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LTIR Frauds

Every season there is a push for teams to get below the salary cap. Some do so by placing players who remain on their rosters despite having not played an NHL game in years onto the long term injured reserve.  These are players who are no longer even trying to come back to play in the NHL but on paper they remain "active" players because it is better for their team's salary cap situation to continue paying him and claiming he is injured than to let him retire.

Players in this situation are Chris Pronger of the Philadelphia Flyers, Marc Savard of the Boston Bruins and Mattias Ohlund of the Tampa Bay Lightning.  Pronger has not played an NHL game since 2011.  He is a candidate for the job working in the NHL's department of player safety.  Clearly this is an admission that he isn't an active player despite his being characterized as such.  Savard has not played since 2011 either.  He scouts for the Ottawa 67s of the OHL.  That clearly isn't an activity consistent with being an active player.  Ohlund hasn't played a game since 2011 either.  None of them should count as active players but they do.  They only count as active players to skirt salary cap rules.

All three of these players signed longterm contracts that were front loaded.  If they are on the long-term injured reserve, their team can exceed the salary cap by the amount of their contract.  For salary cap purposes it is as though they do not exist.  They have to be paid, but it doesn't affect the salary cap.  If they retire, they will have a salary cap hit.  Their team will be billed for the difference between the average salary they were paid over the years of their contract that they were paid and the average salary over the entire length of the contract - which has been billed to the team so far.  This salary recapture has been in the CBA since the last lockout.  It would cost their respective teams millions of dollars of salary cap space if these players retired on paper.  They have retired in reality, just not on paper.  As a result, their teams go through the fraud of calling these effectively retired players active in order to preserve salary cap space.  If the NHL really wants to have a salary capped system, they should not allow this.

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Comments

Ass Moses's avatar

I do not buy this argument.

Are they not all injured? Were their injuries not all sustained while playing for their team? Are all the injuries not long-term? Are their injuries the only thing preventing them from being active players? Are they not still under contract?

Long
Term
Injured
Reserve

These are three examples of these players who were injured while working for their employer while under contract.

You want to call these players “retired”. Why?

Posted by Ass Moses on 10/09/14 at 03:53 PM ET

J.J. from Kansas's avatar

What do you propose be done?

How do you word the CBA in such a way that it forces a player to retire after he was injured playing the game? Especially when the thing which is literally preventing him from carrying out his contract in good faith was an injury sustained while doing exactly that?

How do you prevent such a rule from negatively affecting players who signed their contracts honestly and who honestly would like to get back to playing the game?

How do get the NHLPA to sign off on a mechanism by which guaranteed contracts can be forcibly voided?

How do you prevent this issue from turning into later lawsuits between the players who were forced out of their good-faith contracts and the NHL/NHLPA who wrote such wording into a CBA (since there’s an argument that creating such a rule is asking players to endanger themselves in the pursuit of doing what it takes to not lose such a good-faith contract in the first place).

These are honest questions.  I absolutely hate that there’s even talk about Pronger joining the DoPS while still being considered an active player; I just don’t have any idea how to effectively solve that problem legally in a way that doesn’t create other, worse problems.

Posted by J.J. from Kansas on 10/09/14 at 03:58 PM ET

PuckStopsHere's avatar

You want to call these players “retired”. Why?

Because they no longer play hockey.  They no longer are attempting to play hockey.  They would be officially retired were it not for their salary cap situation.

It isn’t uncommon historically for a player to retire because of injury.  What is uncommon and unethical is for a player to effectively retire and be called “active” when he is making no further attempts to ever play an NHL game.  It is unethical because this gives a team a benefit that retirement wouldn’t.

Posted by PuckStopsHere on 10/09/14 at 04:00 PM ET

PuckStopsHere's avatar

JJ

I do not have a full legalese answer, but if the player is not undergoing the training or rehab that would be required to continue his career and there is no evidence that will change in the future then a player is retired.

Posted by PuckStopsHere on 10/09/14 at 04:03 PM ET

Ass Moses's avatar

WTF man?!?! 

“Unethical”? 
“Effectively retire”?

Are you serious?

Savard suffered major trauma and serious injury (to his brain of all things) while working under contract for his employer. He is not retired.

If you want to get wordy, Savard is activley recovering from injury.

Actively injured.

Posted by Ass Moses on 10/09/14 at 04:09 PM ET

J.J. from Kansas's avatar

The problem with head injuries is that really the only training or rehab they have right now is to do nothing until your head gets better.

Posted by J.J. from Kansas on 10/09/14 at 04:13 PM ET

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Because they no longer play hockey.

They no longer play hockey because of the injury sustained playing hockey.

These injuries were suffered while the players were acting in good faith under the terms of their contracts.

if the player is not undergoing the training or rehab that would be required to continue his career and there is no evidence that will change in the future then a player is retired.

A player can’t train OR rehab if he has a concussion.  Training hard could actually make it worse.

And there are players who have sat out long periods, to the point that people questioned they would ever get better, and they got better.

What is uncommon and unethical is for a player to effectively retire and be called “active” when he is making no further attempts to ever play an NHL game.

None of these players are active.  They are on injured reserve.  For a player to be active, he must be activated from injured reserve.

It is unethical because this gives a team a benefit that retirement wouldn’t.

What is the benefit that Boston gets?

Sure, they don’t have his cap hit, but they’re still paying his salary.  If he retired they would neither have his cap hit nor have to pay his salary.  Seems like it would benefit Boston more to have Savard retire, but maybe they just think it’s a good idea to keep paying the guy who gave up his body and his mental health while playing for them.

Posted by Garth on 10/09/14 at 04:30 PM ET

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I don’t think it’s unethical for the players to be on LTIR or for the teams to use the additional cap space that grants them.

I do think it’s unethical for the players to then take other employment that creates a conflict of interest or the appearance thereof.  I didn’t mind Pronger unofficially scouting for the Flyers but he shouldn’t go to the league offices while a Flyers employee.  He can retire—sticking the Flyers with the bill—or he can be treated like an employee.  He shouldn’t get to have it both ways.

Posted by captaineclectic on 10/09/14 at 04:35 PM ET

PuckStopsHere's avatar

Let’s say a player suffers an injury where it is clear that he will never come back to the NHL - Vladimir Konstantinov or Jiri Fischer are the closest examples we get from the Red Wings.  Would it be right for them to both be listed as active players and put on LTIR annually if it saved cap space - meaning they had longterm contracts that were yet to have expired.

How different are their situations from Savard, Pronger and Ohlund?

Garth

You are wrong.  If Savard retired, the Bruins would have a large salary cap hit because his contract was frontloaded.  it benefits them to keep him “active”.

Posted by PuckStopsHere on 10/09/14 at 04:44 PM ET

J.J. from Kansas's avatar

How different are their situations from Savard, Pronger and Ohlund?

Konstantinov’s injury and Fischer’s injury nowadays would both fall under the part of the CBA which covers career-ending injuries. The player would be paid an amount dictated by the CBA and their contracts would be terminated.

Paralysis and heart defects are not the same as concussions.

Posted by J.J. from Kansas on 10/09/14 at 05:02 PM ET

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Wow, just wow.  Can’t believe anyone would write that, let alone think it.  Absolutely atrocious commentary.

Posted by jkm2011 on 10/09/14 at 05:25 PM ET

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so,

- team signs player to 10 year $100 million contract
- player is paralyzed from the neck down in his first regular season game of that contract
-...team is hit with a 10mil cap hit for the next 10 years?

that’s idiocy.  that’s exactly what the LTIR is supposed to prevent.

you could argue that Pronger shouldn’t take another job, sure.  but to argue that these should still count against the cap, when they were legitimate NHL career-ending injuries?

get real.

Posted by incompetent GM on 10/09/14 at 05:37 PM ET

PuckStopsHere's avatar

Incompetent GM

Absolutely nobody is arguing your point.  Please try again.

