How the Kings Spend Their Cap Dollars Compared to Those Losers in Detroit, San Jose, Boston, Washington and Pittsburgh

First, this is Mirtle’s post in full (my Kings-centric notes follow):

This is something I was working on before vacation, a mini-study of how five of the NHL’s best teams are allocating their cap space this year. The five I went with are all right up against the cap, and all experienced a ton of success last year: The Sharks, Red Wings, Bruins, Capitals and Penguins.

Part of the reason I wanted to do this was, in looking at how GM Doug Wilson had revamped San Jose’s roster by cutting depth and adding a top end stud in Dany Heatley, it was really clear how top heavy he had elected to go. And that’s becoming the norm under the cap these days:

In dealing with a 22-man roster, the top 11 players take home 82 per cent of these teams’ salary dollars, with the bottom 11 players (the last seven forwards, three defencemen and the backup goaltender) making the remaining 18 per cent.

In other words, these teams’ top 11 players average about $4.2-million apiece, whereas the players on the low end, filling out checking lines and minor roles, make an average of about $930,000.

Here are a few more breakdowns of these top five teams:

Avg % Avg %
Forwards $33,220,239 58.5% 4.5%
Defencemen $18,386,166 32.4% 4.6%
Goaltenders $4,901,000 8.6% 4.3%
Buyouts $515,000 0.9%

Avg % Avg %
Starting 6 $33,249,434 58.5% 9.8%
Top F line $18,380,268 32.4% 10.8%
Top six F $26,402,768 46.5% 7.7%
Top D pair $10,610,833 18.7% 9.3%
Top four D $15,692,500 27.6% 6.9%
Starting G $4,258,333 7.5% 7.5%
Bottom 11 $10,153,804 17.9% 1.6%

Some of the noteworthy numbers there? These teams spend nearly one-third of their total salary on their top forward line, with another 19 per cent on their top two defenders. Add in the No. 1 goalie and you have what I’m calling the “Starting 6,” a group that takes home nearly 60 per cent of these five teams’ payroll.

The top six players on the NHL’s top five teams average more than $5.5-million each, which leaves only $23.5-million for the other 14 to 17 players on the roster (depending on the number of healthy scratches involved).

I haven’t crunched all the numbers on how this has evolved over time since last season, but I’d be willing to wager that those low end numbers have continued to fall as the “Starting 6″ and top 11 players pull in more and more of the pie. Cap or no cap, the skilled players are getting their contracts; it’s everyone else who’s fighting for what’s left.

And that’s probably the way it should be.

via How the top teams spend their cap space – From The Rink.

Okay. I ran the Kings numbers for comparison.

Kings Mirtle’s 5 $$ +/-
Starting 6 42% 58.5% -11.4MM
Top F line 31.8% 32.4% -1.9MM
Top six F 46% 46.5% -2.5MM
Top D pair 9% 18.7% -5.9MM
Top four D 18.5% 27.6% -6.1MM
Starting G 1% 7.5% -3.7MM
Bottom 11 29% 17.9% +4.9MM

What I make of it:

Starting 6 – Kings are spending $11.4MM less on their “starting 6.” Why? Because O’Donnell is cheap and Quick is cheaper. In two or three years, Doughty will get a raise, O’Donnell will be replaced by someone making $3MM and Quick will get his adult contract, which ought to add about $6MM to this number. Which still leaves the Kings running about $5MM under the top5 teams.

Top forward line – Kings are on a par with Mirtle’s 5.

Top six forwards – ditto

Top D pair – As discussed above, this is due to Doughty’s entry level contract (albeit with bonuses) and SOD being a cheap, old dude. Presumably, Mirtle’s 5 have premium D-men in their prime.

Top 4 D – Difference is entirely due to the Doughty/SOD issue above. One can conclude from this that the Kings’ second pair D are on a par with Mirtle’s 5.

Starting G – Obviously, the Kings goalies are all on entry level contracts or close to it.

Bottom 11 – There are a couple of reasons the Kings appear to be over-spending on their bottom 11. The first reason is: they are. Handzus gets $4MM/year. That’s obviously high for a third line center. The second reason: Murray has the line playing more like a second line; the line as a whole is actually $300K more pricey than the second unit. Either way, the Kings’ second and third lines are quite balanced, which appears at first blush to be somewhat unusual (at least compared to the Mirtle 5). Certainly that fits with my general sense of the Kings forwards, which is that they are pretty balanced over three lines but, as is often noted by everyone, lack that one true superstar talent. Last season, the Kings often seemed to have a second line and two third lines, but no first. This year, so far, it’s better: a first, a great third, and a mediocre second.


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