1. Jonas Gustavsson
2. Carey Price
3. Tuukka Rask
I don’t have a Vezina ballot – the trophy is voted on by NHL general managers – but if I was an NHL GM, that’s how I’d vote. I suspect that this is a little different than the consensus. Reasoning after the jump.
As you might have noticed, Gustavsson, Price and Rask are noteable in that they all play on entry level contracts, for teams that are either at, or very close to the salary cap. Capgeek.com shows the Maple Leafs as being over the cap, Boston with about $43K in cap room and Montreal with about $683K in room. Montreal’s number seems high to me – it seems to me that they’d be closer than that, but it is what it is.
Gustavsson, Price and Rask have another characteristic in common – they all signed deals that provide for more than the Schedule “A” bonuses that are based on how you perform relative to your teammates. Those bonuses are capped at $850K and they all have contracts that provide for more than that, from which it can be inferred that they have Schedule “B” bonuses. These bonuses are payable for performing at an elite level relative to the league. Players are allowed to negotiate bonuses of up to $2MM for hitting various benchmarks. In the case of goalies, they can negotiate bonuses for finishing in the top 5 in wins, goals against average and save percentage as well as for winning the Vezina or Jennings Trophy.
The bonuses are subject to an overall limit of $2MM – if, for example, a player had $2MM bonuses for each of finishing top 5 in wins, goals against average and save percentage and for winning the Vezina Trophy, the most he could collect would be $2MM, even if he hit all of the targets. Dan Tolensky, who seems to have had curiously good access to information about Pittsburgh and Phoenix, had an excellent post a while back in which he printed a copy of Malkin’s ELC and discussed the bonuses.
While we can’t be certain precisely that Gustavsson, Price and Rask have a bonus for winning the Vezina Trophy, they’re the most likely candidates. Here’s where it gets interesting. As I understand it, if payment of those bonuses causes their teams to exceed the salary cap, it comes off of next year’s cap. So, to be clear, the 27 GM’s who don’t run Toronto, Montreal and Boston can potentially reduce the cap space available to their competition by voting for their players to win the Vezina.
As there are so few voters, it doesn’t necessarily take a lot of votes to put a guy into the top five. Voters pick someone for 1st-2nd-3rd, with points counting on a 5-3-1 basis. In 2006-07, Dominik Hasek finished fifth with 5 third place votes. In 2007-08, Miikka Kiprusoff finished 5th with a first place vote and two third place votes. The electorate is small enough that a couple of general managers voting out of self interest could skew the voting.
I’ve got no idea whether the player contracts call for bonuses for winning the Vezina or not, as this seems like a rather obvious problem. It’s certainly a possibility though and, given that the CBA was put together without regard to a lot of big picture issues, it’s not all that surprising that something like this exists. The NHL should probably take the Vezina voting away from the GM’s because of this – they’re begging for trouble when they give general managers the power to affect the salary cap room of other teams.