When you’re reading all about the latest trade rumors, it almost always involves a pending free agent going to a team that is making a push from a middle-playoff contender towards winning a division or, at least, getting into those guaranteed divisional playoff spots. It makes sense, right?
You think your team is close, perhaps just one piece away from being a real contender. Why not address that concern at the trade deadline?
The simple answer is money. Most teams don’t have any.
As of the end of January, according to CapFriendly, 12 teams have $0 in projected cap space. 12 out of 32 teams have no space at all without doing major shifts in money to bring in someone new.
17 teams in total, so an extra five from those 12, are using LTIR money to be cap compliant. Out of those teams, the most money available in projected cap space is a little over $200,000.
Of the teams that are cap compliant without using any LTIR money, 10 of those teams have less than $5 million available to them. To make a long story short, there are only 5 NHL teams with $5 million or more in cap space immediately available to them.
When you’re trying to trade a player that has a $7.5 million cap hit, it becomes difficult when there aren’t many teams that can afford that without moving money out. Oddly enough, a couple of the teams that have a little bit of spending money are divisional opponents.
Are you really going to risk trading Tarasenko or O’Reilly to Minnesota or Winnipeg, knowing they’ll come back to haunt you four or five times a year if they re-sign there? No thank you.
Of course, teams move pieces around and do all sorts of paper moves all the time. There’s a reason teams like Vegas, Tampa and Toronto have not really been under the cap for years.
Still, taking in a player that has a huge cap hit would be extremely difficult for most teams.