Wednesday, June 07, 2006

How do you solve a problem like Tie Domi?

Steve Simmons recently filed this blurb at the end of a column:

Buying out Tie Domi would cost the Leafs $833,000 US. Replacing him on the fourth line will cost a minimum of $450,000. In other words, the Leafs would be paying more to replace him ($1.28 million) than to keep him ($1.25 million).
It’s an interesting aside but I’m not so sure that Simmons is right on the math, his reading of the CBA or even the implicit message that the Leafs are better off keeping Domi and “saving” $300K.

First, let’s look at the CBA…

According to my unofficial copy of the CBA, section 50.2.c.iv

All Player Salary and Bonuses earned in a League Year by a Player who is in the second or later year of a multi-year SPC [Standard Player Contract] which was signed when the Player was age 35 or older (as of June 30 of the League Year in which the SPC is to be effective), regardless of whether, or where, the Player is playing, except to the extent the Player is playing under his SPC in the minor leagues, in which case only the Player Salary and Bonuses in excess of $100,000 shall count towards the calculation of Actual Club Salary;
As Domi is indeed over 35 and in the second year of a multi-year deal if the Leafs were to waive him or induce him into retirement (and this is a HUGE if), Domi’s NHL salary and any bonuses would be counted as part of the Leafs’ total salary. (If Domi had been waived last season, a la Alexander Mogilny in New Jersey, the first year of his contract would not have counted against the cap - but the second half would).

That said, if the Leafs were to move Domi the pay-out could be spread over two seasons, or at least that’s how I read section 59.9.i.i of the CBA: - “the money due and owing to the Player pursuant to the buyout shall be paid out in accordance with the terms of the SPC (e.g., one-third or two-thirds of the remaining Player Salary due and owing, to be paid over twice the remaining years of the terminated and bought out contract),”

As Domi would have one year remaining on his “terminated and bought out contract” the Leafs would have two years to pay him off at two-thirds salary.

So what would the actual financial cost be?

Simmons pegs the cost of buying out Domi at $833,000 (two-thirds of his $1.25 million/year contract - Nice work JFJ!) but he presumes it would be a one-year payout. As the Leafs have the option of spreading out the payments over two years, a Domi buy-out would cost the Leafs $416,500. Add in the cost of replacing him with a player earning the league minimum and the cost of dropping Domi and filling his roster spot totals out at $866,500 for two years.

There are two bigger issues at play here that, unfortunately, Simmons doesn’t get to:
  1. Regardless of the financials, would the Leafs be better off without Domi?

    I don't know what Domi brings to the dressing room, the bench or the chemistry of the team. I do know what he brought on the ice last year and it wasn't worth $1.25 million.

    A player earning league minimum could be moved (be it waived, cut, traded and/or demoted) much easier than Domi giving both Maurice and JFJ a much greater degree of flexibility with their roster. In turn, that “open” roster spot could used as a good incentive for Marlies on the bubble and would give the Leafs brass a chance to see how one or more of these guys play at the NHL level.
  2. In a hard cap environment with a finite salary pie, how much money can the Leafs afford to burn on bad decisions?

    Belfour’s buy-out ($750K/2 yrs) combined with a theoretical Domi buy-out ($416.5K/2 yrs) is $1.16MM a year for the next 2 years. No matter your take on Domi, JFJ or all things Leafs, I think we’d all agree that this is money that would be much better spent on contributing roster players than on making old problems go away. Building a cup winner by throwing good money after bad is like trying to catch a moonbeam in your hand.


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