Why hasn’t a top-four defenceman rental like Montreal Canadiens defenceman Ben Chiarot been traded yet?
The NHL Trade Deadline is less than two weeks away, and fans are getting antsy about the lack of trades so far. Deadline day will likely see the usual flurry of deals, but a few major factors are slowing down the action between buyers and sellers before that.
In past years, clubs were aggressive in trying to do their shopping before NHL Trade Deadline Day to avoid the crazy prices the closer you got to that day. Things have changed recently, though, mainly due to the impact of covid-19 on league revenues. A few teams like the Dallas Stars, Arizona Coyotes, and, most notably, the Anaheim Ducks are also holding up the bidding wars as they continue to decide what to do with their trade commodities.
The NHL Trade floodgates could open within the next week, but let’s look at precisely what is causing the delay in trades.
Salary Cap Management
The Salary Cap has always been a thorn in the side of every NHL general manager leading up to the NHL Trade Deadline, as it limits what they can do. Due to the pandemic, it’s been even worse as the NHL has maintained a flat Cap at $81.5M, which will increase by only $1 million per season for the foreseeable future. With player salaries not shrinking in consequence, it means that more than half the league is either up against the Salary Cap or even over it.
That’s right! According to our friends at Puckpedia, over 15 teams are currently using Long-Term Injury Reserve (LTIR) to go over the Cap at this very moment, the highest number of teams to do so in the history of the Salary Cap era. Having such a limited amount of wiggle room makes it increasingly difficult to make moves; the few teams that are contenders and are lucky to have Cap space aren’t in a rush to use it.
Teams are biding their time and waiting for the last possible second to accrue as much Cap space as they can. This will allow them to maximize their spending and go shopping for rentals like Chiarot. This wasn’t an issue in previous years because the Cap regularly increased by $3 to $5M annually. Now teams must get a little more creative, hindering aggressive trade approaches they were used to in the past.
Undecided on Player’s Future
Certain key players who have been rumoured to be available or are set to become unrestricted free agents that are holding up the process. Teams like the Arizona Coyotes (Jacob Chychrun), the Dallas Stars (John Klingberg) and especially the Anaheim Ducks (Rikard Rakell, Hampus Lindholm and Josh Manson) are still undecided on what they want to do with their key players, but they’ll have to decide quickly.
Especially the Anaheim Ducks, who have three key rental players, most notably Lindholm, whom they’re trying to sign before making available in trade offers. The delay in making players like Lindholm available means that teams looking for help on the back-end will wait and see what Anaheim decides to do before jumping on other rental options like Chiarot, Mark Giordano, Zdeno Chara and others.
The Calm Before the Storm
In the last month leading up to the April 12 NHL Trade Deadline in the 2020-2021 season, 31 of the 40 trades registered by the league were completed within the last four days before the deadline due to the same factors holding up the action now.
This means things should pick up in a pretty significant way in the next week as teams come to decisions on the availability of their players and their Salary Cap structure is maximized. For a team like the Montreal Canadiens, riding the wave and not cracking on their price point is the best course of action because, once things get moving, they’ll get moving rather quickly.
Once the frenzy begins, and the dominos begin falling, that is when a team will commit to meeting Canadiens general manager Kent Hughes’ high price for Chiarot.