Cap manipulation not a major problem, NHL commissioner says

Last updated March 30, 2022

Manipulation of the salary cap landed on the agenda of this week's NHL general manager meetings. According to a source close to the matter, the GMs had a discussion about the LTIR loophole, but the conversation was ultimately tabled to the next GM meetings this July at the Draft in Montreal.

The said loophole allows teams to build non-salary complaint rosters in the regular season by stashing high-budget salaries on Long-Term Injury Reserve.

During the regular season, players listed in LTIR do not count against the salary cap. Whereas in the playoffs, the cap does not apply. That allows teams to compete in the playoffs with lineups that would not be salary cap compliant during the regular season.

The main issue of the discussion is whether there should be any restrictions upon the return of players who were on the Long-Term Injured Reserve during the playoffs.

"There are definitely varying opinions on this one. But not necessarily a charge for reform. Probably more of a media thing right now," said one GM to ESPN.

Making changes to LTIR procedures requires an agreement of both the league and the NHL Players Association to amend the Collective Bargaining Agreement.

However, no concrete action was taken in the Tuesday meeting.

NHL execs not aware of loophole

"It was a good discussion because I believe overwhelmingly the view of the managers is this hasn't been a problem for the last 17 years. It's more perceptional. Nobody thinks it's been abused,” NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman said.

“There are always adjustments that people would like to make to the Collective Bargaining Agreement. This is something that would be nice to adjust to change the perception, but I don't think it's viewed that it's been a problem, because it hasn't."

In addition, NHL Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly added the league is always trying to maintain healthy communication with every team, especially during the trade deadlines.

"It's no secret that around every trade deadline we reach out to the clubs and understand their injury situation and get a sense of projected dates of return," Daly said.

"Whenever LTIR is being used and the projected date of return is around the start of the playoffs, we look into it. We deal with the clubs, we get their medical records, we employ an independent medical expert, and we make sure of the bona fides of the injury. We've never had any issues that stem from that, but it's a thorough process."

Commissioner Bettman continued by saying that the NHL investigative process involving players on LTIR is thorough enough to prevent such abuse.

"In some ideal world maybe that would be a good change," he said. "The roster situation is different in the playoffs, but it's not anything that's going to get addressed as a front-burner issue any time soon."

In the Tuesday meeting, Daly also told the general managers that the salary cap for next season is projected to rise by $1 million to $82.5 million. Gary Bettman said the projection is in alignment with this season’s hockey-related revenues which are projected to be more than $5 billion.

The HRR and salary cap projections will meet the projections delivered to the NHL Board of Governors in December.

Martin Efvergren
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