March 21, 2022 marked a major day on the NHL calendar, the Trade Deadline. As it passed, numerous teams either added pieces for a playoff push, or traded players for additional draft capital. One team in an interesting position is the Vegas Golden Knights. Prior to the season, Vegas was considered one of the favorites to win the Stanley Cup, even before adding Jack Eichel to an already established team. However, as of late, the team has been underperforming and is currently not in a playoff spot.
In addition to a struggling on-ice product, Vegas also had less than $1 million in cap space prior to the Trade Deadline. In order to activate Alec Martinez, Vegas would need to clear close to $5 million in cap space. Further, in order to activate Mark Stone, who is currently on LTIR for a back injury, Vegas would need to clear a little over $9 million in cap space.
On the day of the NHL Trade Deadline, trades may be announced after 3 p.m., as long as they are submitted before that time. Shortly before the Trade Deadline passed, Vegas announced that it was trading forward Evegenii Dadonov to Anaheim. It was a move by Vegas to clear up cap space and get Dadonov’s $5 million contract off of its books. While on paper it seemed like a routine trade to clear up cap space, as the day continued and the Trade Deadline passed, questions rose about the validity of the trade. Dadonov allegedly had a limited no-trade clause that Vegas was not aware of.
Dadonov signed his current contract when he was a member of the Ottawa Senators. In order for the no-trade clause to be a part of the contract, it had to be submitted to the team on or before July 1 for the 2021-22 season. However, Vegas did not trade for Dadonov until July 28. As a result, the no-trade list was filed with Ottawa, not Vegas. As part of his contract, Dadonov got to make a list of ten teams that he could not be traded to. The reason this trade was subject to investigation is that Anaheim was one of the teams on his no-trade list. While Ottawa should have sent Vegas the list as part of the trade, Vegas argued they were not aware of the list.
Late on Monday, after the Trade Deadline had passed, Vegas announced that it had become aware of an issue with respect to the trade and it was consulting with the league office. When the trade was announced, Dadonov and his agent said Anaheim was on the ten team no-trade list and went to the NHLPA, which disputed the trade. On Wednesday, March 23, the league announced “the trade could not be concluded because Dadonov’s contract includes a limited no-trade clause, which has not been complied with.” Those within the league were confused how the NHL Central Registry even approved the trade in the first place. NHL insider Elliotte Friedman tweeted that the league and Vegas were “led to believe” that Dadonov’s no-trade list had expired in some fashion, though there then turned up proof that he had submitted it on time. Currently, Dadonov is still a member of Vegas and his $5 million salary counts towards the salary cap.
It will be interesting to see how Vegas handles this situation given their spot in the standings. The Dadonov trade would have given them enough cap space to activate Alec Martinez from LTIR. Now, the team has little cap space and is currently outside the playoffs looking in. Although Sabres’ fans may hope that Vegas falls short of the playoffs, as they have Vegas’s first round pick in 2022, Vegas built a team that is in win-now mode and missing the playoffs would be a shock, given their expectations at the start of the season.
What will Vegas do to get back on track with less than fifteen games to go? Dadonov could still be traded, however, he would be ineligible to play again for the rest of the season and playoffs unless the NHL made an exemption in this case. Both the Arizona Coyotes and the New York Islanders have been discussed as potential landing spots post Trade Deadline. If he were to be traded, Dadonov would still collect his salary and would be able to play next season on his current contract, which extends through the 2022-23 season. The most likely scenario is that Dadonov remains in the lineup and Vegas has to get out of this slump in order to make a playoff push. If the team is able to make the playoffs, it is likely that Mark Stone and Alec Martinez are activated off of LITR when there is no salary cap. This would raise its own issues as to whether Vegas deliberately attempted to circumvent the salary cap, as noted in “NHL Salary Cap Issues: Circumventing the Cap?” As Vegas looks to figure it out on the back-end of the season, it raises the question of whether mortgaging the team’s future is worth it to build a “super team” in the salary cap era.