I was perusing Ken Warren's latest article for SenatorsExtra.com that detailed GM Bryan Murray's offseason checklist when I came across this interesting nugget of information that to this point, has remained incredibly ambiguous:
Murray was also downplaying suggestions of a blockbuster free agent signing. The Senators are operating on a self-imposed $50 million salary cap.
Although there was no direct link to a Murray quote, I'm assuming that is where the number came from because Warren quoted the GM shortly after dropping the specifics on what Ottawa is willing to spend on its player personnel in 2013/14.
“There are some people that are possibilities, but it has to do with contract numbers and some teams can’t afford (them),” said Murray. “We’re almost in the same position (as before) with the budget. I don’t think we’ll be able to make big moves unless it’s a trade.”
Pretty much since the 2013 season ended for Ottawa, this principle of Ottawa being unable or unwilling to spend frivolously on the market has been engrained in our minds. Management and ownership have been quick to point out that the team is not currently in a position to spend with the likes of the Torontos or New Yorks and flirt with the salary cap ceiling. Instead, we were told that the team would stick to its undisclosed internal budget.
Per Capgeek, the Senators currently have $40,575,000 committed in real dollars towards next season but they have a cap hit payroll of $43,500,833. In other words, Ottawa's cumulative cap is more than what they're actually spending on salaries.
To my knowledge (and correct me if a figure has been put out there before Warren's article), there hasn't been any publicized internal budget figure until now. But if the number Warren reports is true, it means one of two things: 1) if the $50 million refers to the team's cap payroll, the Senators have approximately $6.5 million to spend; or 2) if the $50 million refers to the actual amount of real money allocated towards pay roll, we're looking at a team that can afford to add $9.5 million.
With Daniel Alfredsson's next contract still outstanding and new contracts for Erik Condra, Patrick Wiercioch and a seventh defenceman still outstanding, Ottawa should blow through whatever money is available to them in short order; especially if the speculation that Alfie could sign a one or two-year deal worth $4 to $6 million comes to fruition.
The sad realization is that this team obviously doesn't have much money to spend for whatever reason. (As an aside, it also helps explain why Melnyk is so aggressive in his attempts to sway City Council and push for the Canadian Tire Centre area as a viable destination for a prospective new casino.)
The fact that the roster is littered with smart, cost-efficient contracts makes this realization a tough pill to swallow and it's enough to make one wonder whether money will ever be there down the road when this team has to re-up many of its own restricted free agents when their first contracts come off the books and the team is poised for contention.
Of course, the possibility exists that the certainty provided by the new CBA affords the organization some more cost certainty in terms of revenue but with the 2014/15 cap ceiling expected to approach the $70 million mark, the Senators will be at a competitive disadvantage if this purported $50 million internal does not go up in time.
Being a budget team is not a surprise. To an extent they may be preparing for next year, Silfverburg/Cowen/Greening/Conacher/Lehner are all up for new contracts and the 1st round picks have contracts which pay at least a million.
I think it also comes down to value. I suspect many of the big names rumored to be available are not playing to the value of their contracts. As we saw in the Rick Nash sweepstakes, Ottawa has the minerals to throw around when the right piece becomes available
This is a reality for most teams. Spending to the cap is a loss unless you go deep into the playoffs. It's an expensive gamble, I think Eugene has said this himself. It's only a question of whether he can't or won't afford to spend more than $50M.
Personally I don't mind that they have an internal budget right now, save the money to re-sign our best RFAs in the years to come. There's no good free agents on the market(I would have only thrown money at Perry).
Hopefully we'll be able to afford making a run at the Cup. He is going to need his casino(or something else) to grow revenues if the cap will be climbing over the next few years as predicted. Otherwise ticket prices will be going way up (they might anyway).