Anaheim Calling Contributor Tryouts: Joe (2)

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ARTHUR:
Hello AC readers.  We're continuing our tryouts through this offseason. 

This is the second article from Joe.  Throw him some feedback in the comments.  

JOE:
Well, it is that time of the year again, when bitterness, disappointment and frustration slowly blossom into hope, anticipation and excitement for a new season. Before we fans turn our eyes toward the draft and free-agency; I offer a glimpse at the Ducks’ salary cap situation. All figures were pulled from capgeek.com.

I was ready to write an article urging the Ducks to get aggressive this free agency season and make a big splash. While there does not appear to be a very deep pool of unrestricted free agents this season, there are some bona fide studs to be had in the RFA market.

My argument would be to go find a cornerstone piece that could both set us up for the future and increase our chances of making a serious Cup run for Selanne’s last season. My two targets would be Shea Weber and Keith Yandle. Both Yandle and Weber were in the conversation for top performance by a defenseman this year. They both play for small market teams that may have difficulty matching a serious offer. The ‘Yotes, especially, would have serious problems matching a large contract, given their ownership uncertainty. Still, even if the offer was matched, it would likely hamstring teams that are serious rivals of the Ducks. I think this idea has merit, and I would love to see Murray get aggressive and think outside the box, but alas, a look at our cap situation says otherwise.

The Ducks currently have $9.6 million of projected cap space. This assumes the cap remains the same ($59.4 million). I have read some articles that project the cap to increase to $62.2 million, but the Ducks usually operate under a budget and do not spend all the way to the cap. So, for the purposes of this discussion, let’s assume Murray’s budget is the current salary cap.

There are two scenarios to consider.

Teemu does not return.

I fully expect Murray to enter a rebuilding mode and not make any significant signings, even though the Ducks would have $9.6 million available. Perhaps they could do something unexpected like make a run at a marquee RFA, but they would still need to retool the second line and fill too many holes. No, if Teemu doesn’t return, I think Murray looks to the youngsters and sets his sights on 2012-2013, where the Ducks are projected to have over $25 million under the cap.

Teemu comes back.

If Teemu returns and signs the same contract, it will account for half of our cap space. Some believe that if Teemu returns, then Paul Kariya would follow. I suspect that a Dynamic Duo Farewell Tour will cost the Ducks around $6 million combined, and that is 2/3 of our budget. This leaves about $3.6 million to play with. If Murray doesn’t get Kariya, he has $5.1 million left. After resigning our own free agents, there is probably enough to sign one mid-level player.

A look at our own free agents: (UFAs)

Todd Marchant: I suspect he is a goner, whether by retirement or lack of an offer. I love Todd to death, but we need to move on, and I see McMillan as an improvement here.

Jarkko Ruutu: He may be back, but he carried a $1.3 million cap hit last year. I assume he can get the same on the open market.

Brad Winchester: It is either Ruutu or Winchester but not both. Winchester had a cap hit of $700,000 last year, and there was a lot of ink spilled about how badly Murray wanted to sign him before. So, unfortunately, I think he is in and Ruutu is out (though I would rather have Ruutu).

Andreas Lilja: Goodbye, and thanks for the memories.

Ray Emery: I think this situation is completely dependent on Hiller’s injury. No doubt, he will command more than the $500,000 cap hit from last year, and he will want a one-way contract and some guarantee of ice time.  If Hiller can’t return, maybe his $4.5 million comes off the books, then I am lobbying to bring Bryz back. If Hiller is back, then Emery is out.

(RFAs)

Dan Sexton, Nick Bonino, and Kyle Chipchura are the RFAs of note. I think Dan Sexton ($750,000) and Nick Bonino ($875,000) get similar two-way contracts. Though we could debate whether Big Sexy deserves to start on the big club, I think preseason performance will mostly determine which of these players remain in Anaheim. We can also expect them to ride the Carlyle Carousel until they put up consistent numbers. Kyle Chipchura provides some nice energy, but guys like him are easy to find. I would rather give that spot to a youngster with more promise and upside. These contracts put another $2.2 million on the books, assuming they play in Anaheim. If they don’t, assume their replacements will make similar coin.

So, $2.2 million, at least, in RFAs, another $700,000-$1M in UFA resigning, and you have $3.2 million. The takeaway from this is that the Ducks don’t have much room if Teemu comes back. Unless they can unload Jason Blake, a cool $4 million cap hit, which is extremely difficult without taking on someone else’s albatross, the Ducks don’t have much room to maneuver. Some other anchors around our necks include: Andy Sutton ($2.1 million) Dan Ellis ($1.5 million), and Francois Beauchemin ($3.8 million, though I fully expect Beauchemin to be much better over a full year next year). Therefore, I don't think we're likely to see many free agent changes to the roster this offseason, given our current cap situation.

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