Pens' Cap Expert Botterill Has Challenging Job

Article excerpt

Jason Botterill smiles too much for a guy charged with one of hockey's most arduous post-lockout tasks.

"People talk about it being tough to develop a legacy and tradition in the salary-cap world," said Botterill, hired this summer by Penguins general manager Ray Shero as director of hockey administration. "And it is tough, but that does not mean you do not try."

Botterill said the reason he wanted to join the Penguins was the challenge of helping Shero figure out a financial way to keep intact the club's enviable core of talented stars -- starting with Sidney Crosby and Ryan Whitney, each of whom were signed to long-term extensions at agreeable cap costs during the offseason.

A former University of Michigan standout on the ice and a veteran of eight professional seasons, Botterill will wear many hats with the Penguins, including that of scout. His main objective, however, is to understand every possible aspect of the salary cap.

Just do not call Botterill a "cap-ologist."

"That might not be the proper term," Shero said. "Jason was a captain in the minors. He worked with NHL central registry. He scouted with Dallas (last season). He is a well-rounded asset."

With a Masters in business administration, Botterill is as comfortable with numbers as he was the penalty box at Michigan, where he ranks second all-time in penalty minutes.

Botterill's playing days ended after the 2004-05 season. He quickly found work with central registry, where he worked under current vice president and managing director Sean MacLeod, who helped tutor Botterill in the ways of salary arbitration.

"He basically quarterbacked the arbitration process by providing clubs with information," MacLeod said. "I found him to be a quick study. And in dealing with him since he joined (the Penguins) he seems to have grasped the explanations and how the concepts apply.

"Jason is a smart guy and he studies. He really knows what he is doing, especially when it comes to salary arbitration."

Botterill's assessment that salary arbitration "sets the market for restricted free agents" was proven this summer when many clubs, including the Penguins with Crosby and Whitney, chose to lock up younger players with guaranteed contracts in favor of allowing them to become restricted free agents with salary arbitration rights.

Upon interviewing with Shero and assistant general manager Chuck Fletcher at the 2007 NHL entry draft in Columbus, Botterill impressed his would-be bosses with a presentation that included a likely salary arbitration case for Whitney, who was set to become a restricted free agent.

When the free-agent season opened July 1, the Penguins announced a six-year extension for Whitney that would guarantee him $24 million and them an offensive weapon on the blueline at a cap hit of only $4 million annually.

"Look, if a player has the opportunity to go to (salary arbitration), you have to take it seriously and abide by it," Botterill said. "You have to project. It is just like anything on Wall Street. You have to project for a good, bad or neutral year.

"Every contract we do right now has an impact down the road."

The Penguins believe they secured Whitney's services at a bargain. Botterill said the same of Crosby's deal -- a five-year extension that kicks in after this season and will pay him $43.5 million.

Crosby's contract will count $8.7 million against a cap that does not figure to rise substantially from its current projection, $48. …