Posted by PuckStopsHere on 10/09/14 at 06:01 PM ET

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your own words:

None of them should count as active players but they do.  They only count as active players to skirt salary cap rules….They have retired in reality, just not on paper.  As a result, their teams go through the fraud of calling these effectively retired players active in order to preserve salary cap space.  If the NHL really wants to have a salary capped system, they should not allow this.

so you think it’s “skirting cap rules”, and the NHL “should not allow it”...so what do you propose?

Posted by incompetent GM on 10/09/14 at 06:08 PM ET

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It is simply not fair to the teams to have the cap count against them for something that is not their fault.

Posted by redwingshomersLOL on 10/09/14 at 06:11 PM ET

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You are wrong.  If Savard retired, the Bruins would have a large salary cap hit because his contract was frontloaded.  it benefits them to keep him “active”.

That’s right.  I was mistaken.

Vladimir Konstantinov or Jiri Fischer are the closest examples we get from the Red Wings.

It was good of you to bring these up.

1) Konstantinov’s injury is completely different from Savard’s, Prongers’s and Ohlund’s because it happen in the off-season and was not hockey related.  I don’t know what would have happened because there is no comparable.
2) Fischer is a very interesting case because his is exactly the same as the three you mentioned.  He was under contract when he collapsed on Nov 21, 2005 and stayed on IR until the end of the 2006-7 season, when he retired after his contract expired.

It is simply not fair to the teams to have the cap count against them for something that is not their fault.

I’m not sure where fault has anything to do with it.

The fact is, the CBA allows players who are under contract but injured to be placed on long term injured reserve.  Until such time as Marc Savard or Mattias Ohlund are medically cleared to play hockey, they are on the injured reserve.

Period.

I feel the same way as Pronger, except to say that if he considers taking a job in an executive capacity with the league, he should have to retire before he can accept it.

It is a conflict of interest to have a player who is employed by one team while also employed by the league.

Posted by Garth on 10/09/14 at 06:21 PM ET

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Fault has to do with it when you sign a player with a front loaded contract to bring down the AAV, and then they retire before they play those final years,both the player and team knowing that.

When a player and a team actually intend for that contract to be fulfilled fully and that player simply can’t due to medical reasons, then why penalize the team for unforseen circumstances?

Posted by redwingshomersLOL on 10/09/14 at 06:27 PM ET

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Firstly - If a player retired, the team would only carry the cap-hit if the contract were signed at age 35 and beyond. (All three signed under the old pre-Kovalchuk contract, prelockout CBA - Can’t apply new rules to grandfathered-in contracts.)

Secondly - as having been mentioned by other posters - if a team is faced by (let’s say) a “Len Bias” situation, wherein the player dies, or is never able to skate again, or (obviously) play Hockey, why should the team that signed the contract (in good faith) or the player (who suffered a career-ending injury while playing for the team) be penalized?

It’s not like Pronger or Savard or Ohlund want to sit on the sidelines, when all they’ve ever worked for in their lives has engendered playing Hockey, at an NHL level…

Though Pronger’s and Savard’s contracts were in fact front-loaded, Ohlund’s was not - His peak salary came in the middle years of the contract (during which he had already been placed on IR) - Pronger and Savard were placed on IR long before they came close to hitting their “disposable” (ie. Miikka Kiprusoff, get-out-of-Dodge) shelf-date….So?

To be fair - “No”, Pronger either works for the Flyers, or he works for the NHL; can’t have it both ways - Pronger should officially retire (even though he would never see a penny of what’s left on his contract) if he chooses to work for the league. No argument there.

Otherwise, all three (above-mentioned) are the walking wounded - They should continue to get paid, and the teams they are under contract to should receive relief for the fact that these guys are not on the ice or part of the active roster, and (therefore) shouldn’t constitute a cap-hit under today’s CBA.

