The NHL trade deadline if quickly approaching. There already have been several trades made in advance of the last frantic hours that teams use to negotiate a last piece of the puzzle. The media is always searching to sensationalize that last minute deal that might give a team a better chance for the Stanley Cup. They create headlines of trades involving players with the biggest names. That’s normally the news and information which fans most remember. However the trade deadline is more than just making trades. There are other obligations that an NHL General Manager has to attend to on that day.
He must finalize his roster for the reminder of the season. He must also assign players to the minor league affiliate team to satisfy the American Hockey League “Clear Day List” which coincides with the NHL Trade Deadline. Players must be on that list to be eligible to play in the AHL for the rest of the season and in the playoffs. So, the NHL “GM” must to set up his organization to maximize the contribution and the playing time for a handful of players. Teams want some of their younger players who are on the NHL roster to be eligible to play in the AHL playoffs if the NHL team fails to qualify or gets eliminated in the early rounds. This is very important and crucial in the development of those players. All of this must be done knowing that the NHL team will only be allowed “four recalls” (other than emergency) until the end of the season.
Here is an example: The last year that I worked for the Florida Panthers, we only had a very slim chance of making the playoffs as the deadline came. So we wanted some of our younger players who were on the NHL roster to also be eligible to play for the Rochester Americans in the AHL playoffs. So, we assigned 3 players to Rochester in a paper transaction to insure that they would be on the AHL “clear day list”. Then, a few hours later, we recalled them to the NHL so that they could play at the highest level for the reminder of the season. We knew at that time that we would be using 3 of our 4 recalls for the sake of development. Those three players were able to play at the NHL level for the reminder of the season and also play in the playoff competition at the minor league level.
There are no Salary Cap restrictions during the playoffs. Some transactions may be done with that in mind. Some veterans who clear waivers may be sent down to finish the rest of the season in the minors to make room for the cap or to give them more playing time. In some cases, those players will be recalled for the playoffs because there are no Cap restrictions.
Another example is a player like Wade Redden who has spent the whole season in the minors with a $6.5M salary. It’s almost impossible to recall him during the season because of his salary but can be recalled to play in the playoffs for the Rangers because there are no Salary Cap restrictions.
Are you confused yet? There are many rules, regulations and crucial dates that General Managers must be aware of in the new CBA. The trade deadline is only one of those key dates.
This week-end, watch for those soft moves that don’t seem to make any sense from the outside looking in but if you’re on the inside, you know that there are reasons why they are done.
HAVE A GREAT HOCKEY DAY!