What’s the best possible team you can build in the salary cap world?
This week, multi-site contributor Ryan Fancey took a shot at creating the “best team $71.4 million can buy.” Take a look at the post here. In the piece, Fancey removes all constraints — except player positions and cap hit — to create an all-star lineup.
After posting his piece, Ryan sensed that the internet may react to his selections:
Got a feeling people might have #opinions about this. It's fun, you should try to do it. Harder than it seems. https://t.co/uB16BRQq5e
— Ryan (@ryanfancey) August 19, 2015
He was right.
The post caught the eye of many hockey people, including Dom Luszczyszyn from The Hockey News. The piece nabbed my attention too. Fancey went hard after stars, made strategic use of players on ELCs, served up youth on defense, and selected the best goalie in the NHL.
Now I’ll beat that team.
Fancey’s Fanciful FanRoster
Courtesy of Luszczyszyn’s neat graphic, here is a snapshot of the team that I’m trying to beat.
Best team money can buy according to @ryanfancey, can you do better? http://t.co/eIm0oM0V32 pic.twitter.com/t7gLIKGYuw
— dom luszczyszyn (@omgitsdomi) August 19, 2015
Yes, somehow this embarrassment-of-riches roster comes in under the $71.4 million salary cap at $71.301 million. The forward corps offers offense upon offense upon offense. Fancey’s lines are filled with some of the NHL’s top scorers – Benn, Tavares, Tarasenko, Backstrom, Voracek. The third line was the all-Calder-hopefuls group, with 2015 Calder finalists Stone and Gaudreau flanking 2016 Calder frontrunner Connor McDavid.
Fancey’s defense pairings are terrifying. Karlsson and Doughty anchor a group that is heavy on youth in the bottom-three. Still, Doughty and Karlsson can handle up to 30 minutes of ice time per night. If the two weren’t paired together, one or the other could be on the ice virtually throughout the game.
In net, Fancey keeps it simple. Carey Price is the reigning winner of every goalie trophy the NHL hands out. Lack is the league’s best-loved backup. This is a terrifying ensemble.
On the WAR Path
Still, there’s room to better Fancey’s squad. Guided by War-on-Ice.com’s fantastic wins above replacement (WAR) and goals above replacement (GAR) stats, my squad will feature the players that are most likely to earn the most wins that money can afford. The lineup looks like this:
|Name||AAV ($)||GAR||Rank (/position)|
*all goals above replacement stats drawn from War-on-Ice.com here
**all contract information from GeneralFanager.com here
In general, this team is a terror.
The 20-player group (2 goalies, 12 forwards, 6 defensemen, no spares — as per Fancey’s roster) earn a combined $71.287 million, just underneath the $71.4 million salary cap. In terms of goals above replacement, the team scores a mark of 344.02. For some context, the President’s Trophy winning New York Rangers compiled a team GAR of 91.08 last year. The Stanley Cup Champion Chicago Blackhawks amassed a team GAR of 98.97.
Both cases included every player that skated for either team and included the negative scores registered by fan favorites like Tanner Glass of the New York Rangers.
As with any team, some players on this roster are more important than others. The black bubbles indicate greatest player worth for the team, then grey, bright red, and dark red in descending importance. The size of bubble mirrors the colour scheme, visually representing each player’s impact on the team.
Carey Price and Joe Pavelski, first and second place in GAR last season, headline this group. The “second-tier” of stars for this cap-compliant club includes Tarasenko, Bergeron, Little, Seguin, Ovechkin and Tatar.
This graph charts each player’s GAR relative to their salary. The number beside each player gives that player’s rank among others at their position (i.e. forwards, defense, goalies). Players like Ovechkin, Tarasenko, Price, and Pavelski deliver high GAR and are paid handsomely to do so. Steals like Bryan Little, Tomas Tatar, and Justin Abdelkader deliver top-quality GAR with inexpensive contracts.
Line 1 – Tarasenko – Bergeron – Ovechkin
An elite trio with two triggermen and perhaps the game’s most complete all-around player in the middle, this unit would dominate puck possession and score at will.
Line 2 – Seguin – Pavelski – Little
Seguin’s elite offense is well-known but Little and Pavelski are overlooked for their all-around contributions. Individually, these skaters ranked first (Pavelski), fourth (Seguin), and seventh (Little) in GAR last season.
Line 3 – Tatar – Forsberg – Hoffman
This is an underrated, dangerous, and cost-effective group. Tatar was 12th in GAR among forwards last season and Hoffman scored 27 goals last year, leading the NHL in goals per dollar among skaters with more than three games played. Forsberg scored 63 points en route to a Calder nomination snub and would capably centre this third line.
Line 4 – Abdelkader – McDavid – Raffl
Stealing a page from Fancey, McDavid’s all-world ability (and entry level contract) make him a must. Abdelkader and Raffl (22nd and 40th among forwards in GAR) offer incredible value. Each offers first-line-quality GAR totals and both have contract values under $2 million per year.
Karlsson – Spurgeon
This top pair features a Norris Trophy winner and the top two defensemen in total GAR last season. Out of the spotlight, Spurgeon produced advanced stats the bettered Duncan Keith, Drew Doughty, P.K. Subban and everyone else except the Senators’ star.
Vatanen – Ekholm
Much like Fancey, youth is served on the blue line for the best team that money can buy. Vatanen finished fourth among defensemen in GAR last season. Ekholm finished 15th. Both earn under $3 million per year, making them incredibly cost-efficient choices.
Jackman – Dumba
A classic pairing of a wily veteran with a young, developing blue line stud. Jackman quietly compiled the 18th best goals-above-replacement value among all NHL defensemen last year. Dumba showed signs of realizing his potential, ranking 24th in the league in GAR. Both boast understated talent and carry small contracts. This would be by far the best bottom-pair in the NHL.
Price – Darling
Price has reached the top of the goaltending hierarchy. In addition to winning every conceivable trophy last season, Price finished first in the league in GAR value. He’s dragged a punchless Habs squad through playoff round after playoff round. For this team, he’ll only be asked to be competent and enjoy the ride. Darling finished last season as the 14th-best netminder by GAR. And he earns about $600K. He’s an excellent, cheap caddy for Price.
Who do you think should be the NHL #MVP? Alex Ovechkin or Carey Price? #CapitalsTalk pic.twitter.com/p5Lvs3He94
— CSN Capitals (@CSNCapitals) April 4, 2015
This team is led by the all-star names you want to see. Ovechkin, Price, Seguin, Tarasenko, Karlsson…the list goes on. By using War-on-Ice’s comprehensive GAR statistic, a number of steals round out the roster. Players like Spurgeon, Abdelkader, and Raffl don’t carry immense name value. But their advanced stats are strong.
This team would gladly face Fancey’s team any day — and win.
Think you can craft a roster that would beat this lineup? Find your favourite cap site and give it a whirl…just be sure to share your team in the comments.