While the Habs will be facing a tight cap squeeze if they match Jesperi Kotkaniemi’s offer sheet, they can do it and still technically be compliant with the NHL’s offseason salary cap. Here’s a look at how that’s done.
As you may already know, teams get a 10% overage cushion during the summer which allows them to go over the Upper Limit of the salary cap and then work their way back into compliance by the start of the season. With the cap ceiling set at $81.5 million, the overage cushion is $8.15 million, making the maximum allowable (non-LTIR) cap spending at $89.65 million.
If you look at CapFriendly’s numbers, the Habs are at $83,776,370 which is $5,873,630 below the offseason cap ceiling. On the surface, matching Kotkaniemi’s offer sheet would put them over by $226,385. But that’s not the case thanks to the NHL’s offseason cap rules.
There are four elements to the offseason cap. One-way contracts count in full, qualifying offers are added in, and buyouts/retention are also recorded. Yes, that’s only three; we’ll get to the last one shortly. The Habs don’t have anyone that’s likely earmarked for the minors on a one-way deal (maybe Chris Wideman but we’ll see what happens in training camp first), there are no other qualifying offers, and the dead money of Karl Alzner is on the books one way or the other.
The last one is two-way contracts which don’t count in full but rather are on the books at the percentage of time spent on an NHL roster last season. While that brings some players onto the cap that you might not expect, it also creates some savings. Take a look at the embedded spreadsheet below.
They’d go from $226,385 over the offseason cap to $173,449 under it after factoring in two-way proration. If you’re ever wondering why teams shuffle players back and forth to and from the minors when there appears to be ample cap space, this is why as it creates a bit more flexibility under the summer cap rules. But to make sure it’s clear, Caufield, Suzuki, and Romanov will count in full when the season starts while the others will be off the books unless they’re up with the Canadiens.
While it’s true that teams can use offseason LTIR, there’s a whole other set of rules for that. Generally speaking, teams try to avoid using that and the Habs could manage to do so here as long as they don’t add anyone else after matching Kotkaniemi’s offer sheet. That would allow them to wait until training camp to put Paul Byron and Shea Weber on LTIR and not have their hand forced to clear anyone else out now; that’d come midseason when Byron is ready to return. It’s a very small element in the grand scheme of things but yes, the Habs can match Kotkaniemi’s offer sheet and still come out in summer cap compliance without needing to dip into LTIR earlier than they want to.