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Could NHL L.T.I.R. Turn Into a Scam? Simple. Fix It.

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Vancouver Canucks, Elias Pettersson
Vancouver Canucks forward Elias Pettersson in 2020.

At this point if the Vancouver Canucks were to make the Stanley Cup playoffs, they’d be icing the team they’ve been skating with pretty much the entire season. They have some names on Long Term Injured Reserve (LTIR) that won’t be donning skates again. Michael Ferland and his career ending concussions, Brandon Sutter with long-haul Covid, and Brady Keeper with his broken leg (plus he’s essentially a minor leaguer for playing purposes) are legitimate cap-relief injuries.

Tucker Poolman and his illness/injury $2.5-million cap hit could and should be back, we’ll see.

But what if, let’s say, Elias Pettersson suffered an injury and sat on LTIR for the final ten weeks of the season, had his $7.35-million salary not affecting the cap, and the Canucks had gone ahead and acquired or moved in players to replace him and his cap hit.

It’s actually standard operating procedure. That’s the idea behind cap relief when you have a player on LTIR. But what if after the season Pettersson came back, rejoined the team, when their is no salary cap enforcement and started playing again, along with still having the players who replaced him available. Another $7-million worth of players.

It’s impossible if it’s the regular season based on the very stringent rules, requirements and thresholds, but completely legal once the regular season ends.

Doesn’t make much sense, does it?

It’s a rule that’s been taken advantage of by teams that have won the Stanley Cup in the past, most notably the Chicago Blackhawks in 2015 with the return of Patrick Kane, and of course last season with the Tampa Bay Lightning and the post-season reappearance of long-injured Nikita Kucherov and his $9.5-million cap hit.

Now, this is not to suggest there was intentional impropriety, as in, “hey Kooch, you’re gonna not play hockey for a few months, and then we’ll bring you back for a Cup run.”

What player would want that? Where’s my shoulder shrug emoji?

But then again, how bad does a team/franchise want a Cup? Would they ever conveniently resort to this, if they haven’t already? Probably not. But why, considering the personnel hired by teams to be capologists and stringently count dollars and cents all season long, would we then simply ignore the diligent regulations during literally the most important and competitive part of the hockey season?

Which is exactly a question an NHL GM or two want answered and an issue they want addressed.

There are a few different solutions being suggested and based on the conversations at the NHL GM meetings that ended earlier Tuesday in South Florida, it appears the topic is alive and well. As it should be.

But what to do with the players who joined the roster while the superstar or two was injured? You keep them around of course, there are ultimately no roster limits in the postseason just like there is no salary cap. Injuries happen at a greater clip, replacements need to be available.

The problem is a great majority of teams are calling up AHL’ers to be those replacements, while the select few operating with the LTIR loophole are using NHL calibre stars.

So how do you handle it?

One proposal suggests that the 20-man roster on the ice for each team during a playoff game can’t exceed the salary cap. Not a bad idea.

It’s simply a way from playing with a line-up that’s loaded up in the postseason with millions of dollars of extra talent.

There will be other ideas for a solution, and let’s face it, it needs to get done.

It’s not fair and it’s illogical otherwise.

VHN Managing Editor Rob Simpson has been covering the NHL for three decades on live TV, radio, and as a journalist. He worked his first ever game getting postgame sound as a teenager; it was Vancouver vs. Detroit.

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