The Ultimate Cap Team (2015-16)
Ever since the 2004-05 NHL lockout, the salary cap has completely altered the way NHL management build their teams. A few good contracts can do wonders for a team’s depth, but a few bad contracts can absolutely devastate a team’s ability to grow through change.
This, my friends, is the Ultimate Cap Team. A team of players with all-star skill and super savvy contracts. Before you make your judgments on who made the team, keep in mind there are some rules and guidelines;
-The team must fit under the estimated 2015-16 cap of $71 million.
-Only ONE player may be under an entry-level contract
-The player’s contract must expire no earlier than 2016-17.
-Based on play up until before the start of 2015-16 season.
-Some players are picked for certain roles (i.e. checking forward).
-Defencemen were picked specifically to play left and right defence based on handedness (like they should).
Now without further ado, here is the team explained player by player as to why they were picked. To take the lazy way out, and see the full team depth chart, scroll to the bottom of the article! But I know you won’t do that.
TYLER SEGUIN – 1ST LINE CENTER
Cap Hit: $5.75M / Expires: 2019-20, UFA
Why: I can’t believe you’re still reading. Thanks, eh. Tyler Seguin microscopically edged out Sidney Crosby and his $8.7M cap hit. In fact, the team was set with Sid in the line-up until news broke of the cap most likely being set at $71M, not the original idea of $73M. Seguin’s offensive ability is unrivaled… except for by Sidney Crosby. In my eyes, Seguin is a discount Sidney Crosby without the leadership
and some past off-ice problems. Seguin’s (nearly) three million less per year allowed upgrades on multiple players, including Kevin Shattenkirk’s spot on the team (didn’t mean to spoil that pick for you, whoops!). He also is known to have chemistry with… *see below*
JAMIE BENN – 1ST LINE LEFT WING
Cap Hit: $5.25M / Expires: 2017-18, UFA
Why: The Art Ross trophy winner has one of the best contracts in the entire National Hockey League. Playing on the first line with Tyler Seguin, the top line is a guaranteed success. Benn had 87 points in 82 games this year. But, not only was he scoring, but he was physical. The 6’2″, 210 lbs winger had four fights and 120 hits over the season. Some great gritty presence for the top line.
RYAN JOHANSEN – 1ST LINE RIGHT WING
Cap Hit: $4M / Expires: 2016-17, RFA
Why: Despite playing first line center for the Columbus Blue Jackets, I chose Johansen to play right wing on the team’s top line. As one of the league’s fastest rising stars, the 6’3″, 223 lbs Vancouver native put up 71 points in 82 games this year. He also sees time on the penalty kill, averaging 1:20 minutes per game. Johansen was also 6/11 in shootouts this year. Turning 23 in July, Johansen still has plenty of time to get even better. There is also a good chance that this blooming superstar could be a future Olympian for Team Canada. He may even make the World Cup team next year as a 24 year old, just over the cut off age for the Young Stars team.
JOHN TAVARES – 2ND LINE CENTER
Cap Hit: $5.5M / Expires: 2018-19, UFA
Why: This is the only contract on the board that makes Jamie Benn’s look steep. The best part of it is that this super contract doesn’t expire for another three years. John Tavares would have been the number one center, had Seguin and Benn not already had their own chemistry. With Johnny T’s recent consecutive over-P/G seasons, he’s finally becoming the player we always hoped he would be.
ANDREW LADD – 2ND LINE LEFT WING
Cap Hit: $4.4M / Expires: 2016-17, UFA
Why: No, Andrew Ladd isn’t the most “jump-off-the-page” name on the team, but at $4.4M, this guy is a great bargain. Adding even more size to the top six at 6’3″, 205 lbs, the Winnipeg Jet captain had a career year in 2014-15. He had a very respectable 62 points in 81 games, including 24 goals. The biggest reason that landed him a spot on the team – his intangibles. Recording 212 hits, and an average of 1:47 minutes of short-handed time per game, Ladd will pitch offensively and provide himself as an elite force in his own end.
JAKUB VORACEK – 2ND LINE RIGHT WING
Cap Hit: $4.25M / Expires: 2016-17, UFA
Why: Literally the only reason why this guy isn’t on the first line is because he shoots left handed… and maybe to spread out the scoring a little bit. Voracek had a massive 2014-15 campaign, recording a career high 81 points in 82 games. Another sizable forward, Voracek stands at 6’2″, 214 lbs. Although he isn’t overly physical for his size, he’s hard to push around. He also had a decent shootout record this year, scoring on 5 of 12 attempts. To top it off, Voracek is a clutch goal-scorer. He scored 14 of his 22 goals when down by one, or tied. He had two overtime goals, and three game winners.
TYLER JOHNSON – 3RD LINE CENTER
Cap Hit: $3.333M / Expires: 2017-18, RFA
Why: The offense does not stop after lines one and two. With another one of the biggest bang-for-your-buck contracts in the league, Tyler Johnson had 72 points in 77 games – the same amount of points as teammate Steven Stamkos, in five less games. Standing at just 5’8″, Johnson is the shortest player on the team. As we saw with the last two lines, size isn’t an issue. Johnson is also a regular on the Lightning penalty kill, recording an average of 1:45 minutes per game on the kill. Johnson had a +33 rating as well this year, also highlighting his responsible nature. If his scoring ways continue, expect a huge pay increase in 2017.
