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End the LTIR Games

March 12, 2023, 7:32 AM ET [15 Comments]
Paul Stewart
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Shortly before last week's NHL trade deadline, the league sent a memo to all 32 teams, warning they would be cracking down on clubs who make a strategy of acquiring injured player in order to put them on LTIR and "stash" them until the playoffs.

While there are many things with which I disagree with the NHL, this is one where I completely agree. If you're going to have a salary cap in the league with exemptions to exceed the ceiling to replace the salaries of players with legitimate long-term injuries in the regular season, there also needs to be some actual enforcement to prevent clubs from stashing players on LTIR and then activating them for the playoffs (where the cap no longer applies). There needs to be a consequence for using LTIR as an end-around on the cap before the playoffs begin, otherwise it hurts the integrity of the system.

A memo is one thing: enforcement is another. We'll see in the future if the NHL is serious about cracking down on the abuses of salary cap exceptions.

Another common practice: cap floor teams acquiring the contracts of players with career-threatening or career-ending injuries as a means of getting to the floor (especially when the remaining real-dollar salary is much lower than the player's cap hit).

Sometimes players who haven't played a game in multiple seasons are stashed on LTIR for years because all contracts are guaranteed. I have no problem with the guaranteed contracts but the charade of carrying players with zero chance of passing a physical and returning to play is another aspect that needs to be changed. Create a CEIR (career-ending IR) category, and remove the cap hit so that no one is penalized for it. The player is still paid regardless but it gets rid of 1) the strategy of adding CEIR eligible players as a de facto cap end-around for teams to pile up enough LTIR allowances to significantly exceed the cap ceiling, and 2) preventing charade trades of the contracts of players with no chance of ever playing again.

I know that when one loophole is closed, others are found. But if you're going to be a "hard capped league" that actually has loopholes to make it more of a soft-capped league, at least address the most blatant abuses.

Then again, I won't be holding my breath for Gary and Bill to ask for my proposal.


A 2018 inductee into the U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame, Paul Stewart holds the distinction of
being the first U.S.-born citizen to make it to the NHL as both a player and referee. On March 15, 2003, he became the first American-born referee to officiate in 1,000 NHL games.
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