Every Thursday, Earl Sleek will conspire with his pen and scanner to bring you another installment of PuckToons. Hopefully you will find these amusing, relevant, well-drawn, or you're a person who is tolerant towards mediocrity.
There certainly has been a lot of strange salary cap-related moves in the last few days around the league, particularly in the Pacific Division. Players have been waived, demoted, and even promoted in order to maximize spending under this year's $56.7 million cap ceiling.
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In San Jose, defenseman Kyle McLaren was sent through waivers in an attempt to have his $2.5 million claimed by another team, but since nobody grabbed him, McLaren was demoted to the AHL Worcester affiliate. It's not an ideal solution for the team or the player, but it does at least allow the Sharks to begin the season below the salary ceiling. In Dallas, promising youngsters James Neal and Mark Fistric were demoted to the Central Hockey League's Oklahoma City Blazers, but then were recalled the following day to take advantage of Sergei Zubov's long-term injury. Anaheim went through most of its salary-shedding a few weeks ago, with the waiving then trading of defenseman Mathieu Schneider, the demotion of Bobby Ryan, and the trading of defenseman Sean O'Donnell. On top of that, the Ducks promoted goaltender David LeNeveu just for a day to take full advantage of the long-term injury exception.
On the other end of the salary spectrum, the Los Angeles Kings' GM Dean Lombardi and forward Patrick O'Sullivan finally finished their contract negotiations, and Lombardi's stubbornness appears to have paid off, as O'Sullivan signed a very affordable 3-year deal. With the signing, Los Angeles should be comfortably above the salary cap floor, though it still looks to be a tough year for the low-spending Kings. With all the promotions, demotions, trades, and signings of the last few days, one thing is clear: the salary cap is changing the way hockey teams operate in dramatic ways, and it's becoming tough for even hardcore fans to understand what their teams are up to. Regardless of silly salary cap math, though, the North American NHL season begins tonight! Hooray!