Monday, October 21, 2013

Lower salary cap this season putting the cabosh on a possible Vanek trade

It's a given that Sabres forward Thomas Vanek is a goal-scorer and that any team looking to enhance their Stanley Cup aspirations wouldn't think twice about adding him to their roster.

Although he's off to a slow start this season, last year he was on a 40-goal pace.

Prior to the lockout-shortened 2013 season he averaged almost 33 goals/season and scored 40 goals twice. His lowest goal total over that seven year span was 25 in his rookie season.

Unfortunately this is not the ideal year for a goal-scorer like Vanek, who's on the last year of his contract at a $7M+ cap hit, to land on a team that's close to the Cup.

The salary cap dropping to $64M from last year's $70M totally screwed the rebuilding Sabres and their hopes for trading the veteran winger as a rental.

That $6M in extra buying power would have a number of teams able to afford his services.

Cup favorite San Jose and perennial Cup contender Detroit would have had the room at last year's cap ceiling, but are up against the cap right now.

The big splash, normally free spending NY Rangers, the powerhouse Chicago Blackhawks, the aging yet still Cup-contending Vancouver Canucks as well as Atlantic division foe Boston would give serious consideration to adding a bonafide top-line winger at $7m.

But the most cap space any of those teams have is around $1.2m.

With all the big suitors forced on the sidelines because of cap constraints, Sabres GM Darcy Regier finds himself in a real bind. He has more of a commodity in Vanek than he had in Jason Pominville last season, but possible destinations for Vanek are minimal at best right now.

As the year wears on, teams will undoubtedly have different cap numbers and at the trade deadline more possibilities should open up. But the waiting game is a somewhat dangerous proposition in that one never knows what the future holds for either Vanek or potential suitors as well.

Vanek is off to a slow start scoring only two goals in the first 10 games. Not that anyone who has watched him over the years would be concerned. Somehow he'll manage to get hot and put the puck in the net, even if it's on a woeful team that has managed to score a total of 12 goals in 10 games thus far.

Ultimately, injuries could be a big part of the equation from now until the trade deadline for both Vanek and any potential suitor.

Forward Martin Havlat
has scored 15 goals in 79 games
for the Sharks.

On the plus side for the Sabres is their ability and willingness to absorb a portion of his salary plus the cap-space to take back salary from a potential trade partner.

For instance.

The San Jose Sharks exit in last season's playoffs was largely due to lack of scoring as they lost a second round series to the Los Angeles Kings. They scored a total of 10 goals in the seven game series, seven over the last five games. With the series tied 2-2, they were shut out in game five, scored two goals in a game-six win and one goal in the deciding game loss.

Martin Havlat was the Sharks top-line LW heading into the playoffs last season, but was injured and only played in two playoff games registering zero points. He makes $5.1m and is recovering from off season surgery (he's presently skating with the team, although some might think that he really isn't needed)

A Vanek for Havlat trade certainly would be intriguing for the Sharks. They'd get themselves an upgrade on the top line with a proven playoff scorer. 

Only a willingness on the part of the Sabres to eat a portion of Vanek's salary plus the space for Havlat's salary would make for a good base to start trade talks.

As the season wears on, and we get to the trade deadline, more options will be available as teams will be able to absorb more of a cap hit.

Sabres forward Thomas Vanek's time
in Buffalo is coming to a close.
Both Chicago and Vancouver have just over $1m in cap space right now. At the deadline, according to capgeek they may be able to absorb an annual average salary of just over $5.6m.

Although it's doubtful Buffalo will get a haul like they did last season with Pominville, they should be able to add at least a first rounder plus another pick and/or prospect. Which is just fine for a rebuilding club like the Sabres who have no chance of re-signing Vanek.

The time certainly is right, and has been right for months now, to move Vanek, unfortunately for the Sabres, the timing is really off.

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