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What Will NHL Trade Deadline Look Like Under New CBA?

The passing of the final NHL trade deadline under the current collective bargaining agreement raises questions about the potential impact the next CBA could have upon future trade deadlines.

Currently no one knows what the next collective bargaining agreement could contain. What follows is speculation as to potential issues which could affect the trade deadline under a new agreement.

Date for the trade deadline. Under the current CBA, the trade deadline was moved from the 26th day to the 40th day immediately preceding the final day of the regular season.

It’s been suggested the current date falls too early in the season, resulting in too many “buyers” and not enough “sellers’, compared to mid-or-late-March, when most of the playoff contenders have been determined, thus putting more “sellers” into the trade market.

This is unlikely to be a significant issue in the next CBA, and it wouldn’t be surprising if the date remains unchanged.

“Eating salary”. Under the previous CBA, teams were allowed to absorb a portion of the salary of a player they wanted to move as an enticement to teams interested in said player.

That was eliminated under the current agreement, and has been considered a contributing factor to the reduction of trade activity in recent years, not just at the deadline, but throughout the regular season.

Toronto Maple Leafs general manager Brian Burke has, in the recent past, suggested the league reconsider this policy, but that request has fallen on deaf ears at league headquarters.

Allowing teams to “eat” a portion of a player’s salary or contract in a trade would not only allow more movement in the trade market, but make it easier for teams carrying expensive players who no longer fit into their plans -hello there, NY Rangers and Wade Redden - to ship them out to interested teams, rather than burying them in the minors.

It would take a significant number of influential team owners and general managers putting pressure upon Commissioner Gary Bettman and his labor negotiators to bring about a change to this current policy.

Given the coolness the league has exhibited toward the suggestion in the past, however, it remains to be seen if this is implemented in the next CBA.

Movement clauses. It’s assumed the league could seek to either abolish “no-trade” and “no-movement” clauses outright, or impose limitations upon which players qualify to receive such clauses (restricting them, say, to those eligible for UFA status), as well as their duration, whether they would be full or partial movement clauses, and so on.

Abolishing the clauses outright could have a noticeable impact upon the trade market, but the NHLPA will fight tooth and nail to retain those clauses, even in a watered-down form.

Even limiting the number of teams a player would accept, or reject, being dealt to could open up the market come deadline day.

Lowered cap ceiling and floor. The league could push hard for this, and will likely get it, though best guess is it could come at the expense of the hated escrow clause to win that concession from the players.

Regardless, a lowering of the cap floor and ceiling is bound to have an effect upon the trade deadlines over the course of the next CBA.

The reduced cap ceiling (which could drop from an estimated $69 million to around $60 million to start next season), could force teams currently with high payrolls to shed salary in the early years of a new agreement, just as several did under the previous deal, provided they haven’t already done so before the start of next season.

A lowered cap floor – the result of a widening of the spread between the cap minimum and maximum, which is currently $16 million - could make it possible for low-spending teams to add more salary nearer the deadline on a short-term basis than they could under the present spread.

The effects of this, however, could be short-term, especially if the salary cap floor and ceiling remain tied to revenue fluctuations. 

Eligibility for UFA status. Lowering the eligibility for UFA status from 31 to 27 (or following seven consecutive seasons) has been both a blessing and a curse for NHL general managers.

On the one hand, it has put younger players into the free agent market, giving teams with the cap space and the willingness to spend an opportunity to acquire quality players in the prime of their careers.

On the other hand, it’s resulted in teams paying for potential by signing restricted free agents to longer, more lucrative deals, with the result some teams end up overpaying for players who fail to pan out as hoped.

If the eligibility age is lowered, its impact could be felt by the trade deadline.

Lowering the age will make players more attractive in the UFA market, but could also result in more talented younger players becoming available on deadline day by teams unwilling or unable to re-sign them, possibly resulting in more trade activity.

It could also result in fewer pending UFA players being available, as teams could be more inclined to lock up more of their young talent to longer contracts.

