Breaking Down the Arizona Coyotes Salary Cap Misery

Arizona coyotes salary cap

The 2020-21 Arizona Coyotes salary cap is a challenge for any general manager to undertake. Well, the new general manager of the Coyotes, Bill Armstrong inherited that situation from his predecessor. In this article, we are going to attempt to show you a whole new way to look at salaries in the NHL.

The Arizona Coyotes Salary Cap Nightmare… and How to Possibly Fix it

Let’s face it, athletes are a special breed. They train, they take their bodies to the limits to execute and perform. They, therefore, are paid very well. There’s no doubt about it. But… what about comparing NHL player’s salaries to everyday workers? For instance, say you’re a project manager and your team pulls off the most amazing completion of a vital project for the company. Now that project manager and his team may get a bonus depending on the company. They performed and got rewarded.

What happens if an NHL player is given a huge contract say like that of captain Oliver Ekman-Larsson of the Coyotes valued at $8.25 million over eight years? Say, that he doesn’t really live up to that contract. The team is stuck paying it or trading the player to another team to make some salary-cap space available. That was exactly what could have happened when new GM Armstrong came in and the trade rumours were howling like a cold November wind.

A New Method to Determine Player’s Salaries

So with that in mind, we came up with another method to evaluate an NHL player’s performance. It’s based on performance, you know just like all of us are evaluated at our jobs. You do well, you get a nice 8-10 percent salary increase. You don’t do too well and you may be looking at a cost of living increase (if you’re lucky) of the 1-2 percent range.

So, in the chart below we gave the players’ performance parameters a value. The base salary is determined by the average salary of that player’s position. The defensive group for the Coyotes has a total salary of $29,662,500 with seven players, so the average salary is $4.2375 million. The average is then added to the total bonuses the players received for performance parameters being met. The best performance in each parameter plus the player’s determined average salary equals the highest salary for that position. In this case, the $8.25 million that OEL receives.

 

Comparing OEL’s Salary to Alex Goligoski

Looking at the chart, based on performance, OEL is overpaid by about $1.736 million. Using the same calculations for defenceman Alex Goligoski shows that he is UNDERPAID by about $842,500. Of course, many variables would exist using this method. For one, the average salaries will change as the roster changes. Trades happen, and injuries also affect the roster for each team. Take this as just a snapshot of what it could look like if players were paid according to their performances. It’s quite eye-opening. If anyone watched the play of Goligoski compared to OEL last season it was obvious that OEL was the inferior performing player. This proves it.

Looking at Forwards Salary Comparisons Using This System

When we compared a couple of forwards on the Coyotes’ roster more was brought to light about wasted salary. Christian Dvorak is underpaid by about $418,393 according to our chart. The 2018-19 year he was injured wasn’t included to avoid skewing the calculations. Here again, even though the Coyotes only retained $6.8 million of the Phil Kessel contract, they are overpaying him. What really becomes clear is even though Kessel had amazing seasons with the Pittsburgh Penguins before being traded to Arizona, he still is shown as being overpaid by $1,026,607! The average forward salary for the Coyotes was  $2,460,893. The high-end salary was for that of Clayton Keller with his $7.15 million deal.

 


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The Final Comparisons Will be for Goalies

This one wasn’t as clear as the forwards or defencemen. It only shows the last two seasons for both Darcy Kuemper and Antti Raanta. Raanta’s injury-filled 2018-19 season was excluded to keep it fair. While both goalies seem to be underpaid, it was surprising that Raanta was underpaid more than Kuemper. Raanta showed he should be paid $218,333 more while Kuemper came in being underpaid by $180,833. It shows that while Raanta has been injury-prone when he plays his numbers are quite good.

 

Arizona Coyotes Salary Cap Final Analysis

While we all know that the NHL will probably never use such a system, it has always intrigued this writer as to what criteria a team uses to determine a contract value. It is clear that the player’s agent has a lot to do with that. No trade clauses, no-movement clauses are worked into the final deal to influence the player to sign. With this analysis just using six players, it was brought to bear that the Coyotes are overpaying by $1,102,798. When push comes to shove and the team is in salary cap hell, it might be a good tool to determine if some players are paid according to performance.

For now, GM Armstrong must use the methods given to him. He still has put together a pretty good roster with the funds he has available. Players like Tyler Pitlick and Drake Caggiula have fit right in and only cost him $2.45 million between them. Yet, with another player like Keller, it has yet to be determined if he is worth the $7.15 million contract he received from former GM John Chayka. It seems that Chayka was more impressed with analytics for the potential of a player like Keller than he was of his true performance. It would have seemed a bridge contract for a couple of years would have been more in order.

Again, prove you’re a player worth a $7.15 million contract over more than one season, and then you will be rewarded. Now, Keller is behind the eight-ball attempting to make good on a contract he may not have deserved. That’s added pressure for a young player.

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You must admit that this analysis brings one to wonder about other players. Like a Nathan MacKinnon who has averaged 96 points over his last three seasons. His salary? $6.3 million. See the inequity? Something needs to change.

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