A year later: Reviewing a Tampa Bay Lightning salary cap projection

One year ago, I did a salary cap projection. Now it’s time to review how I did in predicting the future.

One year ago, talk was raging on about Steven Stamkos with no contract apparently in sight. As a part of the discussion, I did a thorough analysis and predicted one possible projection of the salary cap over the coming years for the Tampa Bay Lightning. With a year having passed, it seemed like a good time to review my predictions. I looked to see how close I came in projecting salaries for players that signed over the summer and two players that have already signed their next contracts.

The hardest part about making a long term projection like this is that one trade, one free agent signing, one contract can impact the whole picture. The further in the future this goes out, the more wrong I will be. It’s the nature of the business, due to the fact that I was only projecting one possible outcome out of thousands if not millions of permutations of the future.

Steven Stamkos

This one, I obviously got wrong and am very happy to have gotten wrong. Stamkos signed for $8.5 million instead of the at the time assumed $10.5 million. This opens up some wiggle room in the projection. If Stamkos had chosen to sign elsewhere though, it would have blown up this entire projection and I wouldn’t have as much of a reason to being reviewing it now.

Verdict: Partly Wrong

Nikita Kucherov

The Lightning ended up with a cap crunch this summer and did not have the room to sign Kucherov to the kind of long term deal that I had expected he would command. I do feel that my prediction of six years for $6.5 million was pretty close to what Kucherov was asking for. The contracts given to the likes of Nathan MacKinnon, Filip Forsberg, Johnny Gaudreau, Jonathan Huberdeau, Sean Monahan, Mark Scheifele and Aleksander Barkov over the summer further confirms to me that Kucherov would have been in that area on a long term deal. I did speculate that he could sign a three year, $3.5 million deal as well. My bridge deal projection was off the mark as he signed for three years for $4.766.

Verdict: Pretty Wrong

Matt Carle

Even as soon as a year ago, we had already seen the downfall of Matt Carle. It was time for him to go and I knew that it had to happen for this team to continue forward. I predicted that a trade would be hard to accomplish and that Steve Yzerman would buy him out over the summer. Since then, Carle signed with the Nashville Predators and then subsequently retired. It turns out that it was likely the surgery he had on his abductor muscle that led to his decline.

Verdict: Exactly Correct

Alex Killorn

Alex Killorn was perhaps the one that surprised me the most. I did not see a long term deal coming and had projected a two-year deal worth $4 million. At the time, you could have talked me into a three to five year deal as well. Turned out I was pretty close on the money as he signed for $4.45 million and his production down the stretch and into the playoffs likely impacted this number. I was way off on the length of the deal though as he signed for seven years. I still think this deal will turn sour towards the end and that it was for a couple years too long. Maybe Vegas will take him off our hands and save my projection into future years? We’ll have to wait and see on that one.

Verdict: Not quite right

Vladislav Namestnikov

Namestnikov was one of the harder players for me to figure out during my projections. At the time, he hadn’t produced much but it was easy to see his potential impact. I had picked him to get a one year contract for $2.5 million followed by a $3.5 million contract going forward. Instead, he ended up with a two year contract for just under $2 million. I missed on term and on money. I put this one down as a learning experience about how hard it really is to project restricted free agents. So much of it depends on their performance, but also on perceived value.

Verdict: Got it wrong

J.T. Brown

I almost nailed this one right on the head. I projected a three year contract for $1.25 million. My assumption of a three year deal was mostly predicated on the deal Erik Condra had signed. It would also buy two of his unrestricted free agent years. Brown signed for $1.25 million on a two year deal.

Verdict: 90% right

Braydon Coburn

This is one that I got 100% wrong. I thought that Steve Yzerman would allow Coburn to walk in free agency. There was a belief that he would be too expensive to hang on to and would want a long term deal of around five years in length. Instead, Yzerman got a pretty decent deal by signing him to a three year deal for $3.7 million. That’s a lot better than the five year, $5 million number that was being floated around.