JADEN SCHWARTZ – 3RD LINE LEFT WING
Cap Hit: $2.35M / Expires: 2016-17, RFA
Why: It’s getting pointless to say “this guy’s a steal” every time we get to another player, so we’re going to stop that here. Schwartz lit up the league with Vladimir Tarasenko and Jori Lehtera for the Blues this year, scoring 28 goals and 63 points in 75 games. A small speedy forward to play alongside Tyler Johnson and (the next guy you’ll see below, the trio could be a seriously dangerous scoring line… and they’re on the third line.
JOHNNY GAUDREAU – 3RD LINE RIGHT WING
Cap Hit: $1.85M / Expires: 2016-17, RFA
Why: The lone entry-level contract on the team, Gaudreau had an amazing rookie season with 64 points in 80 games. As you see, he completes the “Mighty Mice” line. The tallest player on the third line is Jaden Schwartz at 5’10”. All three players compete far above their size, and would be impossible to catch when together. However, if the size became an issue, you could always put one of Schwartz or Gaudreau on the second line in place of Andrew Ladd. In the new NHL, with all of this skill… I doubt it would be a problem. Gaudreau kept up his great pace from the regular season in the playoffs with nine points in 11 games in Calgary’s surprising playoff run. Gaudreau had 80 points in 40 games for Boston College in 2013-14, and it looks like the size/skill ratio translated beautifully to the big league.
SEAN COUTURIER – 4TH LINE CENTER
Cap Hit: $1.75M / Expires: 2016-17, RFA
Why: Couturier is one of the best two-way centers in the league, and definitely the best for the price. He would fit perfectly in a shutdown line role for this all-star formed team, and would be the first line penalty killing center. He played over two minutes per game on the PK this year. And, you guessed it, he can pitch offense as well. He had 37 points in 82 games. Couturier also provides some great size at 6’3″, and pitched in with two fights this year. He is looking to become a bigger offensive threat in the next few years, which would boost his contract numbers hugely.
CHRIS KREIDER – 4TH LINE LEFT WING
Cap Hit: $2.475M / Expires: 2016-17, RFA
Why: Kreider may be the best fourth liner to ever touch the ice. He was narrowly beat out by Johnny Gaudreau and Jaden Schwartz for the last third line spots, mainly because neither of those players in a fourth line role makes any sense. The 6’3″, 226 lbs power forward had a huge 162 hits, and three fights last year, so he can play the grind role. He also provides significant scoring, tallying 21 goals and 45 points in 2014-15.
LUKE GLENDENING – 4TH LINE RIGHT WING
Cap Hit: $628K / Expires: 2017-18, UFA
Why: The biggest surprise on the team, Glendening is one of the best penalty killing specialists in the league. He averages 3:22 short handed minutes per game. At $628K, the Red Wings are loving this guy’s cap, and so is this team. At just 5’11”, he threw a big 147 hits this year, and blocked 73 shots. He had 12 goals and 18 points in 82 games as well – decent for a shutdown specialist.
DUNCAN KEITH – 1ST PAIRING, LEFT DEFENCE
Cap Hit: $5.551M / Expires: 2023-24, UFA
Why: Arguably the best in the league, Keith would be (and is) the number one defenceman on the team. Keith is only rivaled by Shea Weber and… really only Shea Weber (in my humble opinion) as the best all around defenceman in the NHL. Keith plays in all situations, and was a first pairing defenseman on a stacked team Canada at the 2014 Sochi Olympics – with Shea Weber. He was an absolute lock for this team at $5.551M. You can’t beat that price for a premier d-man.
JOHN CARLSON – 1ST PAIRING, RIGHT DEFENCE
Cap Hit: $3.967M / Expires: 2018-19, UFA
Why: Carlson has quietly turned into an elite defenseman in the league, and it looks like he’s still very much on the rise. He plays in all situations on the ice, with 1:44 on the powerplay, and a huge 2:57 on the penalty kill. Carlson had a gigantic 200 blocked shots this season – you know he puts it all on the line for the W. Not only is he great defensively, he’s one of the best offensive defenders in the show as well. He put up a very impressive 55 points this year. With three more years on his contract, he’s an absolute steal as the third highest paid defender on the Capitals’ roster.
VICTOR HEDMAN – 2ND PAIRING, LEFT DEFENCE
Cap Hit: $4M / Expires: 2017-18, UFA
Why: Had Hedman been right handed, he would be on the top pairing – and that’s huge considering it’s John Carlson he’d be replacing. Hedman is finally becoming the defenceman he was projected to be when he was drafted number two – after John Tavares – in 2009. The big Swede missed 23 games with injury this year and still put up 38 points, following his 55 point season in 2013-14. At 6’6″, he has a huge reach to defend with, but isn’t overly physical. He had just 55 hits this year. Hedman plays in all situations with roughly two and a half minutes on the powerplay and penalty kill.
