Last night on Hockey Night In Canada, Elliotte Friedman threw us all a curveball, reporting that the Boston Bruins might trade Marc Savard to another team, in an effort to get his contract off the books. The thing with Savard is that he doesn’t play hockey anymore; concussions suffered as a member of the Bruins have rendered him incapable of intense physical activity, ending his career ahead of schedule.
With that said, Savard hasn’t retired; the Bruins simply place him on Long Term Injured Reserve at the beginning of every season. As such, many people immediately pointed to the Toronto Maple Leafs, who were the first team to flirt with LTIR acquisition this winter when they traded David Clarkson to the Columbus Blue Jackets for Nathan Horton, who has degenerative back issues that will likely prevent him from playing again.
The question is as follows: Will the Leafs go for it? Will they try to gain some assets by picking up a player with two more years left on his deal, but no hockey left in him? Here’s the thing with this situation; it’s both technically possible and feasibly unrealistic.
There technically isn’t a limit to how many players you can have on Long Term Injured Reserve, as long as their reasons for placement are legitimate. If the Leafs wanted to, they definitely could take on Savard’s deal.
However, one has to understand how the LTIR cap savings work, exactly. Players don’t directly count as $0 to the salary cap. In fact, they still count entirely. That said, you’re given a buffer of whatever your overage is at the start of the season. Horton carries a cap hit of $5.3 million, but if the Leafs are $4.7 million over the cap on opening night, their cap ceiling is the cap + $4.7 million. Having Savard adds another $4.007 to that.
“No big deal”, you say. “You’re just going over by $9.3 million instead of $5.3, right?” But that provides another issue, in that you’re only allowed to go 10% above the cap during the offseason, and these LTIR players are no exception.
So, if the cap goes up to $73 million as expected, for the Leafs to get full savings, they’d have to carry a cap hit of $82.3 million, which is in violation of the collective bargaining agreement. In fact, it would take a $93.1 million salary cap for the Leafs to get the full savings; otherwise, the players will take up a chunk of dead space during the season itself.
This isn’t a big deal at the start of next season, as many expect the Leafs to bottom out again (McDavid lottery win aside, obviously). But it prevents them from making trades like the Eric Brewer move at the dead line, and if the Leafs are able to turn around into a somewhat successful team ahead of schedule, impedes their ability to make signings in 2016/17, the last year of Savard’s contract.
The Leafs would have to end up with a return that they believe to be more valuable than any deadline salary dumps they could do for two off seasons, and more valuable than having wiggle room in the 2016/17 season specifically if they an opportunity arises for them to get better.
Boston isn’t going to give the Leafs this type of return. In fact, I highly doubt that the Bruins are looking to give anybody a return – they’re likely the ones looking for assets in this situation. Savard’s remaining years see him paid $525,000 in actual dollars – just 13% of his cap hit. The Bruins will definitely be shopping him to teams that are bottoming out to the point where they’ll struggle to hit the cap floor.
If I had to guess, if Marc Savard (well, his contract) isn’t a Boston Bruin next fall, he’ll be an Arizona Coyote. They’re already at the bottom of the league in salary, have no major contracts to renew outside of Mikkel Boedkker, and Martin Erat is either going to leave or take a gigantic paycut. Zbynek Michalek’s retained salary will also come off the books, and you’d have to figure that this team will be bottoming out hard in hopes of acquiring Arizona hockey prodigy Auston Matthews. This is a way for a team that loses a lot of money to get to the cap floor while spending $3.5 million less; I’m pretty sure they’ll be the ones who take it.
This was originally a response to @conin79 for tomorrow’s mailbag, but the length warranted its own post.