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Nylander loaned to Grand Rapids

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So my flight back to BWI from Toronto was delayed for a little more than two hours because once we got in the plane and started to taxi there was “a light bulb issue,” which I think means we had a tailight go out or something. I decided to take a nap, and woke up almost four hours later as we landed here (and I do mean here because I’m still here at the airport).

So did I miss anything during the four hours that my phone was off? Yeah, maybe something of a little importance. The Michael Nylander Saga (for this year, anyway) could finally be over. He has agreed to be loaned to the Grand Rapids Griffins of the American Hockey League.

The Caps will continue to pay his $5.5 million salary, but Nylander won’t count against the salary cap and it opens a spot on the 23-man roster.

This offer has been an option for Nylander for weeks, ever since he agreed to play for the Griffins in late October on a conditioning stint. There were also reported offers for the 37-year-old Swedish center to play in the Kontinental Hockey League, and Caps general manager George McPhee said on multiple occasions he thought something was close to being completed.

Nylander’s cap figure this season is $4.875 million, or the average of the four-year, $19.5 million contract he signed in July 2007. By shedding themselves of Nylander’s cap hit, the Caps are no longer up against the $56.8 million ceiling, so call-ups from the minors won’t be hindered by financial concerns.

This means top prospect Karl Alzner, who could make up to $1.675 million this year with incentives, could join the team. The extra cap room also greatly increases the team’s flexibility to make a trade.

That’s a pretty big deal, because the Caps are pretty scary already and could easily add a $6 million or $7 million player with a roster player or two as part of the deal (and I don’t mean someone expensive).

A good question to ask at this point is why would the Red Wings allow another Stanley Cup contender a “get out of salary cap jail free” card like this? The Caps did the deal with Grand Rapids, but Detroit GM Ken Holland almost certainly had to sign off on it.

Having Nylander occupying a spot on the roster was also a problem earlier this season when the Caps had a rash of injuries.

Nylander re-joined the organization for the 2007-08 season after a career-best 83 points the year before for the New York Rangers. Seen as a potential No. 1 center and mentor for then-rookie Nicklas Backstrom, Nylander had 37 points in 40 games that season but a torn rotator cuff ended his year prematurely.

He played 72 games last season, but was a healthy scratch for all but three of the team’s 14 playoffs games. His east-west, patient style didn’t mesh with coach Bruce Boudreau’s aggressive philosophy. After last season Nylander told a Swedish media outlet that Boudreau had told him he wasn’t good enough to play for the Caps, which the coach denied during training camp.

Nylander has one more season left on his contract. His cap hit for next is still $4.875 million, but his salary drops to $3 million. If the Caps were to buy out the final year of his deal this summer (between June 15 and June 30) Nylander’s contract will still count $2.875 million against the cap in 2010-11 and $1 million in 2011-12.

That last paragraph is key, because it means the Nylander Saga could start up again next season. That $2,875 million cap hit would be tough to swallow for the Caps, especially with Nicklas Backstrom and Alexander Semin owed new contracts. Here is why it is $2.875 million, via the CBA:

“For a League Year during the term of the original SPC that was bought out, the included amount is the original Averaged Amount of the SPC for that League Year, reduced by the amount of the buyout “savings” for that League Year (with “buyout savings” defined as the actual amount of Player Salary and Bonuses that was to be paid under the SPC for such League Year minus the amount of Player Salary that is to be paid under the buyout agreement).”

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