Verdict: 100% wrong

Jonathan Marchessault

This is one where I got it right and wrong. I thought the Bolts could hang on to him but also recognized his position as a place holder. I projected a one year deal for $850,000 to keep him in the mix. Instead, he signed with the Florida Panthers on a two year deal for $750,000. While the organization signed Cory Conacher to a one year $575,000 deal to be something of a replacement for Marchessault, his replacement on the roster has really been in the form of Brayden Point. Point is on an entry level contract with a $919,167 cap hit. I’ll count this as being basically right because of the place holder effect.

Verdict: Basically right

Cedric Paquette

Everyone’s favorite pest has had a rough go this season and last. He dealt with injuries off and on that have limited him and kept his production down. I projected him for a two year deal for $950,000 a year mirroring the deal that J.T. Brown had gotten coming off of his entry level contract. Paquette did sign a two year deal, but the cap hit was only for $812,500. I think if he had performed more as expected last season and didn’t have the injuries to deal with, he would have gotten the projected salary.

Verdict: 90% right

Anthony DeAngelo

I thought that DeAngelo would move along more quickly in his progression towards a right handed, power play specialist defenseman. Instead, attitude issues and poor defensive work meant that Yzerman made the decision to trade him to the Arizona Coyotes for a 2nd round pick that was used on Libor Hajek. I had thought DeAngelo might be ready for a roster spot in 2016-17, but perhaps I was a little pie in the sky on that one.

Verdict: 100% wrong

Nikita Nesterov

Nesterov was another player that I was using as a placeholder on the roster. I had thought that perhaps Nesterov, Slater Koekkoek, and DeAngelo would hold down the bottom three spots. Instead, Coburn was re-signed and DeAngelo was traded. Nesterov and Koekkoek though have been rotating in and out as the sixth defenseman on the roster. I projected a one year contract for $850,000. Nesterov signed a one year contract for $725,000. I’ll count that as a win.

Verdict: 80% right

Victor Hedman

Hedman didn’t waste any time in signing an eight year contract extension with the Lightning to stay beyond the 2016-17 season. I projected Hedman signing an eight year contract worth $7.5 million a year. At the time, the data for high end franchise defensemen was a bit skewed. You had P.K. Subban as a more recent example that represented the absolute ceiling for a Hedman contract. Many of the other contracts for franchise defensemen were years old and some of them had been signed prior to the new CBA that limited what teams could do. Hedman’s new contract will pay him $7.875 million per year over eight years.

Verdict: 98% right

Andrei Vasilevskiy

Like Hedman, this was also a hard one to project out. He has a lot of developing and growing to do to reach his ceiling, but it’s easy to see the potential. I thought that he would have to show more this year and next before getting paid. Yzerman thought otherwise and locked him up on a three year contract worth $3.5 million per year. My projection called for a one year deal at $2.5 million followed by a longer term deal at $3.5 million. I’ll consider this one a win.

Verdict: 66% right

The Actual Salary Cap

This was a big one that did mess with my projections a little bit. The money saved on Stamkos was eaten up by the re-signing of Coburn and then some. A few other deals negated each other out with some savings and some losses. At that time though, the league was projecting a $74.5 million salary cap. In the end, the cap came to $73 million. That’s a decent chunk of change that could, and did, swing things around for how the Lightning attacked the offseason.

Verdict: Hey! It’s not my fault!

One Last Thought(s)

At the time of making the projection, we did not know for certain when or even if the NHL would expand. Expansion was just distant rumors at the time and it did not play in to my projections. The projection is very likely to become heavily skewed starting with the 2017-18 season. The Expansion Draft will mean that one player on the roster will definitely not be with the team any longer.

Looking ahead, I can also see a couple of trades that I had suggested could happen becoming closer to reality. A trade that brings in a roster player or a high end prospect can also start to skew the projections as well. A blazing performance down the stretch can also turn one of the restricted free agents’ deals into a monster contract. Only time will tell.