KEVIN SHATTENKIRK – 2ND PAIRING, RIGHT DEFENCE
Cap Hit: $4.25M / Expires: 2017-18, UFA
Why: Kevin Shattenkirk was on Norris Trophy pace before being injured midseason. Shattenkirk had a gargantuan 44 points in 56 games this year, on pace for 65 points. He’d fit on the second forward line of this team statistically. Shattenkirk isn’t a one trick pony either; he averaged 1:46 on the penalty kill throughout the season – he can defend. He also comes up in the clutch, with five of his eight goals coming from one goal behind.
KARL ALZNER – 3RD PAIRING, LEFT DEFENCE
Cap Hit: $2.8M / Expires: 2016-17, RFA
Why: The second Washington Capital defenceman on the ultimate cap roster. Imagine if they didn’t splash on Niskanen and Orpik… or maybe they can just afford it with these great contracts? Anyhow, Alzner is probably the best shutdown defenseman in the league for this price. Completing an already extremely impressive defensive corps, Alzner averaged 2:11 on the penalty kill, and had 165 blocks to go with 120 hits. He pitched in 21 points in a full season this year. The former Canadian World Junior captain’s stability rounds out this team’s defense perfectly.
SAMI VATANEN – 3RD PAIRING, RIGHT DEFENCE
Cap Hit: $1.275M / Expires: 2016-17, RFA
Why: One of the best up and coming offensive defensemen, Sami Vatanen could do some huge damage as a powerplay specialist. He played over three minutes for the Ducks on the PP, and recorded 17 of his 37 points in that fashion. Like an up-and-coming Kevin Shattenkirk, he too is not just a one-trick pony. He played 1:46 on the penalty kill as well. Not the biggest defenceman in the world at 5’10, 180 lbs, he had a decent 75 hits in 67 games. Turning 24 in June, the fourth round pick of the Ducks in 2009 could be a top-pairing defender within the next year or two.
CAREY PRICE – STARTER
Cap Hit: $6.5M / Expires: 2018-19, UFA
Why: No matter who you have in front of you, you need the best goalie in the world in between the pipes. Carey Price’s $6.5M cap hit isn’t dirt cheap, but it is a bargain. It’s less than Henrik Lundqvist and Pekka Rinne’s, and that’s good enough for me. Price was playing like he built a concrete wall in front of the net all year, and easily claimed his spot on the team. He would get the majority of the starts, and with this team in front of him… he wouldn’t be worked very hard to say the least. He completes this roster’s likelyhood of going 82-0 in a regular season, 96-0 with playoffs. Assuming injuries and fatigue didn’t exist.
PETR MRAZEK – BACKUP
Cap Hit: $738K/ Expires: 2016-17, RFA
Why: Mrazek beat out Frederik Andersen by as close of a margin as you can get, simply with just a bit better of potential, and more consistent numbers – albeit in the minors. Many people remember Mrazek for his World Junior performance with the Czech Republic – especially for the celebrating -, but now he’s a household name for a new reason. Mrazek took over the starting job for the Red Wings when both Jimmy Howard and Jonas Gustavsson were injured during the season. His stellar numbers in the AHL followed suit when he was called up to the show. Posting save percentages in the minors in the mid .920’s, Mrazek had a .918 save percentage and a strong 2.38 goals against average to go with it over 29 games. For a youngster (turning 23 this year), he has plenty of time to develop into an elite starting goaltender. And who better to guide him than Carey Price as the starter. Mrazek comes at a sweet price, far south of a million dollars. Fun fact; Mrazek hasn’t posted a save percentage under .905 in any league he’s played in. An even better stat, not including his rookie OHL season with the Ottawa 67’s, his lowest save percentage is .916 in any league he’s ever played in. It came in his rookie AHL season.
Left over money: $416K
Sidney Crosby – $8.7M
Oliver Ekman-Larsson – $5.5M
Andrew Shaw – $2M
Tomas Tatar – $2.7M
Frederik Andersen – $1.15M
Tyson Barrie – $2.8M
Matt Martin – $1M
Nathan Gerbe – $1.75M
Team Fun Facts:
-There are no Bruins, Kings, Leafs, Coyotes, Avalanche, Sabres, Hurricanes, Oilers, Panthers, Wild, Predators, Devils, Senators, Penguins, Sharks or Canucks.
-10 players Canadian, 6 American, 2 Czech, 1 Swede, 1 Finn.
-3 players captain their teams
-8 skaters at least 6’3″
-Oldest player is 31 (Duncan Keith), second oldest 27 (Carey Price)
FULL DEPTH CHART WITH CAP HITS
Benn ($5.25M) – Seguin ($5.75M) – Johansen ($4M)
Ladd ($4.4M) – Tavares ($5.5M) – Voracek ($4.25M)
Schwartz ($2.35M) – Johnson ($3.3M) – Gaudreau ($1.85M)
Kreider ($2.475M)- Couturier ($1.75M) – Glendening ($628K)
Keith ($5.551M) – Carlson ($3.967M)
Hedman ($4M) – Shattenkirk ($4.25M)
Alzner ($2.8M) – Vatanen ($1.275M)
Cap Remaining: $416K