With the Olympic trade freeze only a week away and the NHL trade deadline less than a month away, we’re sure to hear all sorts of trade rumors and speculation involving the Vancouver Canucks. Only a couple of days ago, we heard that the Canucks were in the running – and then not in the running – for Ilya Kovalchuk. (Of course, Kovy was traded to the New Jersey Devils yesterday.) Previous to that, there was the rumored Cory Schneider for David Backes swap.
But while discussing these trade rumors, there are a couple of things we need to keep in mind:
1) The Canucks are already up against the salary cap. In fact, because of all the injuries they’ve sustained this season – and of course having to replace them – their projected salary number is over the $56.8 million upper limit this season. This means that, if the Canucks were to pull a trade, incoming and outgoing salaries would have to match dollar-for-dollar.
2) If Kevin Bieksa is activated from long-term injury reserve (LTIR) before the playoffs, the Canucks would have to move out salaries in order to accommodate Bieksa’s salary and get back in compliance with the cap.
Let’s use Ilya Kovalchuk as an example. His cap hit this season is $6,389,300. If the Canucks were to have acquired him, they would have had to shed $6,389,300 in salary from the active roster. To put this into perspective, the Canucks’ package would have had to include, say, Pavol Demitra ($4,000,000) plus Steve Bernier ($2,000,000) and they’d still need to get rid of another $639,300 in salaries. Because I honestly doubt the Thrashers would have had any interest in Demitra, maybe the package is Alex Edler ($3,250,000), Bernier, plus prospect and/or pick, plus the Canucks would have to waive Kyle Wellwood ($1,200,000). Kevin Bieksa ($3,750,000) isn’t even an option here because the Canucks would lose his LTIR exemption. And when Bieksa comes back (assuming he comes back during the regular season), the Canucks would have to move another $3,750,000 in salary.
Clear as mud?
The cap issue is one reason the Cory Schneider for David Backes trade couldn’t have happened even if there was any truth to it. Because Backes’ cap hit is $2,500,000 this season and Schneider’s is $0, the Canucks would have first needed to get rid of $2,500,000 in salary from the active roster. Waiving Wellwood and Brad Lukowich ($1,566,666) would have done the trick, but then Willie Mitchell and Sami Salo got injured and needed Lukowich and Baumgartner in the lineup. Not only that, but they would still need to find room for Bieksa’s salary when Bieksa came back.
Giving up the right assets in a deal is one thing. Finding the cap space to make one is another. In the next month or so, we need to take both into account.
(Postscript: All numbers from CapGeek. As an aside, I know cap space is calculated daily, but because the Canucks are at the cap anyway, I used each player’s total cap number for the season for simplicity.)