Update: The Buffalo Sabres traded D prospect Brendan Guhle and a 1st round-pick in the 2019 entry-level draft to the Anaheim Ducks for D Brandon Montour. The 24 year-old Montour has 25 points (5g, 20a) in 62 gp in 2019. His contract is a reasonable $3.387 million through next season.
For NHL fans, trade Deadline Day is arguably one of the most exciting days of the year. Typically, there is a lot of noise but nothing all that earth shattering happens. However, there is also a lot of potential for stars to be traded, and Stanley Cup hopefuls to gear up for a playoff run.
In 2017, defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk and goalie Ben Bishop were both moved at the deadline. To the casual hockey fan, Shattenkirk and Bishop may not seem all that important, but they were valuable assets to any team. For teams competing for a Stanley Cup, it is all hands on deck. Every player is critical to playoff success.
For Buffalo Sabres fans, there is hope that something big will happen. It was just five short years ago that Ryan Miller was infamously traded by GM Tim Murray. This year, after the slip in the standings, the chances of a playoff berth are becoming slimmer and slimmer. General Manager Jason Botterill is building for long-term success, however, and seems unwilling to sell the farm for a slim shot at hoisting Lord Stanley’s Cup.
Before we jump the gun on our wishes for certain players to be moved, here are three factors that impact what can be done on Deadline Day:
Certain players have no movement clauses in their contracts. Essentially, players give a list of teams/franchises they would not like to be traded to. NHL GM’s respect the wishes of the player and will not entertain a trade offer for a protected player. This makes the pool of available players smaller for certain teams. If a team proposes a trade for a player with a no-movement clause, it is customary for the team to ask the player if they want to enter the trade or not.
2. Free Agency: Restricted vs. Unrestricted
Restricted Free Agents (RFAs) are limited in their negotiating power. Whatever franchise owns their rights also owns the rights to their future contract. RFAs are typically those that are young and have not played in the league for long. Once a player has accrued 7 seasons in the NHL, or is at least 27 years old at the beginning of the NHL Calendar, their designation goes from Restricted to Unrestricted. An Unrestricted Free Agent (UFA), has more bargaining power, as they can sign with any team that makes them an offer. More offers means more leverage; which often translates into a higher contract.
This is important when evaluating trades. A RFA is more valuable than a UFA. Often, a pending UFA has a much smaller return in their trade, and that is where you often hear the term “rental player” (a UFA with an expiring contract at the end of the year).
3. Salary Cap
NHL GMs are constantly crunching numbers. Sometimes, a player is moved to get a contract off the books and give a team more money to spend when NHL Free Agency opens in the summer. Thus, a trade may seem lopsided on paper, but if the salary cap implications are friendly, it could be a better situation for both GMs and teams. A team that has a lot of salary cap space is more likely to take on a bigger contract. A team that does not have as much salary cap space must make sure to allocate the correct funds to each player. Until the salary cap in the NHL increases substantially, GMs will have to continually search for players that are contract-friendly at the deadline.
Here’s to hoping Deadline Day is exciting this year! Make sure you have a stable internet connection.