc Staal and buying out Henrik Lundqvist were moves made to free up cap room to enable New York to be compliant with the myriad and volume of performance bonus clauses. Similar for not re-signing Jesper Fast. This is a topic for now and for during the year, since the specter of that amount, which is over $10 million, as we have discussed previously, is the overarching driver of free agent decisions and potentially who makes the roster once the 2020-21 season begins.

Vince Mercogliano had a good article on this earlier in the week. In it, he notes that performance-bonus cap hits could prevent Morgan Barron and Vitali Kravtsov from beginning the new season with the parent club. If that isn't a sobering thought, nothing will be. 

Here are a few excerpts from that column.
The main reason for that is nearly $13 million in buyout penalties, but another factor is the Rangers exceeding the $6.1125 million performance bonus allotment. Any amount over that figure counts against their cap, so with a current bonus total of $10.0625 million for seven players — Alexis Lafrenière, Igor Shesterkin, Kaapo Kakko, Adam Fox, Filip Chytil, Julien Gauthier and Ryan Lindgren — they're on the hook for $3.95 million.

Barron and Kravtsov would each count for $925,000 against the cap, which seems manageable. But here's the catch: Because the Rangers have already exceeded the bonus allotment, any performance-bonus eligible prospects who are recalled will add to the current cap penalty of $3.95 million.

Both Barron and Kravtsov could earn $850,000 in NHL bonuses this season, which means it would really cost the Rangers $1.775 million (cap hit plus bonus) to recall either one. And with such limited cap space, that's probably not a realistic option.

It's much more likely those final two roster spots will be occupied by non-bonus players such as Kevin Rooney ($750,000), Phil Di Giuseppe ($700,000), Libor Hájek ($833,333) or Anthony Bitetto ($737,500).

What's interesting is that per the CBA, New York has to reserve space against the cap in case bonuses are made. In essence then, the Rangers are counting potential bonuses as if they were actually given out. But if those figures are not met, see below for the link to what comprises those bonuses, and you will see that a good portion are unlikely to be reached, you in essence have dead cap space restricting your available space. Per my understanding if you go over that figure, you can allocate that amount over the next two seasons' cap. Doesn't that beg the question that a better approach is needed?

Yes, I am speaking as a Rangers' fan. But isn't it odd that potential bonuses are counted in full against the cap? That word potential in regards to the cap is treated as actual not possible. Maybe a tiering via amount is needed where above a certain amount, only a portion is counted this year, but if that figure is reached, it counts the following year. 

As we wait for arbitration, every dollar saved there might be a dollar allowing one of Barron or Kravtsov to make the parent club, It's always we could see 21 or 22 man rosters rather than 23 or players moved and down to the AHL, presuming there is a minor-league season, to save money against the cap. In addition, I wonder if there is no All-Star Game this season, does that allow money to be added back to the cap since that bonus can't be met? 

New York is in a situation where dollars and not talent may drive who makes the team out of camp, once the year starts. This also could result in an early-season trade, maybe Brendan Smith, to free up, as was done with Vlad Namestnikov. But doing so may be a day late and dollar shy, just like it was last year, seeing the impact on Tony DeAngelo now. Time will tell.

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