Increasing the age by one to four years probably won’t have much of an impact upon the deadline.  As we saw under the previous CBA when the eligibility age was 31, teams were willing to pursue those players - even though they may be at the tail end of their playing prime - as short-term playoff rentals, to be jettisoned once the playoffs are over, or re-signed if they prove invaluable additions.


If the next CBA results in few changes, except for the anticipated lowering of the cap ceiling and floor, and widening the gap between the two, then we can likely expect little change from what we’ve currently seen in recent years at the trade deadline.

While a lower cap could force some teams in the first couple of years to dump salary near the trade deadline, over time as teams become more used to the new rules, there would be fewer instances of higher-payroll teams trying to dump salaries.

Even a restriction or elimination of movement clauses might not have much impact, since more often than not, it’s long term contracts with high salaries which tend to be the main deal breakers.  The majority of players with movement clauses are those teams have no desire to trade.

The salary cap itself is the biggest impediment for trades, as teams must ensure they remain within the upper and lower cap limits in the short-term, whilst ensuring they don’t take on so much salary that it hamstrings them in the long term from either re-signing key players or having sufficient space to become competitive bidders in the free agent market.

Perhaps the best option would be allowing teams to absorb a portion of a salary or contract of a player they wish to move, but as long as the league considers that a form of cap circumvention, it’s unlikely to be implemented.

Ultimately barring some unforeseen clause in the new CBA allowing clubs more freedom to move contracts, expect more trade deadlines with fewer activity, rarely involving star players, and no blockbuster deals.

Filed in: | Puckin' Around With Spector | Permalink
  Tags: cba, nhl, nhlpa, salary+cap, trade+deadline

Comments

Avatar

During the All-Star break, Bettman was quoted saying both
“Revenues and Attendences were at record highs….” 

So now he’s going to ask for a pay cut from the players ? 

Guess he needs that money to help support Phoenix and New Jersey and whomever else he’s floating money towards….

Posted by Jim P from Nashville on 02/29/12 at 01:24 PM ET

Avatar

If you want the trade deadline to return to its former glory, the solution is simple; increase the four on four overtime to ten minutes and GET RID OF THE SHOOTOUT. Not only is the shootout a ridiculous talent show, it creates artificial parity with the three point game. The reason no one trades anymore at the deadline is because you have six to eight teams every year that delude themselves into thinking they will win the Cup by eeking into the playoffs as the eight seed. Remind me again how many eight seeds have won the Cup?

During the All-Star break, Bettman was quoted saying both
“Revenues and Attendences were at record highs….”

So now he’s going to ask for a pay cut from the players ?

Guess he needs that money to help support Phoenix and New Jersey and whomever else he’s floating money towards….

Posted by Jim P from Nashville on 02/29/12 at 11:24 AM ET

I’ve been saying this on this site for a while now Jim. If Fehr lets them do this then his reputation is unearned. At most some kind of “freeze” of the upper cap limit might make sense for a year or two.

Posted by From The Hockey Wastelands from Cleveland on 02/29/12 at 01:45 PM ET

Chris in Hockey Hell's avatar

I think that lowering the cap is a bunch of bullshit. Now, if you want to widen the gap between the floor and ceiling from $16 million to, say, $25 million or more, that would be better. I get tired of the teams that make money and have money having to get punished for it. I know the cap will never go away, but the Detroits, New Yorks and Torontos in the League should be able to spend the money they have.

Posted by Chris in Hockey Hell from Ann Arbor, MI but LIVING in Columbia, TN on 02/29/12 at 02:05 PM ET

Chris in Hockey Hell's avatar

Oh, and I agree with Wastelands, the three point games need to go. This “parity” bullshit is just an illusion. Unfortunately, I don’t think the shootout is going anywhere (God, do I hate the shootout), but I absolutely detest teams getting a point for losing. This is the thing I hate THE MOST about the NHL.

Posted by Chris in Hockey Hell from Ann Arbor, MI but LIVING in Columbia, TN on 02/29/12 at 02:07 PM ET

Moq's avatar

During the All-Star break, Bettman was quoted saying both
“Revenues and Attendences were at record highs….”

