The demand was too deafening to ignore.
When General Fanager ceased operations on Oct. 17 because its creator, Tom Poraszka, got hired by the Vegas Golden Knights, competing NHL salary information hub CapFriendly wasted no time filling a void.
Urged by emails and tweets from hockey fans hungry for a sneak peek at the Golden Knights’ potential roster, CapFriendly’s lead developer, Jamie Davis, and its five other members set to work creating an expansion draft tool of their own. Within two days, a beta version was up and running; within a week after General Fanager disappeared, CapFriendly’s Matt Murray machine was entertaining thousands of armchair GMs.
“We weren’t planning to develop it because [Poraszka’s] was well-developed, but when he shut down… we received a lot of emails from people asking it we could make a similar tool,” Davis told Sportsnet.
“It required a bunch of thinking to make it efficient and user-friendly. We developed it quickly because there was so much interest. We made it our main focus.”
The expansion draft simulator, which allows fans to fulfill their George McPhee role-playing fantasies, has been run well over 5,000 times since its launch four weeks ago.
“We’re definitely seeing some traffic brought to us because [Poraszka] shut down the site when he got hired by Vegas,” Davis says.
“We’re getting a lot of traffic to the tool now as the team name and logo have been announced and the players with no-move clauses was made public.”
5 Most Popular Expansion Draft Picks on CapFriendly.com
When Sportsnet’s Chris Johnston reported the full list of players who must be protected from this spring’s draft, CapFriendly was quick to update its information to reflect the no-movement clauses of two players: Rick Nash and Victor Hedman.
“When a player signs an extension, they can also have their no-move clause come into effect in the last year of their existing contract,” Davis explains of Hedman.
“Based on the rosters fans are drafting and fiddling with the tool myself, the [Golden Knights] will have trouble scoring goals, but they’ll be a strong defensive team and strong in net.”
The ability to mock your expansion draft is one of many handy tools provided by CapFriendly.
The reigning undisputed leader in NHL salary cap information is run as a hobby by six diehard hockey fans, based in Montreal, Toronto, Ottawa and Kingston, Ont. All of them have day jobs, and the site is completely free of advertising.
“It would be nice eventually to cover the server expenses, but right now it’s mainly a passion project,” says Davis, a mechanical engineer.
“We started creating the site because of the loss of CapGeek. It wasn’t to get hired by an NHL team.”
When CapGeek’s Matthew Wuest — the godfather of NHL salary compilation — died of cancer in March 2015, Davis and his two brothers created Hockey’s Cap, one of a handful of startups trying to take the baton.
Hockey’s Cap and CapFriendly merged last January to offer a more complete menu of tools and information, from buyout calculators to arbitration trackers and waiver eligibility to the popular Armchair GM feature.
CF’s six teammates make sure at least one guy is on call at all times to monitor Twitter, scan news releases and update according to news leaked via trusted and top-secret sources Davis doesn’t want to discuss.
“I’m always amazed how much traffic we’re getting and how much people reach out through email and Twitter to thank us for having the site and asking us questions,” he says.
Naturally, CapFriendly’s use spikes in the days leading up to February’s trade deadline and peaks during the frenzy surrounding June’s draft and free agency’s opening on July 1.
But due to General Fanager’s closing and Vegas intrigue, the site’s traffic has remained steady through the fall, when Davis would usually see a dip.
“We have two other tools that are almost ready. We’re hoping to have them released just before the new year or shortly after,” says Davis.
He laughs when pressed for specifics.
“Lots more in the pipeline that we’re excited to release. We’ll keep it secret for now.”