The Isobel Cup Champion Boston Pride currently have just six players under contract. The Pride’s big three forwards remain unsigned. The salary and cap space that Brianna Decker, Hilary Knight, and Alex Carpenter demand will impact the makeup of the Pride’s 2015-16 roster.
Boston had the second highest team salary cap last season. With just $1,000 in cap space the Pride had a roster that featured Olympic standouts and former Boston Blades. The key to Boston’s star power was the willingness of talented players to share the wealth.
Hilary Knight, Brianna Decker, and Kacey Bellamy each made $22,000 last season. Gigi Marvin, one of the best defenders in women’s hockey, made $20,000. After those big four skaters, the next largest cap hit on the Pride was Brittany Ott’s $17,000 contract.
Knight and Decker were dominant players last season. Together they scored 29 goals and put 230 shots on net in 33 total regular season games. Stars Meghan Duggan, Megan Bozek, and Kelli Stack all made more than Boston’s co-captains last season.
Will Knight and Decker again be content with team-friendly deals to keep the NWHL’s best roster together? Given the camaraderie and chemistry of the Pride’s roster, the answer to that question is almost certainly yes.
There is also the question of what newcomer Carpenter will make. The Pride acquired the rights to her from the Riveters in exchange for a $2,000 draft tax and Miye D’Oench. With Amanda Kessel’s historic $26,000 contract raising the bar, one has to wonder what Knight, Decker, and Carpenter are worth to the Pride.
Just how much can general manager Hayley Moore afford give to Knight, Decker, and Carpenter? As special as those three women are, Boston’s success came largely from its depth last season.
Moore has already starting putting the puzzle together and saving cap space where she can.
The Pride’s five returning players are making a combined salary and cap hit of $73,000. Those same five players made $74,500 last season. The sixth player under contract is forward Alexandra Bender. Bender, a rookie, is making the league minimum of $10,000.
Of the Pride’s five returning players, only Ott will make more than she did last season. The addition of Bender will also save the team cap space. Bender is the first forward in franchise history to make the league minimum. With 11 players still to sign, it is unclear which forward from last year she will replace.
Moore will need to continue to save cap space by bringing back the players who are willing to take pay cuts to stay with Boston. Even with an extra $2,000 in cap space, players like Marvin and Bellamy, the two highest-paid defenders on Boston, will likely be asked to take less to make room for Carpenter’s contract. The same can be said for every player from the Pride’s second line as well as top line winger Jordan Smelker.
Asking such talented women to take less money after they contributed to the team winning the Isobel Cup won’t be easy. Especially because none of them are making a living wage playing in the NWHL. But if the Pride are going to bring back their two superstar forwards and add another in Carpenter, something needs to give.
It’s a scary thought for the rest of the league, but Boston’s roster could be better than it was last season. A top line of Knight, Decker, and Carpenter would feature three of the best American-born players in women’s hockey. The talent on that line would be the envy and bane of the other three teams in the league.
In order to make that line a possibility, the Pride’s general manager is going to need to work some magic with the other eight contracts she needs to get signed.