Photo credit: Greg Fiume
The Washington Capitals have announced that Czech defenseman Tomas Kundratek has signed a two-year contract worth $1.1 million. Kundratek played 49 games with the AHL’s Hershey Bears last season, scoring 16 goals and tallying 31 points. His surprising breakthrough resulted in an extended look in the NHL, where Kundratek played in 25 games, netting one goal and seven points.
This new deal with the 23-year-old blueliner is another example of George McPhee’s crafty management.
Kundratek signed for below the value of the qualifying offer sent to Caps’ restricted free agents today. According to CapGeek, his qualifying offer should’ve been worth $660,000 per year, a 10% increase over his NHL base salary from last year. Kundratek’s cap hit under the new contract will be $550,000, a sizable reduction from the $816,666 cap hit during his last two seasons with the Caps. For a cash-strapped Capitals team, any relief is good. It’s almost as if they’re setting themselves up for something big during free agency.
And Kundratek benefits from the deal as well. Tomas gets more guaranteed money because the first year of the contract is a one-way deal.
The Capitals had this flexibility because of Section 10.2a of the CBA:
A Club’s Qualifying Offer must be a One-Way Qualifying Offer if the applicable Player has: (A) actually played (excluding games missed for injury, illness or disability) 180 or more NHL Games in the previous three (3) NHL Seasons, (B) played at least sixty (60) NHL Games in the previous NHL Season, and (C) not cleared Waivers in the period between the 12th day prior to the commencement of the previous Regular Season and the end of a Club’s previous Playing Season.
Kundratek doesn’t qualify under any of the three conditions. He’s played in 30 NHL games in his career, 25 last year with Washington, and has never been placed on waivers. His qualifying offer could have been a one-year two-way deal. Instead, the first year of the contract he signed today is one-way. That means that regardless of him being sent down to Hershey next season, Kundratek will receive the $550,000 he was promised. In the second year of the contract, he will receive $150,000 if he gets sent to Hershey and $550,000 if he plays for Washington.
If Kundratek doesn’t make the Capitals out of training camp this season, his $550,000 cap hit won’t count against the cap. That would happen despite the new “Wade Redden Rule” written into the CBA, which limits teams’ ability to save money by sending down players who make more than $900,000. The same goes for next season as well.
Kundratek is also a newly waiver-eligible player beginning next season, which slightly reduces the probability of him being sent down.
As you can see, the Caps get some very badly needed cap relief as a result, while Kundratek receives some extra cash for his troubles. That’s how you show respect to your players (while also setting yourself up well for free agency).