When the final week prior to the St. Louis Blues season began, the team made some rather surprising roster moves. As they finalized their roster, they sent Jake Neighbours and Josh Leivo to their AHL affiliate.
This was somewhat shocking because everything leading to that point seemed to signal that Neighbours was penciled into a third-line spot. Leivo also seemed to have earned either a starting fourth-line role or, at least, a rotating role to play every few games.
To have both sent to the minor leagues was very surprising. Obviously, any demotion would have been short lived for Neighbours, but it just felt odd given everything leading to that point.
Well, the “demotion” was extremely short lived. In fact, Neighbours and Leivo never left the team and were practicing with the Blues in South Carolina the entire time.
It was all just a paper move for the salary cap. The Blues knew they had to shuffle things around in a shell game that would make the bean counters at the NHL office happy.
What this does if further prove that the salary cap makes no sense to anyone except some book worms in New York or Toronto. In fact, the entire thing is so complicated that most teams have an employee dedicated to cap compliance.
The issue for the Blues here was the timing of putting their two injured defensemen on long term injured reserve. Instead of just being able to put Marco Scandella and Scott Perunovich on LTIR right when they got injured, there are weird timetables involved.
The Blues have been through this before. When Alex Steen “retired” but did not officially retire with the league, the Blues used his salary as LTIR money. However, they could not list him on LTIR until either the day the season began or one day before. It was all some paper move that seemed to create more issues than solving a problem.
The same applies to the recent Blues moves. Perhaps it doesn’t hurt anyone for these minor moves to be made, but it is just confusing, especially to the casual fan.
Even as someone that pays decent attention to these things, it did not occur to me that these were simply cap compliance moves. So, imagine the confusion of someone who doesn’t even know anything about the salary cap thinking Neighbours and Leivo have actually been sent down.
What is the purpose behind these random dates to list someone on LTIR? There are so many loopholes with the salary cap that these kinds of nonsense moves are just superfluous.
According to CapFriendly, 13 teams have $0 in cap space. Five of those teams are already using LTIR money.
Whether it has been Vegas or Tampa or a handful of other teams, we have repeatedly seen teams subvert the cap and have way more salary than they should be allowed because they have an LTIR contract on their books.
So, why can a team do that and then have unlimited money to spend on a roster in the playoffs, but you have to do these weird book keeping things like “demoting” players?
Ultimately, it isn’t a big deal because the Blues just recalled Neighbours and Leivo. But it’s a dangerous game.
There are unwritten rules about swooping in, but the reality is that any team could have stolen Leivo if they chose. He actually had to clear waivers.
You can argue the Blues could absorb losing a fourth-line player. However, it’s the loss of depth and the loss of a player that went through their camp and forcing the team to bring in someone who was not with them all camp that is scary.
It all just seems unnecessary. Just allow teams to put a player on LTIR once you know the injury will be severe enough for them to miss significant time.
The roster shuffle for a day’s worth of compliance is just silly.