Here’s the challenge
General manager of the Colorado Avalanche Joe Sakic has made it look easy. Here’s the challenge, can you put together a team capable of winning the Stanley Cup while staying within the Salary Cap? (Dave Sandford/NHLI via Getty Images)

Okay, so here’s the challenge… You have $81.5 million, the current NHL salary cap, and must pick 13 forwards, seven defensemen, and two goaltenders. Each player’s salary is what they are due to be paid in the 2020-21 season, and it’s an in it to win it mentally. Don’t worry about that next contract; worry about winning the Stanley Cup now! Be a general manager.

Once you get past the obvious entry-level contracts (ELC) and bargain buys, it gets more than a little dicey. Especially without adding an ELC or two, you probably wouldn’t in a non-salary cap era. This was my line up.

Forwards:

I chose a top-line of center Nathan MacKinnon ($6,300,000) with wingers David Pastrnak ($6,666,667) and Mitchell Marner ($10,893,000). MacKinnon’s contract is well talked about as one of, if not the, best contracts in the current NHL. So that made it an easy decision over Connor McDavid, who is due to make $12,500,000 next season. Pastrnak’s contract isn’t far off MacKinnon’s in terms of value, while I went with Marner over teammate Auston Matthews ($11,634,000) to save nearly a million without much of a drop-off.

The money I purposely saved on my top line with the MacKinnon and Pastrnak deals was instantly lost on my second line. Center Sydney Crosby ($8,700,000) is flanked by Alexander Ovechkin ($9,538,462) and Brady Tkachuk ($925,000). Yes, I went all out. Yes, I have two of the greatest players to ever play in Crosby and Ovechkin on a second line. And yes, I imagined the damage they could do after the MacKinnon line’s pace tore into defensemen when doing it. It would be goals galore with Ovi and Pasta and undoubtedly fun to watch.

It left me a little cash strapped, though, so I was looking for team-friendly deals from here on out. The third line was centered by Elias Pettersson ($925,000), who had Andrei Svechnikov ($925,000) and Kappo Kakko ($925,000). Not bad. Yes, I’m aware this wouldn’t last as both Svechnikov and Pettersson are due to get HUGE raises after next season, but that’s the beauty of entry-level contracts.

The bottom line has Kirby Dach ($925,000) centering Tyson Jost ($874,125) and Barclay Goodrow ($925,000) with my thirteenth forward and healthy scratch being Jack Hughes ($925,000). This put me at $49,447,254 for forwards alone.

Defense:

I believe an attack is the best form of defense, as you will see. After winning a Stanley Cup and being named the Conn Smythe winner, it was too hard to leave Victor Hedman ($7,875,000) out. Instead, I partnered him with Cale Makar ($881,000) to form probably the most explosive defensive pairing the NHL would ever see.

Behind them, I have Miro Heiskanen ($894,166) and Quinn Hughes ($916,667) as the second pairing. Once again, I’m aware this is not sustainable with Makar, Heiskanen, and Quinn all due new contracts at the end of the season. This is very much a one and done situation.

The bottom pairing would be Charlie McAvoy ($4,900,000) and Rasmus Dahlin ($925,000). There are several reasons for this. I like McAvoy as a player, and that contract isn’t horrible, plus I’m trying to put as many Boston Bruins players in the team as possible to keep on ‘The Don’ Trey Daubert’s good side (not really).


The seventh defenseman and healthy scratch would be Mattias Ekholm ($3,750,000). This put me at $20,141,833 for defensemen and $69,589,087 in total.

Goaltenders:

I knew who I wanted as my starter pretty much straight away. I also knew it was going to be a tight squeeze to be able to get him. However, thanks to some entry-level contracts and team-friendly deals, I could afford Connor Hellebuyck($6,166,666).

The most surprising part was I still had $5,744,247 remaining for his back-up. After initially going with Robin Lehner at $5,000,000, I decided to go a safer route and take Darcy Kuemper at $4,500,000 and save myself $500,000 with little drop-off. This put me at $10,666,666 for my goaltenders and $80,255,753 in total, leaving me with $1,244,247 to play with if need be.

See Kyle Dubas; it can be done. It would be best if you had a ton of ELC’s and team-friendly deals as well as a tool like cap-friendly to help you add it all together. Let me know what your ‘Here’s the Challenge’ teams would look like. Also, where’s my GM job?