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E.L.M.M.: Would Sign & Trade Deals Work In The NHL?

With a full week to digest all the moves (or lack thereof depending how you feel) made on Trade Deadline day, there is a clear new wave of thinking. The NHL has a projected flat cap for the next few years (the new ESPN TV Contract may help a bit), but despite that, some GMs made the most of what little cap space they had. Tampa, Toronto, Colorado seem to be separating themselves from the pack, but not necessarily due to their on ice play.

Not to say that other teams did not try, but the introduction of third party teams into their trade negotiations for Cap Retention purposes could ultimately be the reason that these teams win the Stanley Cup. It did cost them a pretty penny though as both Tampa and Toronto had to additional assets in order to get another team to take on salary for them.

Teams like the Red Wings and Sharks made themselves open for business during the trade deadline to help facilitate trades. Detroit acquired a 4th and San Jose picked up a 4th in 2021 and a 5th in 2022 in two separate deals where they took on cap for other teams. Yzerman is starting to look like Bergevin given Detroit’s draft stock for not only this upcoming draft, but for next season as well. They have the most picks in this year’s draft now (12 to Montreal’s 11) and they’ve already picked up an additional three picks for next year (1 x 2nd & 2 x 4th). (Source – Capfriendly.com)

Which begs the question could we see this type of trade expand in the summer?

The NHL and really all sports leagues in the world are copy cat leagues. If another team finds a new creative way to improve their team, a GM better follow suit or get left behind and lose your job. GMs also hold their cards close to their chest, so despite the fact that the rumours of trading for cap space were well known prior to the Trade Deadline, actually seeing these deals materialize has to be a wake up call for some. Now add on the fact that these teams and their front offices will have a couple of months to dissect and analyze these moves, as well as the upcoming market, would it be crazy to think that more trickery could be on the way?

In any competition, I am of the opinion that if you aren’t cheating, you aren’t trying hard enough. Now I am not saying that NHL teams should literally try to cheat the system, it wouldn’t work. However, this is meant more in the sense that as a GM, if you are not trying to stretch the outer limits of fair vs foul play to see what is acceptable under the rules, then are you really exploring every option to make your team better? Can you really tell your fanbase that you are doing everything in your power?

With that being said, why couldn’t a sign and trade work in the NHL? We’ve seen it used in different circumstances in other leagues before and they were not dealing with an internal financial crisis due to a pandemic. Before we take a look at a couple hypotheticals, let’s first clear the air on a few things. This sort of trade is probably only feasible for smaller contracts. It would be naive to think that Detroit would sing Taylor Hall to a 4 year/$32M contract, and retain half. Unless they got multiple first round picks, but what team is going to pull an Arizona Coyotes?

This sort of move probably makes more sense for aging vets like Ryan Getzlaf, David Krejci, Alex Edler or in the Canadiens’ case, Corey Perry. In case you have not noticed, all these players are over the age of 35 which is key. The Memo Of Understanding (MOU) signed prior to last season’s Return To Play states that any 35+ contract that either remains the same or increases in value year after year and has a signing bonus payable no later than the first year of the contract, no longer carry a cap penalty if the player retires early. We saw this earlier this year with Corey Crawford.

Getting back to the topic at hand, as an example let’s use Corey Perry. While Habs fans are less than thrilled with the influx or older stars in the bottom six of the roster, no one can say anything bad about Perry. Personally I would extend Perry for two or three years and let him run out his career in Montreal. Mainly because there is no downside to this as he carries no cap penalty if he retires and he can easily be traded if the Habs retain salary.

For these reasons let’s say Bergevin wants to save a little cap space and he knows that he has a plethora of picks at his disposal to get this done. Bergevin calls up Steve Yzerman and asks him to sign Perry to a 3-year/$2.25M and in turn trade Perry back to the Habs, retaining 50% salary in exchange for a draft pick(s). The Red Wings would end up retaining $1.125M (over three years) which in theory has been priced at a 5th Round pick based on what the Sharks trade with Vegas for Mattias Janmark.

Of course this is just hypothetical and my opinion, however I am not the only one to come up with something of this nature.

Having run this idea passed a couple hockey minds, there is the reservation of the ‘old boys club’ and the leagues tendency to stay in their ways. We’ve seen it with things like Offer Sheets, where someone tried and the rest of the league frowned at it and now they cease to exist. However, as it has been made abundantly clear last Monday, adapt and keep up or enjoy second place. And as Ricky Bobby says:

As always don’t forget to check out the rest of the Hot Sauce Family as well as our Youtube Channel! In this week’s episode Peeze, Terry and Eagle recap Hideki Matsuyama’s historic win at the Masters, some controversies in the NFL and the NBA!

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