A More In-Depth Look On The Ducks Cap Issue With Niedermayer Returning

Ducks GM Brian Burke will be playing some high-stakes poker in the coming days (and maybe weeks) as he seeks to get his 2008-09 payroll in compliance with the league’s salary-cap requirements.

By poker, I mean Burke will be chatting up his peers around the league to find a palatable deal that will allow him to activate returning stud defenseman Scott Niedermayer. Under the circumstances (Niedermayer is currently a “suspended” player), Burke doesn’t have to activate his star defender for 21 days. He’ll have that much time, if he needs it, to swing a deal to get his 2008-09 payroll in line with CBA rules.

Burke has two options. He can make a smaller deal to free up the necessary money to get Niedermayer officially back in the fold. Burke says he’d have to clear approximately $1.5 million from next season’s payroll to make that happen. While I have no doubt Burke and his staff understand their cap numbers, a review of their 2008-09 payroll commitments suggest he might need to clear closer to $3 million. In some cases, there are particulars in player contracts that the media and fans aren’t aware of. That could account for the difference in numbers in this case.

Burke’s other option would be to make a bigger deal, creating more 2008-09 cap flexibility. He might prefer to do that so he can commit to a contract extension with young star Corey Perry, who’s eligible for restricted free agency in July. Oddly enough, if Niedermayer officially retires at the end of the current season (very likely), Burke will have the room to re-sign Perry. That won’t help him now, though, and he might want to secure Perry’s future services before then.

Last summer, you might remember (Burke certainly does), the Edmonton Oilers put the Ducks in a difficult situation by signing then-restricted free agent Dustin Penner to an oversized offer sheet. Burke wisely chose not to match the offer, accepting draft-pick compensation in return. The Ducks manager knows all too well that Perry, a better player than Penner, would attract much attention on the restricted market. Without question, he’d like to avoid a repeat of that situation with Perry.

Several weeks ago, Burke locked up his other young star, Ryan Getzlaf, with a multiyear extension. I expect he’ll do the same with Perry, but can’t do that unless he shaves enough space off next year’s cap.

On the flip side, Burke’s fellow poker players (other GMs interested in making a deal) won’t be looking to do any favors for their old pal in Anaheim. Understanding Burke’s situation, they’ll obviously be seeking to help their own cause at his expense. Any GM with the cap space to accommodate a player or players just might require Burke to send the first-round pick in the highly anticipated 2008 draft as part of the deal (Anaheim acquired the pick as part of the Penner compensation package). A rival GM would love to get his hands on that pick, which could end up being a top 10 selection.

If you remember, Devils GM Lou Lamoriello had to send a first-round pick to the Sharks prior to last season as part of trade involving now-retired defenseman Vladimir Malakhov. San Jose GM Doug Wilson could fit Malakhov’s contract under his cap (something the Devils couldn’t do) and he received a first-rounder as part of the multi-asset swap. So, this type of deal has been done before.

No matter which option Burke chooses, he’ll have to move at least one of his 17 2008-09 contracts. For the record, here are the 17 Ducks players under contract for next season with their cap hit. Remember, I’m not an accountant or a math wiz!

Chris Pronger, $6.25M
Jean-Sebastien Giguere, $6M
Mathieu Schneider, $5.625M
Ryan Getzlaf, $5.325M
Todd Bertuzzi, $4M
Chris Kunitz, $3.725M
Andy McDonald, $3.333.3M
Todd Marchant, $2.517M
Rob Niedermayer, $2M
Francois Beauchemin, $1.65M
Sammy Pahlsson, $1.4M
Sean O’Donnell, $1.25M
Travis Moen, $912,500
Shane Hnidy, $757,500
Kent Huskins, $625,000
Brad May, $600,000
George Parros, $550,000

Estimated total: $46,520,800
Estimated total with Scott Niedermayer ($6.75M): $53,270,800
Salary-cap ceiling: $50,300,000