Expect to see more of this thanks to Tom Poti
The last few days have brought news about Tom Poti. No, not that his groin injury renders him unable to play -- that's hardly news. I'm talking about the news of how the team is going to handle his absence. And it looks like they've elected the LTIR route, which is probably the worst of the available options. One man, though, ought to celebrate the decision: DJ King.
Of course, nobody ever celebrates a teammate's injury. But the financial effects of Poti's injury and of how the team plans to deal with it may really benefit King. The reason has to do with the salary cap. This year, no team can spend more than $64,300,000 of salary cap dollars. There are a few exceptions to the rule, and one is the Long Term Injured Reserve rule, which permits a team to exceed the cap by the prorated salary cap dollars of any player put on LTIR. Assuming, as we all expect, that Poti will miss the whole season, that means the Caps can spend a maximum of up to $2,875,000 over the cap.
What it doesn't mean is that Poti doesn't count against the cap. There's a major distinction there versus being under the cap, and it's the fact that cap space above the cap limit cannot be banked. If you don't spend all of Poti's salary above the cap in a given day, you don't get to spend it later. LTIR relief is use-it-or-lose-it. No matter how far above the cap you are on any given day, the effect is the same -- you're treated as though you spent to the maximum of the cap.
And that brings me to King. If the Caps were under the salary cap, they would have a decision to make. King's cap hit is $637,500. They could carry King, or they could be an extra $637,500 under the cap. If they didn't carry him, then by the trade deadline 3/4 of the way through the season, they could use King's cap space to acquire about $2 Million in salary. (By the trade deadline, the team would have saved 3/4 of that $637,500, which is $478,125 extra dollars under the cap. A player with a $1,900,000 would have already been paid $1,425,000 by his original team by then, and would have about $475,000 to go, which could be paid for by the savings from not carrying King up to that point.)
You have to think that it'd be very tempting for McPhee to send King to the AHL and free up an extra $2,000,000 for late-season player acquisitions. But because of Poti, that won't be an option. The Caps won't be banking any salary cap space this year as long as Poti's on LTIR. So the only decision with respect to King will be whether the Caps want to be about $1,000,000 above the cap or $1,637,500 above the cap on any given day. And since LTIR is use-it-or-lose-it, there's no real reason to pick one versus the other. Might as well carry King.
So DJ King may have Tom Poti's brittle groin to thank for his job. The rest of us can blame Tom Poti's contract for the Caps' options being very limited come the trade deadline. I hope the team McPhee has put together this September is good enough, because there may not be much opportunity to upgrade as long as Tom Poti's on LTIR.