Reports are circulating that the Isles are poised to offer Ryan Smyth a long term deal worth $6 million dollars per season. Supposedly, the Isles will front load the contract so that the majority of the money will be paid in the first years of the contract. As far as salary cap implications go, the total value of the contract is divided by the length of the contract. That number becomes the cap charge over the life of the contract. Theoretically, a player can be signed for 8 years at 6 million per ( a total value of 48 million). The player can get 14 million per year for the first 3 years (a total of $42 million) and $2 million per year for the last 3 years of the contract. The cap charge would be $6 million per year for the life of the contract. However, if the player is bought out before the start of year 4, (when they have a total of 3 years and $6 million dollars to go), that $6 million would be spread out over twice the remaining time on the contract, i.e., 6 million over 6 years for a buyout cap charge of $1 million per year (the cap charge may even be less if the buyout rate is 2/3 of the remaining value of the contract- I've got to check on that). The bottom line is that if this type of a set up is possible under the CBA, It gives teams willing to spend money a little bit of an advantage:
Let's use the Ranger$ for example. Media reports indicate that the Rangers will try to get Drury and Gomez to sign for a bit of a discount in exchange for the opportunity to play in NY and take a ride down the Canyon of Heroes. But perhaps no discount is needed at all: Both guys are reportedly looking to sign contracts worth 6-7 million per year for approximately 6 years. Essentially they're looking for contracts worth approximately 40 million dollars. A team like the Ranger$ can offer them $5 million per year for 10 years. The Ranger$ can pay them $10 million per year for the first 3 years of the Contract. The overall cap charge would still remain $5 million per season. That leaves 20 million to be paid over the final 7 sevens, or a buy-out cap charge of less than $1.5 million for 14 years. Even if they're not bought out, getting Drury or Gomez for only a $5 million cap charge is a great move for at least 5 years in the case of Drury and even longer in the case of Gomez (as he's younger). The players would certainly be happy as they're getting more money than they originally wanted and a lot more of it up front. Obviously, small market teams wouldn't be able to sign players to Contracts like these as they simply don't have the budgets necessary to front load large contracts.
A team like the Rangers which feels as though it has a legitimate window of 1 -2 years within which to win a cup (while Jagr's still around) can seriously exploit this tactic. It looks like the Rich get Richer no matter how much Gary Bettman tries to smother capitalism.