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The Hossa Ultimatum

While we’re delighted to have on-ice issues to talk about again, and don’t want to get into financial messes and conundrums, you can bet that Stan Bowman is already sweating over one aspect while he reads through the new CBA.

And that’s the Hossa Problem.

You’ve read about it the past day or two or might be catching up on it now. In the new CBA, these back-diving contracts are going to get severely punished. To try and boil it down to terms you can understand easily, teams will be penalized the total amount of their savings on the cap vs. actual salary paid out every year of that contract that player does not fill out.

We’ll throw some numbers at you. Essentially, for the three years Hossa has already played, the Hawks have saved 2.625 on their cap hit each year. That’s because Hossa has been paid $7.9 million in salary, but his cap hit has only been $5.275. So for just those three years, it’s a penalty of $7.87 million.

So let’s say that Hossa plays every year until the salary drops from it’s current level to the $1 million years (that includes one year at $4 million). That would be a $12 million penalty (threabouts) to be inflicted over the last four years of his contract. Now, maybe by that point the cap has risen again where you can swallow a $3 million hole for a bit, but as we’ve seen these things never quite work out that way. If Hossa plays one of those years at $1 million, the penalty drops to $8 million over three years. But considering he’s entered the lands of the Brown Brain, you wouldn’t bet on him getting to the latter parts of this deal.

Trade him, you say? Fine idea, except the savings you’ve already gotten will still be waiting for you when he retires with his new team. And that new team would be taking on the risk of penalties later down the road, while only getting an aging player who is an injury risk. That makes it seem like it would be a real trick to get someone to take on Hossa, at least to a GM who doesn’t huff paint at lunch (what’s Feaster’s number?).

If you’d like a chart, check out this nifty breakdown from reader Jon Walker: https://docs.google.com/spreadsheet/pub?key=0AqVVBReVIojsdGZ5T3laTVVuY3pjT1ZmLXZtM21iV1E&output=html

So essentially, Hossa has now become a prime buyout candidate, more likely in the summer of 2014 than 2013 however. He’ll still be useful then. But it is an awful pill to swallow for a GM — buyout a very popular player or face some real complications down the line? Buying him out also keeps you from getting to other players you’d like to punt, because Rusty Olesz is going to have to have that treatment as well. So Oduya or Montador might have to stick around or be packaged somehow.

But by then, it might not hurt so much. Brandon Saad projects into that power forward role. Either McNeill or Danault or both could be here. If either of the Hayes brothers pops, it’s a place they could play. Conservatively, in 2014 Toews, Sharp, and Kane will still be half of your top six. It’s a fairly safe assumption that Saad will be too. That only leaves one forward spot, and the Hawks have a lot of candidates to take it. It might not hurt so bad to have to lose a wonderful yet aging player who can’t consistently stay in the lineup.

Oh, and Duncan Keith might provide this problem too, just farther down the line.


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