How Many "Top Dollar" Contracts can a Team Carry and Still Compete for the Cup?

I've tumbled this question through my head a few times over the past few years. It probably started with the attempt to keep Weber, Rinne, and Suter. Could we afford those? Could we afford those and still have one more offensive threat? To me in today's NHL market, a "Top Dollar" player makes $7 Million or more.

I'm going to put out a template that I've considered. It gives an idea of what those contracts could mean for the rest of the roster. I'll also talk about what it means for the Predators situation in the present and upcoming years.

The ultimate takeaway is that a team can have 3 or 4 "Top Dollar" players and that the Predators are positioned well to sign anyone they need if they can just identify those players.

The Template: The positions part is largely based off the Predators situation which is with Rinne. Not many teams pay a goalie $7 Million.

1) 3 Players at $7-8 Million. We'll say $23 million total. (1 D (Weber), 1 G (Rinne), 1 F (Forward))

2) 4 Players at $4-5 Million. Say, 4,4,4.5, and 5. $17.5 total. (2 F, 2 D) Rounds out 1st line and 1st pairing.

3) 3 at $3-3.5 Million. 3, 3.5, 3.5. $10 total.

4) 6 at $2 Million. $12 total.

5) 4 at $1 Million. $4 Total

6) 3 at $700,000. $2.1 Total

Total Spent in Above: $68.6.

Next Year's Salary Cap Ceiling: Projected at $70-71 Million.

This template assumes teams max the roster out at 23 players. It uses 3 "Top Dollar" players. It also leaves $2 or $3 Million that could be added where needed. Possibly used in paying a 4th "Top Dollar" player.

To give a better view of what this Roster would look like.

Forwards: LW C RW
Line 1 $5 $7 $4.5
Line 2 $3 $3.5 $2
Line 3 $2 $2 $2
Line 4 $1 $1 $1
Pairing 1 $7 $4
Pairing 2 $4 $3.5
Pairing 3 $2 $2
Starter $7
Backup $1
Scratches: $700,000 $700,000 $700,000

The above is still with that $2 or $3 million left to be spent.

There are 2 keys to being able to do this structure. The first is being able to find your 3 "Top Dollar" players. The second is being able to bring up young players to plug your holes that are created as you let your current crop of young players move onto other teams as they outgrow your salary structure. These are why they always say a good team "builds through the draft."

The above structure was based on the Predators having a "Top Dollar" player at goalie. The downside to that is where you see the Forward Line 2 is a little weak (if you judge by $$$). Of course, you could spread the extra $2-3 million over that line and it starts to look pretty good.

This next chart fills in what the Predators had this year.

Forwards: LW Cost C Cost RW Cost
Line 1 Wilson 2 Fisher 4.2 Hornqvist 4.25
Line 2 Stalberg 3 Cullen 3.5 Smith 2
Line 3 Bourque .775 Legwand 4.5 Spaling 1.5
Line 4 Nystrom 2.5 Gaustad 3.25 Clune .5375
Pairing 1 Weber 7.85 Josi 4
Pairing 2 Jones 3.225 Ekholm 1.025
Pairing 3 Ellis 1.44 Del Zotto 2.550
Starter Pekka 7
Backup Hutton .550
Scratches: Bartley .666 Beck .886 Eaves 1.2

The Predators are actually in a good position for the given structure if they could find their 3rd "Top Dollar." They are a very young team with few players that will be UFA's anytime soon. That helps keep their costs down.

They also only have 6 Forwards, 4 Defensemen, and 1 goalie that are signed on for beyond this upcoming season ('14-15). On top of that, their cap commitments are keeping them well below the Maximum Cap and will continue to do so thanks to the cheap contracts that the young players are on and will likely stay on for a number of years.

While, I don't expect a good team next year unless they make some trades or major FA signings, they are positioned to have the opportunity to change over the next couple years.

This FanPost was written by an OTF reader, and does not represent the views of the editorial staff. Got something you'd like to share? <a href="" target="new">Post your own</a>!

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