This week, ESPN took a shot at putting together the best football team money could buy. The rules were pretty simple, just compile a roster that fits within the constraints of the league salary cap, using players’ cap hits for the upcoming 2015-16 season.
I figured since it’s mid-August there’s no better time to give this a try with an NHL team.
Before we get to it, a few notes:
First off, I had to establish a couple guidelines — nothing serious, but there had to be rules. Initially I was going to play it loose with the forwards and just plug in centers as wingers and whatnot if it meant a better team, but eventually decided to go with four right wings, four lefts and four centers, as they were listed per the official NHL website.
Next was roster size. Teams can (and obviously do) carry up to a maximum of 23 players on their roster, but you can get away with 20. So in the interest of making my team as strong as possible, I kept it thin. Hopefully we don’t run into a string of injuries.
Lastly, I went with a player’s cap hit as listed on HockeysCap.com. It doesn’t include potential performance bonuses for players on entry-level contracts, just the base. If we Claude Loiselle this thing and go into overage after the fact, so be it. Also, in ESPN’s piece they didn’t use rookies, but I’m going to use one.
Here’s the roster. [Keep in mind, again, that these are based on 2015-16 cap hits. Voracek will not make this team next year.]
Jamie Benn (5.25M) – Nicklas Backstrom (6.7M) – Jakub Voracek (4.25M)
Max Pacioretty (4.5M) – John Tavares (5.5M) – Vladimir Tarasenko (7.5M)
Johnny Gaudreau (0.925M) – Connor McDavid (0.925M) – Mark Stone (3.5M)
Jaden Schwartz (2.35M) – Filip Forsberg (0.894M) – Nikita Kucherov (0.894M)
That Tavares trio is absolutely terrifying. Also the Gaudreau and McDavid Alberta connection would be a lot of fun, especially with Stone as the hammer on that line.
You’ll notice I had to start filling in with ELCs once I loaded up the top two lines, but thankfully there’s a generational center who fits nicely at 3C. I probably could have subbed out Forsberg for someone like MacKinnon or Eichel, but his 2014-15 season made him the most deserving of a place on this team.
Drew Doughty (7.0M) – Erik Karlsson (6.5M)
Hampus Lindholm (0.894M) – Kevin Shattenkirk (4.25M)
Morgan Rielly (0.894M) – Seth Jones (0.925M)
A little heavy on the youth with Jones, Rielly and Lindholm, I’ll admit. But when you have Doughty and Karlsson there to clock off 30 minutes per night, there’s not much to worry about. Plus all three of those young guns are really starting to get into their prime and should each take another step forward this season.
Carey Price (6.5M)
Eddy Lack (1.15M)
Yes, that’s right, I still had money left over to put Price between the pipes. Though, when I first started drafting this up, I swapped Price for Schneider a couple times to get that 500k in cap space. Eventually I freed things up enough to keep the most dominant tender on the planet, thankfully. And of course, Lack is more than capable as a backup.
Total cap payroll: 71.301M
Go ahead and give this a try, you’ll likely find it much more difficult than you think. My first attempt clocked in at somewhere around $100-million and then I started shaving it down, but there might be other methods that work best and aren’t as stressful.
Have a little fun and share your ultimate rosters with us in the comments.