Scratching a Player for Trade-Related Reasons?

Scratching a player for trade related reasons (“TRR”) has gained significant traction lately, as the Arizona Coyotes announced that 24 year-old defenseman Jakob Chychrun would be a healthy scratch for TRR.[1] The Coyotes then announced that Chychrun would continue to “remain out of the lineup until something happens.”[2] Chychrun is one of the top players for the Coyotes, having 7 goals and 21 assists for 28 points in 36 games this season. Chychrun currently has two-years left on his contract at a $4.6 million cap hit, which is viewed as an underpayment for the services he provides. The Coyotes are hopeful to get a significant return for Chychrun prior to the trade deadline, which occurs on March 3.[3] If Chychrun is not traded until the deadline, he will have been a healthy scratch for nearly a month.

It is important to note that the Coyotes are currently in 29th place in the NHL, and it is understood that the Coyotes are essentially tanking for last place in order to get the best chance at landing the 1st overall pick in the 2023 NHL Draft.[4]The Coyotes currently have an 8 point lead over the last place Columbus Blue Jackets, as teams make every effort to lose with integrity for the chance to draft projected generational talent Connor Bedard. 

Following the news that Chychrun would be scratched for TRR, the Blue Jackets then announced that 27 year-old defenseman Vladislav Gavrikov would also be scratched for TRR.[5] Gavrikov has been rumored to be a trade target all season, and it is expected that he will generate significant interest from teams hoping to contend for the Stanley Cup. Gavrikov stated that he knows “literally nothing” about the details surrounding his future. He said, “It’s hard waking up and (trying to) figure this out. I try not to think about it. Try to be busy and do something, because it’s gotta be in your head, and the guts are wondering . . . We’ll see what’s happening. Hopefully, the guys can get two points for us tonight.” As previously noted, the Blue Jackets are currently in last place, and are expected to sell as may assets as possible prior to the March 3 trade deadline. While the NHL’s stance is that no teams “tank,” these moves by the Coyotes and the Blue Jackets appear to be subtle moves to potentially lose more games by sidelining solid players for extended periods of time for TRR. These moves raise the question of whether other teams that are low in the standings, such as the Anaheim Ducks or Chicago Blackhawks will do something similar with players that are rumored to be trade targets prior to the trade deadline. 

Some have stated that they believe there should be a limit on how long a team can hold out a player for TRR. Suggestions for a timeline have ranged anywhere from a few days to a few weeks. If Chychrun and Gavrikov are not traded prior to the deadline, they will have not played in an NHL game for nearly a month, which could have short-term negative consequences on the players as they readjust to playing in a full-speed NHL game. Implementing a rule that would limit the length of time a team could hold out a player for TRR would likely be difficult in practice. If such a rule existed, would teams be able to get around it by simply stating that the player would be unavailable due to an undisclosed injury?

While teams with valuable assets, such as Chychrun and Gavrikov, are simply being cautious, not wanting to risk injury prior to the completion of a trade, these moves also raise the question as to whether this is a form of active tanking. Both Chychrun and Gavrikov are major pieces of their respective teams and having them as healthy scratches directly lowers their teams’ chances of winning on any given night. Could these moves create a slippery slope where more teams begin to scratch players for TRR with the ulterior motive of improving their draft position? It will be interesting to see if the NHL will address this type of move as the trade deadline gets closer, and what the resulting action from the NHL would be. 






Leave a Reply

Powered by

Up ↑

%d bloggers like this: