Editor's Note: Draglikepull takes a look at the bonus system and which bonuses Leafs players could earn. This is especially important once it comes to negotiating new contracts this summer for Luke Schenn, Tyler Bozak, and Carl Gunnarsson.
Since a number of key Leafs will be restricted free agents this summer, a lot of talk centres around their next contract will effect the Leafs' cap situation in relation to their current contract. There seems to be a lot of confusion about how much money exactly players like Luke Schenn and Tyler Bozak are going to make this year, so I thought it would be worthwhile to explain how entry level contract (ELC) bonus structures work under the current collective bargaining agreement, and then examine which bonuses various Leaf players are likely to earn.
NOTE: I'm relying on CapGeek for player contract values, all the actual bonus structure rules come courtesy the current CBA. Page 260 (278 in the PDF) is where the section on ELC bonus structures starts. More general rules on ELCs can be found starting at page 23 (41 in the PDF).
HOW BONUS STRUCTURES WORK
Teams only have a limited amount of say over what kinds of bonuses they can offer players on ELCs; the CBA sets pretty strict limits. There are both dollar value limits and statistical limits. Bonuses are divided into two categories, Individial "A" Bonuses and Individual "B" Bonuses.
"A" bonuses can be given out for meeting various statistical thresholds, like scoring more than 20 goals as a forward or having more than 20 wins as a goalie. Players are limited to a bonus of $212,500 for each individual statistical category and $850,000 in total for all "A" bonuses. The statistical categories vary by position, but there are minimum thresholds set by the league - for example, you can't offer a player a bonus for scoring 10 goals, because the league has set 20 as the minimum. You could, however, decide to offer the bonus at a point higher than the league's guidelines. These are the bonuses players are likely to receive, and they effectively double the value of an ELC. I'm not going to detail every single one of these, but they're in the PDF file I linked. Also note that Games Played is not an allowable bonus category - you can not pay a player a bonus just for playing a set number of games.
"B" bonuses are only given out for winning or being a finalist for a major league award, or being in the top 10 of a major statistical category like goals scored. These are paid out by the league regardless of a player's individual ELC, but teams can also negotiate additional bonus payments on top of the payment from the league. There are no limits to how many such payouts players can earn from the league. There is no limit on the individual amount a team may offer for one particular "B" bonus, so long as all "B" bonuses combined come to $2 million or less. These are extremely difficult to get on an ELC if your name isn't Crosby or Ovechkin (except the bonus for the Calder).
WHAT BONUSES ARE LEAF PLAYERS LIKELY TO RECEIVE
I'm going to use this information plus each player's current statistics to project their bonuses and total salary this year. There are three Leafs with expiring ELCs this year - Tyler Bozak, Luke Schenn, and Carl Gunnarsson. I'm basing my projections on two assumptions, both of which are likely to be untrue in at least some circumstances:
1. That each Leaf player is actually eligible in their contract to receive bonuses for the categories I'm giving them credit for. Since these aren't published anywhere, there's no real way to know.
2. That each individual bonus is for the maximum amount allowable. Unlikely unless each player has exactly 4 potential bonuses, but since there's no way to know for sure, it's the fairest way to do the calculations.
The only bonus Tyler Bozak might reach is being in the top 6 forwards on the team in ice time. He's currently 3rd, so this one seems like a fairly safe bet. He's not hitting any of the "B" bonuses. Bozak's bonuses this year should cost the team $212,500.
Carl Gunnarson is currently one of the top 3 regular Leaf defencemen in +/-, and it's tough to say either way whether that'll continue, but I'll grant him that bonus. The only other bonus he might potentially get this year is for being in the top 4 in defencemen ice-time. Unlikely without a major injury or trade though, so I'm not including it. Even under the extremely generous assumption that Gunnarson's entire bonus structure is tied to +/-, he's only getting $170,000.
That brings us to Schenn, by far the most likely of the group to get a sizeable bonus payout. He should easily finish the year in the top 4 defencemen for minutes played, so he gets that bonus. He's currently tied with Gunnarson for 3rd in defencemen +/-, so we'll give him that too. He is also currently one of the top 2 defencemen on the team in blocked shots, so I'll include that too. Schenn's not getting any "B" bonuses. He'll max out at $637,500.
Assuming all of these players hit all of those bonuses and are given the maximum allowable amount, the Leafs will pay a total of $1,020,000 in bonuses this year (other players with potential bonuses like Aulie or Kadri are not going to hit them). Carl Gunnarsson will make $800,000, Tyler Bozak will make $1,087,500, and Luke Schenn will make $1,512,500. Please keep in mind that these are pretty aggressive assumptions, and that the actual payout by the Leafs could easily be lower.
Tyler Bozak and Carl Gunnarson will each make roughly the amount of a standard ELC ($900,000 for the most recent crop of drafted players). Bozak's certainly not making anything even close to the kind of money people often attribute to him - his actual salary will end up being pretty cap-friendly. I don't think either player will get a hefty raise next year, but I also think it's unlikely that either of them will have their salary go down either.
As for Schenn, even though he's making by far the most on the team in terms of bonuses, he's still basically making the same amount of money as our good buddy Brett Lebda. Since his salary this year will likely be in the $1 million-$1.5 million range, he's pretty much certain to get a $1 million-$2 million raise next year. In the end, keeping Bozak and Gunnarson under contract next year will probably not affect the Leafs' cap situation much one way or the other, but Schenn is definitely going to be taking up a larger chunk.