Posted by icehound on 10/09/14 at 06:39 PM ET

PuckStopsHere's avatar

Let’s address the incorrect statement that icehound calls a “Len Bias” situation where a player signs a contract and before it starts something happens that prevents them from ever playing.  There would be no salary cap implications at all in that case.  The contract is gone.

The problem in these cases is that the contracts were front-loaded and there is salary recapture now.  Pronger’s contract also falls into the 35 + case but that is irrelevant to the discussion.

The situation is similar to this.  A player signs a 10 year contract where they make $100 million.  $80 million is paid to them over the first 4 years.  Then they get hurt.  It is an injury that would require a long drawn out rehab to possibly come back.  They lack the desire to attempt it.  The team doesn’t really want them anyway as they regret signing the big contract.  If that is the case the player should have to retire if he isn’t seriously trying to come back.  With the salary recapture provisions in the CBA, his contact had been billed $40 million to the salary cap (at $10 mill a year) and the player actually made $80 mill.  Thus there are $40 mill paid out and unaccounted for.  This money would be counted after the fact against a team’s salary cap.  It would cost $40 mill in salary space for the player to retire.

Had he got hurt in his first game or something like that there is no such issue.  That is a red herring.

Posted by PuckStopsHere on 10/09/14 at 06:50 PM ET

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They lack the desire to attempt it.

Which is your assumption about the three players you note in your original post. And is more than likely incorrect.

Posted by redwingshomersLOL on 10/09/14 at 09:10 PM ET

PuckStopsHere's avatar

Whether that assumption is true or false is irrelevant to the discussion.

Posted by PuckStopsHere on 10/09/14 at 09:24 PM ET

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Whether that assumption is true or false is irrelevant to the discussion.

No it isn’t.  If Savard is trying to get back into jockey it makes your entire flimsy argument disappear.

Posted by Garth on 10/09/14 at 10:23 PM ET

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Seriously, autocorrect?  Jockey?

Posted by Garth on 10/09/14 at 10:23 PM ET

DocF's avatar

Guys, you cannot win an argument with this guy.  He is a legend in his own mind.  I suggest going back to the usual approach of ignoring his posts.

Posted by DocF from Now: Lynn Haven, FL; was Reidsville, NC on 10/09/14 at 10:25 PM ET

PuckStopsHere's avatar

Marc Savard is scouting for the Ottawa 67s.  That’s not something that a player trying to make an NHL comeback does.  He isn’t trying to make an NHL comeback at all.

Posted by PuckStopsHere on 10/09/14 at 10:53 PM ET

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Probably because he has a concussion that prevents him from doing so, otherwise risking serious brain damage. I suppose you’d like to see teams try to make him continue to work out so they can justify having his cap hit count against them?

Posted by redwingshomersLOL on 10/09/14 at 11:08 PM ET

PuckStopsHere's avatar

If Savard can never play again.  And when he is starting his 4th straight season on the LTIR, it is pretty obvious that is the case, then injuries have ended his career and he needs to retire. 

Throughout NHL history hundreds of players retired because injuries ended their careers.  This is a special case that recently developed.  Players are effectively retired but they are still active on paper in order to help out their team’s salary cap situation.  A case like Savard is the change on the long time standard situation.  Why is it better to keep him “active” now when everybody knows he is not ever playing another NHL game?

Posted by PuckStopsHere on 10/10/14 at 12:38 AM ET

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I get it now. You just lack empathy.

Posted by redwingshomersLOL on 10/10/14 at 07:50 AM ET

Tripwire32's avatar

Seems to me that the ideal solution to all this is to abolish the salary cap.

On the topic of whether there is a conflict of interest or not concerning Pronger working for both the Flyers and the League, it isn’t because the league owns the teams. So, it is all really just one big employer. He’s just moving up to corporate.

Posted by Tripwire32 from Kay He Mar Heart on 10/10/14 at 08:56 AM ET

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imageThe Puck Stops Here was founded during the 2004/05 lockout as a place to rant about hockey. The original site contains over 1000 posts, some of which were also published on FoxSports.com.

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