1) When he was signed to his current contract, I don't think Caps Management made a mistake. It was a smart signing given where we were and the situation dictated that if we wanted Nyls we needed to pay what we did to get him. The minute he signed he was not overpaid. The current situation started to arise when the Caps opt'ed to change their style of play to the current system they began to adopt in November 2007.
2) I don't think anyone should feel dismay that Michael Nylander wants to make sure he gets what he negotiated and that he takes care of himself and his family by exercising his NMC. He earned it - why/how? - he did that the minute the Capitals gave it to him. As long as he shows up, in shape, with a good attitude and works at his game like every other player with a contract, he deserves what it says he deserves in his contract. That means, he's here until someone else in the NHL offers a deal to the Caps that they and he will both accept. That doesn't make either him or Caps management stupid, it's just the way things are.
So I pretty much feel like, while it's clear the Caps need to do something if they can to move Michael Nylander and free his Cap Space given they aren't using him as a top line center which is what they are paying him as, - well I feel pretty much like the sentements expressed over at "On Frozen Blog" today:
"Also on the unhealthy front -- and unlikely to heal -- is the Michael
Nylander saga; it simply can't be ignored. As best as I can tell it's training
camp's lone non-health-related downer story. Michael Nylander does absolutely
nothing wrong within this organization except fit poorly in Bruce Boudreau's
system. And in the earliest hours of this camp I personally have felt great
empathy for him watching him move about, expressionless, largely isolated from
gregarious bands of players, seeming so . . . out of place.
The start of a new hockey season is an occasion of so many smiles, so much
laughter within an organization, but Michael Nylander knows neither thus far
this autumn. On Saturday he sat alone at a table by a rink for a terrific while
signing a truckload of Caps' merchandise -- signing longer than any other
Capital. It was an odd sight, and after two days at Kettler and being regularly
confronted by this queer dynamic I can't help but analogize Nylander's situation
to the separation period a married couple endures before a divorce."
All that said it's worth looking at the pertenent facts as they apply to this situation. Michael Nylander, as he pointed out yesterday to the press, has two years left on his contract here in DC. the contract contains a No Movement Clause, and calls for the Capitals to pay him a salary of $5.5M this season and $3.0M next season; his salary cap hit each of those years will be $4.875M. Nyls will be 37 on October 3rd and he has 15 seasons of NHL experience under his belt. Over that span he has played in 920 NHL Regular Season Games and 47 NHL Playoff contensts. He has 221 goals (209 regular season and 12 playoffs) and 492 assists (470 regular season, 22 playoffs). He came to the Capitals as an Unrestricted Free Agent in 2007 after two excellent (20+ goal/50+ assist) post lock-out seasons with the NY Rangers. At the time the Capitals were in the middle of a total team rebuild and few unrestricted free agents looked to Washington as a place to come and have the latter part of your career be highly successful. The Capitals had drafted a 19 year old Swedish Center named Nicklas Backstrom in the first round that year and needed a mentor for him. The fit was relatively straight-forward and complete at the time the deal was made.
Had the Capitals bought Nyls out this summer it wouldn't have made any sense due to the impact in the out years (particularly next season when the Caps need to make room somehow for Backstom and Semin's resigning...). According to Capgeek.com - here's what a buyout of Nyls on June 15th of this year would have looked like:
SEASON ACTUAL SALARY CAP HIT BUYOUT SAVINGS BUYOUT CAP HIT
2009-2010 $5,500,000 $4,875,000 $1,416,667 $4,083,333 $791,667
2010-2011 $3,000,000 $4,875,000 $1,416,667 $1,583,333 $3,291,667
2011-2012 $0 $0 $1,416,667 $-1,416,667 $1,416,667
2012-2013 $0 $0 $1,416,667 $-1,416,667 $1,416,667.
Next season, June 15th, 2010 however, things look a wee bit different. Take a look:
SEASON ACTUAL SALARY CAP HIT BUYOUT SAVINGS BUYOUT CAP HIT
2010-2011 $3,000,000 $4,875,000 $1,000,000 $2,000,000 $2,875,000
2011-2012 $0 $0 $1,000,000 $-1,000,000 $1,000,000.
So what's the math above say? To me it says Nyls is likely to spend the rest of this season as a Washington Capital. He may or may not be a healthy scratch often depending on a lot of things including the health and durability of 34 year old UFA pickup, Brendan Morrison. If Morrison returns to the form he had before his last two injury shortened seasons, Nyls could spend a fair amount of time "riding the pine."
However given that the Caps will likely be starting the season without either Tomas Fleischmann or Eric Fehr, there is some room for Nyls though when he signed with the Caps in 2007, I don't think anyone foresaw him as the third line center....
Hopefully this all works out somehow, but it's hard to see how. Right now the only teams with significant salary cap room for a guy like Nyls could be are: the Islanders, the Predators, the Avalanche, and the Thrashers. Would any of those four teams be willing to take Nylander and his $4.875M cap hit for the next two years and would he be willing to go there? Hard to say. I have to think that if somehow a deal could be worked with any of them, and Nyls thought he'd get a fair shake at playing time, he might take it. No premier athlete wants to "ride the pine" even in the back nine of his career. That said, it's hard to see him going to Europe or Russia this year before the Olympics are over either, and from his perspective, why should he?
In any case, the professionalism he's displayed since this stuff started speaks volumes about his character and professionalism. If Nyls continues to be the guy he's been so far throughout these times, and as a father of six children Nyls probably has the patience required to be so, one thing is certain. When it is over, Michael Nylander will have no regrets and will be able to point to these times as a period in his life where he acted like he hopes his children all act when they are facing adversity.
Like I said, I hope it all works out, because right now this is really the only big cloud that's a bit of a downer over the Capitals organization.