Teams want to add, but
who will help them out?
February 10, 2017 | 11:44am ET
In a salary cap world, some buyers needs other teams to take on some of their
TORONTO, ON -- The NHL trade deadline is fast approaching, and as we
sit 19 days away from the March 1, there has been plenty of talk, but
little action. Big surprise, right?
In the salary cap world that is the NHL, that's just the way it is.
Prior to February, there were 15 trades completed from the start of
the season, the same number of moves made last season in that same
span. Should we see more moves this month? Probably. The expansion
draft is a factor for some clubs, but it's not their biggest concern,
at the moment.
For contenders looking to make additions to their roster, they're
playing the waiting game. Teams have more cap space to play with on
March 1 than they do today. Sorry, itching, trade-wanting hockey fan,
that's just the way it is.
If buyers want to make moves now, and many of them do, some of them
have to convince their dance partner to take on some extra dollars,
and that usually leads to the buyer giving up a little extra on top of
their dead weight. But if you want to win now, you've got to pay the
The Pittsburgh Penguins have no cap space. The Anaheim Ducks and
Calgary Flames need to factor in LTIR in order to give them some
wiggle room. The Montreal Canadiens, San Jose Sharks, Washington
Capitals and Minnesota Wild have little space to add any impact
players. These teams, and a few others, have to get creative if they
want to add by the deadline.
Other clubs have positioned themselves fairly well -- some, like the
Los Angeles Kings, have had lady luck on their side thanks to LTIR and
still maintaining a solid performance -- and have the flexibility to
But for a team like the Canadiens, for example, with just over $2
million in cap space right now (and that'll climb about $1 million by
March 1), will need to move out a roster player in order to acquire a
The Habs are utilizing their younger talent to provide quality depth
to the lineup. Thursday night's game, a 5-4 overtime win over the
Arizona Coyotes, could have been really ugly had it not been for the
team's top offensive players (Carey Price is in a big slump, he'll
bust out of it, get off the bridge, Habs fans).
Canadiens GM Marc Bergevin and his staff have taken notice, as has
head coach Michel Therrien. If the Habs want to bring in a top-four
defenseman and a top-six forward, they have to ship out David
Desharnais and his $3.5 million cap hit.
Desharnais is a quality NHL player (again, relax Habs fans), but his
time in Montreal is coming to an end. He's no longer a fit in
Montreal, he's an unrestricted free agent July 1 and he won't be
brought back. But his salary is preventing the team from adding what
the club feels will improve its chances at competing for a Stanley Cup
The Canadiens have been linked to forwards Matt Duchene, Martin Hanzal,
Patrik Berglund and Alexandre Burrows, among others. All of their cap
hits are greater than that of Desharnais, and we haven't even factored
in defensemen yet. With $2 million in cap space, based on a player's
full cap hit on the season, the numbers don't add up, someone's got to
go, and teams like St. Louis aren't eating half of Berglund's
The Penguins want to add a defenseman, but they'll have to make a
roster move in order to do so.
Pittsburgh GM Jim Rutherford has to weigh out trading Marc-Andre
Fleury and his $5.75 million cap hit in order to create some room to
work with. But as much as the Dallas Stars, for example, are
interested -- I doubt Fleury waives his no-movement clause for
Winnipeg and there's no way he's going to Philadelphia -- the Penguins
would need to take back Antti Niemi and his $4.5 million cap hit (the
Stars would need to eat some of his salary as part of a trade).
Anyone have a headache yet? Imagine how some GMs feel.
Look, it's certainly not impossible to make moves with limited cap
space, teams eating part of a player's contract helps, but in some
cases, it's not enough. And if you want the Coyotes to take on one of
your players, then be prepared to give up a little extra, even if they
are going to be a UFA in the summer.
IS QUEBEC'S HOPE RELOCATION?
NHL Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly was in Philadelphia on Thursday as a
keynote speaker at a sports business conference put on by local law
firm Cozen O'Connor and Penn's Wharton business school. He had some
very interesting comments on a variety of subjects, ranging from the
state of the League, to the Winter Olympics, to escrow -- though, I
suspect some players will take offense to those particular remarks.
(You can read his comments, transcribed by Philly.com,
One item he touched on was expansion, and why Quebec City wasn't
granted an expansion team this time around.
"Geographic imbalance was certainly part of the issue," he said,
adding the Canadian dollar also played a factor. "I think all the
other aspects of their application were in line."
In reading his comments, it sounds pretty clear that as of now, the
NHL will return to Quebec City via relocation and relocation only --
at least over the next few years.
According to a number of league-wide sources, the NHL wants to bring a
team, via expansion, to the Pacific Northwest. While the latest
chatter over the Coyotes was, from what I'm told, used a leverage to
get the ball rolling a lot faster in Phoenix (it sounds like a new
downtown arena shared with the NBA's Phoenix Suns is the next option),
ownership is pretty damn serious about staying in the state. For now,
I'll give them the benefit of the doubt.
But Portland and Seattle, and I've brought this up a crapload of
times, want an NHL franchise and one of them will get it. The NHL
wants to be in Seattle, but they need a clear picture on a long-term
arena. Once that's settled, the NHL will expand there.
So for now, Nordiques fans, all eyes on the Carolina Hurricanes.
The Coyotes saga isn't over, and won't be until they find a new home,
which they need to do pretty quickly, or they eventually move. But
again, moving is not an option for current ownership. Whether you want
to believe that or not, I frankly don't care, that's just the way it
is, right now. In 10 months? Who knows. But right now, that's the
That doesn't mean the NHL is overly thrilled with how things are being
Between this little ordeal and the Barclays Center kicking out the
Islanders in three years, there are a few new grey hairs popping up at
NHL HQ. Add to that the Hurricanes looking for new ownership (which
sounds like that search has picked up quite a bit lately), and all is
not fully rosy.
A quick note, the Islanders aren't leaving the Metropolitan New York
area. So let that sink in and move on.
The Hurricanes are a focal point for the NHL. The priority, as is
always the case, is finding local ownership, or an owner/ownership
group that will keep the team in Raleigh. The NHL knows it has Quebec
City as a last resort backup plan, just like they knew when they had
to move the Atlanta Thrashers to Winnipeg. But the objective is to
keep the team in North Carolina, and until they've exercise every
option, only they will relocation become a real, but quick, solution.
There is chatter over at least one other NHL franchise dealing with
some financial dismay. It won't lead to relocation, not in this
particular case, I can guarantee you that, but if things don't improve
in the coming months, expect to hear some noise.
David Pagnotta is the Editor-in-Chief of
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