Today, general manager Stan Bowman afforded himself a little extra breathing room under the salary cap by trading centreman Marty Reasoner to the Florida Panthers in exchange for minor-league forward Jeff Taffe.
The transaction marks the first between Bowman and his prior mentor, Dale Tallon, new GM in Florida.
Our Blackhawks depth chart and salary cap tracker have been updated.
As it turns out, Reasoner, who was acquired in the June 23rd trade with Atlanta which sent Dustin Byfuglien, Brent Sopel, Ben Eager and 2007-2nd round draft choice Akim Aliu to the Thrashers, will leave the Hawks having never played a game with the organization.
Reasoner is scheduled to earn $1.15M this season and his cap hit of $1.2M is now off Chicago’s books.
The interesting part of the deal comes in the terms of Jeff Taffe’s contract. Taffe played 61 of his 82 regular season games, while with the Panthers’ organization, with the Rochester Americans in the AHL. In the first year of his two-season deal with the Panthers, Taffe was paid at a rate of $105,000 in the AHL (figures provided by CapGeek.com), and $500,000 in his 21 games with the NHL club.
For the 2010-11 season, however, Taffe’s contract calls for him to be paid $600,000 whether he plays in the NHL or the minors.
Taffe posted 1 goal and 1 assist in those 21 games with the Panthers as a fourth line forward mostly.
In Reasoner, the Panthers get another dependable, versatile forward. Tallon has focused on improving his depth up front since the draft and does further with this trade. Reasoner, 33, is also a veteran with an expiring contract. Reasoner will cost the Panthers $600,000 more than Taffe, however, Reasoner is a NHL-er, while Taffe isn’t likely to scratch an NHL ice surface aside from possible stints as an injury replacement.
Today’s trade served purposes on both sides. The Blackhawks cut a few dollars under their salary cap in hopes of fitting new contracts for Antti Niemi, Bryan Bickell and Jordan Hendry under the cap maximum, while the Panthers cut salary expenses aimed for their AHL team.
As noted here before, the Blackhawks right now are concerned with two CBA related salary cap encumbrances – the $59.4M salary cap they have to be under prior to opening night of the 2010-11 season, and the $65.34M summer ceiling (the cap max + 10% summer cushion).
Per our calculations, the Blackhawks now have approximately $60.5M allocated to 17 players for the upcoming season. This includes Cristobal Huet and Kyle Beach. Without Huet, the Hawks are at $54.875M and have roughly $4.525M to spend on the last six open roster spots. Or, $754,000 per available roster spot.
In some shape or form, Huet will come off the cap before opening night. However, he cannot be assigned to Rockford until October. Thus, his $5.625M cap hit does figure into the salary cap equation until his situation is resolved. Hence, the Blackhawks currently have $4.84M of that “summer cushion” to play with and stay within the constraints of the CBA.
For the sake of argument, let’s stick to the non-Huet scenario. The Hawks have $4.525M available to spend on six roster slots. One being the second goalie position. If Niemi signs with a cap hit of, let’s pick a number, $2.25M, this would leave $2.275M with five spots open. That’s an average of $455,000 per player and since the league minimum is $500,000, the numbers still don’t add up. Corey Crawford‘s cap hit alone is $800,000, and he will replace Huet’s vacated roster spot. If it comes down to it, the cap could be Crawford’s nemesis yet again. Hannu Toivonen is a quarter of a million more affordable at $550,000.
Stay tuned. Today won’t be Bowman’s last rotation of the cap-shredder. Whether Niemi stays or not is ultimately irrelevant to the bigger cap solution. Unless Bowman resolves to defend the Stanley Cup with a Crawford and Toivonen as his goaltending tandem, another significant contract has to depart.