Earlier today, Pavel Datsyuk announced that his time with the Detroit Red Wings is over. As per this article by Helene St. James in the Detroit Free Press, Datsyuk announced in a press conference that he leave the NHL and return to Russia. The 37-year old wanted to return home and he will after an amazing 14-year tenure with the Red Wings. He was the sort of forward teams dream of having and the Red Wings had him for nearly a decade and a half.
How is this relevant to the New Jersey Devils? Datsyuk’s contract. According to General Fanager, he signed a three-year deal worth $22.5 million back in 2014 at the age of 35. Under the current Contract Bargaining Agreement, this cap hit will remain on the books regardless of whether Datsyuk goes to Detroit, to Russia, or to his couch to read a book, play a videogame, or something else non-hockey related. That cap hit counts. With Detroit currently at around $60 million of cap space taken up before they start re-signing restricted free agents and getting new ones, Datsyuk’s $7.5 million cap hit is an albatross. St. James explained in her article that now that Datsyuk is leaving, the Red Wings intend to move the contract. And guess who has a lot of cap space and isn’t planning on being good next season? Why, it’s the the New Jersey Devils.
Ray Shero has made one of these moves recently. They acquired Marc Savard’s expiring contract from Florida last week. In doing so, they moved two contracts off their reserve list (Graham Black and Paul Thompson), and picked up a second round pick in 2018. It was a sign that the team is willing to take on extra cap space with minimal salary. In Savard’s case, as per General Fanager, his actual salary is $575,000 but his cap hit is just over $4 million. With Datsyuk going to Russia, a team could add $7.5 million to their cap while paying the forward nothing at all. The move would certainly put the Devils safely over the floor after re-signing their restricted free agents (Kyle Palmieri alone should do it).
Of course, no one will take that contract without getting something tangible as well. St. James wrote that any such deal could force general manager Ken Holland to part with a draft pick and/or a prospect or a young player. She doesn’t think someone like Anthony Mantha or Andreas Athanasiou would go. Shortly after the news, Aaron Ward tweeted out that the price could be Tomas Jurco, Teemu Pulkkinen, and/or a pick. It’s speculation, but it provides the sort of potential gain of just hanging onto to a cap hit for one season.
Should they do it? Personally, I think so. The Savard deal is evidence that Shero would do it. I think Shero would be wise to at least inquire about Mantha or Anthanasiou. But if the return could be on the level of a high second, a combination of two seconds in the future, and/or a prospective player like Evgeni Svechnikov, then I think it’s a good deal to make. The Devils’ owners won’t have to pay Datsyuk, Shero will have an easier time meeting the cap floor, and the future will get a few assets. All so Detroit can clear space that they can use to entice players like Steve Stamkos this summer. I call that a win-win. I admittedly wasn’t so positive on the notion before; but after the Savard trade, I see it and better understand the benefits.
The only concerns I have are two-fold. First, Shero may have other plans this offseason that would be hindered by adding $7.5 million of cap space to just take up space. If so, then that alone would be a non-starter. Second, and more likely, other teams may beat Shero to the punch. Let’s go to General Fanager. Arizona is the only team in the league further below the salary cap floor than the Devils; they can easily add this deal (and more!) and not even blink. Carolina and Buffalo (who only has 29 people signed!) are also below the floor by at least $3 million and they can easily absorb this deal for another deal. I’d like to think Carolina is closer to being a better team among these four teams, but they just re-signed Cam Ward so who knows about that. If one of these teams - or someone else that plans to just eat up $7.5 million to get an asset or two from Detroit - makes the call first and doesn’t demand as much, then they’ll beat Shero to it. Especially if they’ve been inquiring in the past few weeks.
I think Shero should make this move if it’s there. As with the Savard deal, it’s an easy way for the Devils to move a contract or two off their list, ensure that the cap floor won’t be an issue for the Fall, and pick up some more assets. Rebuilding teams rebuild with picks and young players, they can some of either or both from Detroit by taking the deal. Again, I see it as a win-win.
What do you think? Should the Devils make a deal for Dastyuk’s contract? Why or why not? Do you think adding $7.5 million in essentially dead cap space will hinder what the Devils should do this summer? Please leave your answers and other thoughts in the comments. Thank you for reading.