So now he’s going to ask for a pay cut from the players ?

It isn’t difficult to understand. Higher revenues means a higher percentage of player share as stipulated in the CBA. A higher player share means a higher salary cap midpoint, which results in higher salary cap ceiling and floor. A higher salary cap floor is detrimental to several teams, not just those poorly managed or geographically challenged. Last season 18 out of 30 teams lost money (according to Forbes) despite a general increase in team value.

The fast revenue increase after the lockout broke the current CBA structure of revenue allocation and resulting salary cap system. Both needs a revision in the next CBA. Fehr should participate constructively, because it is in the best interest of the players longterm.

Posted by Moq from Denmark on 02/29/12 at 02:21 PM ET

NHLJeff's avatar

The cap should be based on the median team revenue as opposed to league revenue or mean team revenue and the differece between the ceiling and floor should be a percentage, not a set number.

Posted by NHLJeff from Pens fan in Chicago, IL on 02/29/12 at 02:42 PM ET

Chris in Hockey Hell's avatar

“The cap should be based on the median team revenue as opposed to league revenue or mean team revenue and the differece between the ceiling and floor should be a percentage, not a set number.”

I like this idea. Or maybe come up with some sort of formula that will adjust the gap by a certain percentage everytime the cap goes up. If the cap goes up, the gap can be widen by a predetermined percentage.

“Last season 18 out of 30 teams lost money (according to Forbes) despite a general increase in team value.”

That’s why I think you make the gap wider, not drop the cap. The 12 teams that made money should have been able to spend it if they wanted to.

Posted by Chris in Hockey Hell from Ann Arbor, MI but LIVING in Columbia, TN on 02/29/12 at 02:57 PM ET

Avatar

Revenue sharing would solve some of the problems of teams who can’t meet salary floor.

Posted by Davor on 02/29/12 at 04:22 PM ET

mrfluffy's avatar

Posted by Davor on 02/29/12 at 02:22 PM ET

The NHL doesn’t have the money coming in like the MLB does.

Posted by mrfluffy from A wide spot on I-90 in Montana on 02/29/12 at 04:38 PM ET

Nate A's avatar

Would it be possible to set up a system where all teams have pooled cash to spend on players allocated from the league? If each team has a budget of, for example, $60M in actual dollars to spend on player salaries (and only player salaries),  then the individual team revenues and and internal budget are no longer relevant in terms of the competitive argument.

There are obviously several worries with this. Do the players then work for the league rather than teams? Does this risk collusion between owners in negotiations? Does it risk the league scripting seasons, playoff series, or games? How much does each team pay into the pool, and should it be different for different market sizes?

I dunno, just floating an idea. It would need a lot of work and oversight, but I feel like it could work.  The league does need to function more as a cooperative investment rather than a bunch of individual competing businesses, but still needs to ensure it maintains real competition and not predetermined..

Posted by Nate A from Detroit-ish on 02/29/12 at 04:54 PM ET

Moq's avatar

That’s why I think you make the gap wider, not drop the cap. The 12 teams that made money should have been able to spend it if they wanted to.

The cap will remain in place in some shape or form, because it offers some cost certainty. Widening the gap will probably be a likely scenario as well. But it’s important to maintain the competitive level as mentioned by Nate. Otherwise less affluent teams can choose between overspending to compete, or losing attendance because they have no chance of winning. Both leading to deficits.

There are probably no universal solution that solves all financial problems for every team. But it would be nice if most teams can break even financially with decent attendance without having to go far in the playoffs. To achieve that you cannot pay the players 57% of the revenues, even though reducing players share isn’t sufficient to solve all problems.

Posted by Moq from Denmark on 02/29/12 at 08:55 PM ET

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About Puckin' Around With Spector

I’m Lyle Richardson. You might know me from my website, Spector’s Hockey, my thrice-weekly rumor column at THN.com, my weekly column at Eishockey News (if you read German), and my former gig as a contributing writer to Foxsports.com.

I’ll be writing a once-weekly blog here with my take on all things NHL. Who knows, I might actually find time to debunk a trade rumor or two.