Michael Russo's Sunday Insider: Cap hurts swap meet

  • Updated: November 17, 2013 - 7:54 AM

The salary cap hinders teams’ abilities to find suitable trade partners.

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The Florida Panthers traded right wing Kris Versteeg (32) back to the Chicago Blackhawks, but still were stuck paying half of his contract for the next year and a half for the privilege.

Photo: JOHN MINCHILLO • Associated Press,

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On Tuesday, NHL general managers sat down as a group of 30 for the first time this season.

The objective of the annual November meeting, which always surrounds the Hall of Fame inductions in Toronto, is typically twofold — to discuss potential rule changes (perhaps extending the length of overtime) and to begin planting seeds for eventual trades.

Less than a week later, the Florida Panthers, who vow to be aggressive as GM Dale Tallon tries to “accommodate” players who don’t want to be Panthers, traded Kris Versteeg back to the Chicago Blackhawks for Jimmy Hayes and a minor-leaguer. But the way the trade was orchestrated signaled basically the only way trades can be made early this season.

The Panthers retained half of Versteeg’s contract. So for the remainder of this year and the next two, the reigning Stanley Cup champion Blackhawks managed to add a talented NHLer to their third line for the mere price of $2.2 million a season.

Thanks to last year’s lockout and how every team had to get compliant with the cap decreasing by nearly $6 million, it is scary how little salary-cap space teams have right now.

The Wild has the 19th-most cap space in the NHL — at $1.8 million. That is not a lot of cap space, especially when you have to leave room for injuries.

Yet, there are 18 teams worse off than the Wild!

Thirteen teams, including the Blackhawks, have dipped into their long-term injury relief, according to capgeek.com. That means you can surpass the salary cap ceiling by an injured player’s cap hit. The tricky thing is once that player is healthy, a team must get cap compliant again.

So there is gridlock out there, making it incredibly difficult to make a trade unless you find a partner that is able to eat part of the salary and cap hit.

This is why the Los Angeles Kings might have to pray Ben Scrivens can hold the fort while Jonathan Quick recovers from a serious groin injury.

Besides trade talk last week, GM’s also talked about the state of the game.

“It’s incumbent on all of us to constantly be evaluating things and looking at ways to tweak or improve, but having said that, the consensus of the managers is it’s a great game right now,” Wild GM Chuck Fletcher said. “I’m not sure the game’s ever been faster, there’s never been more parity in our sport. The vast majority of games are close games, entertaining games with lots of scoring chances, there’s speed, there’s physicality.

“Frankly, you can argue right now that this is the high-water mark for this league. So the consensus was to largely leave well enough alone. Ratings are great. Attendance is great. Revenues are going up.”

Still, managers discussed if there is a way to have more games decided in overtime before going to the shootout. They discussed extending overtime from five minutes to 10, maybe changing sides to create for longer line changes, even going from 4-on-4 to 3-on-3 play after a certain amount of time. That seems really gimmicky.

“It’s too early to say if there’s a consensus, but there was an appetite to discuss this further at our March meeting,” Fletcher said.

The Wild’s Zach Parise, who has more shootout goals than anybody in NHL history (34), would be for longer overtimes and one other significant tweak.

“I can’t deny anytime there’s a shootout, all the fans are on their feet. They love it. I get it,” Parise said. “But I’d like to see more overtime. It’s more fun. But I’d like to see them change the point system. They’ve got to figure something out to make more reward for winning in regulation as opposed to a shootout.”

Wild captain Mikko Koivu, who has 31 shootout goals, wouldn’t mind eliminating the shootout altogether and going back to ties.

  • Isn’t it ironic, don’t you think?

    There was a certain irony about Ted Nolan returning as Buffalo’s interim coach on the day Darcy Regier, the Sabres’ 16-year GM, was fired. Nolan left Buffalo in 1997 after a one-year contract offer.

    “It was one of those things, one of those stamps, that now your soul can rest,” Nolan said. “I had some dark moments, I really did, when I got let go from here. I might have lost my job. I may not have coached. I never lost who I am as a person, as a man.”

    Beat the Devil out of Brodeur

    Martin Brodeur, the New Jersey Devils’ lifer, says he would consider waiving his no-trade if the Devils ever are out of it.

    “I hope it will never happen, but if there is a situation that could be really fun for me and really good for the Devils, why not? It’s not like I’m going to play 25 more years here,” Brodeur said.

    Rocky mountain high

    Erik Johnson, the Bloomington native and No. 1 overall pick in the 2006 draft, has seven points and is plus-11 in 18 games for Colorado.

    “[Avs coach Patrick Roy] got me aside and he just told me the amount of confidence he has in me as a player and what I can do,” Johnson said. “When you hear that from a coach with that pedigree as a player, it makes you feel good. They’ve given me a lot of ice time, a lot of responsibility, and I’ve responded with good play. It just feels good to have the staff believe in me.”

    Teenage wasteland

    With the Edmonton Oilers in turmoil, going winless against the West, Nail Yakupov whining about ice time and destined for another No. 1 overall pick, GM Craig MacTavish says he’d trade his first-round pick: “We don’t need another 18-year-old coming in here.”

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