It’s Time For The NHL To Get Rid Of The “Limited No-Trade Clause”

The NHL and NHLPA need to come to an agreement on getting rid of “Limited No-Trade Clause”.

I know Gary Bettman likes to think he can con the average fan into thinking that there is parity in the National Hockey League BUT he isn’t fooling anybody.  Most of us don’t buy it.  NO, I’m not going on my annual rant on how awarding three points in some games and two points in other games is a joke and creates FAKE parity. Surprise, surprise.  

This time I want to talk about how the NHL is letting its players dictate where they will or will not play in the league.  I believe this is creating an uneven playing field.  For the record, I think any no-trade or no-movement clause is bad for the league and I will concede that the NHL and the NHLPA will have a difficult time negotiating this out of the CBA (Collective Bargaining Agreement) but I feel the real problem is the Limited or Modified No-Trade Clauses.  I believe these clauses can be negotiated out of the CBA.  I understand that any type of no-trade clause is bargaining tool and is often used as the icing on the cake during contract extensions or in the courting and signing of UFAs but NHL GMs need to stop handing them out like Halloween candy.  Big money and guaranteed contracts should be enough.  

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Before we move on let’s do a little review on the eligibility and definitions of the trade clauses involved in this conversation. 

Who is eligible for these clauses?

Once a National Hockey League player has played seven years or reached twenty-seven years of age (Group 3 Free Agent Status) he is eligible to qualify for the NMC or NTC in his contract.  These clauses can start mid-contract once the player reaches his Group 3 status. (example: in the fourth year of a seven-year deal)

The No-Movement Clause:

A No-Movement Clause prohibits a team from moving a player by trade, waivers, or assigning that player to the minors without the player’s consent. This keeps the player with the pro team unless the player approves one of these moves. The player has the final say.  A No-Movement Clause does not restrict a team from buying out or terminating a player’s contract.

The No-Trade Clause:

A No-Trade Clause is much less restrictive.  It only places restrictions on movement by trade.  A player with a full No-Trade Clause cannot be traded by a team unless the player provides consent.

That being said, the full No Trade Clause (NTC) and the No Movement Clause (NMC) aren’t really the problem.  Some NHL players have earned this little perk but at least it puts ALL thirty teams in the league on a level playing field.  Said player has earned the right not to be moved to any other NHL team.

Limited No-Trade Clause:

The Limited No-Trade Clause (partial or modified) is less restrictive than a full No-Trade Clause and it depends on the conditions negotiated in the player’s contracts.  Often with the Limited No-Trade Clause, the player is asked to provide a list of teams to which he would be willing to be traded or NOT traded to.  This list is usually submitted prior to the start of every season.  This list can and often does change or fluctuate from season to season.

Like I mentioned earlier, I think this clause IS the problem and the NHL can live without it.  

The usual suspects: 

It’s hard enough for teams like Buffalo, Winnipeg, and depending which way the wind is blowing, Arizona or Colorado to attract the big-time UFAs come July 1. These same teams are also the usual suspects on most players lists as NO-TRADE destinations as well.  Calgary and more recently Edmonton were also on most “no-fly” lists but being competitive has helped them a bit in recent times.  I dare Gary Bettman to say these teams are on a level playing field with the rest of the league.  Of course, there is more to it than location.  There are many factors for why a player shuns Winnipeg or Buffalo.  Weather, taxes, crappy team, etc, etc, but it’s not good business to let the inmates run the asylum and it’s not good that all of Gary’s children aren’t treated equally. 

WHAT WOULD YOU DO?

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The talk of NTCs and NMCs became more newsworthy leading up to the Vegas Golden Knights’ expansion draft.  It was a bit of problem for a lot of GMs and their teams in forming their protection lists for the expansion draft but this isn’t a one-time issue, this is a problem at the best of times during the “salary cap era” and especially approaching the NHL trade deadline.

What happens to all those eager, wide-eyed, draft prospects from podunks across North America or overseas that are just “happy to be drafted” or “I don’t care who drafts me, I just want to play in the NHL”?  A few years pass and their attitudes change.  

Collateral damage:

I like Marc Methot and I don’t want to single him out or make him a villain but wasn’t it a little ironic this good ole Canadian boy had six Canadian teams on his Limited No-EH list?  He isn’t alone here either.  Far from it.  Marc Methot ended up in the news because he was collateral damage as it pertained to Ottawa’s protection list for the Vegas expansion draft.   He got screwed by Dion Phaneuf’s NTC.  Dion had every right to exercise it and he did.  This left Methot unprotected and he was ultimately drafted by Vegas.  Que Sera, Sera.  He has since been traded to Dallas. 

As a fan, I don’t like hearing that certain players don’t want to come to Winnipeg, especially after players that come realize that Winnipeg is a terrific hockey city and a great place to raise a family.  I’m sure fans in other cities that get targeted as no trade destinations feel the same way.   

IF the NHL and NHLPA can agree to get rid of the limited no-trade clause in NHL contracts it could help in leveling the playing field just a little bit.  I don’t think this is a hill the NHLPA needs to die on.  

Basically, it would break down to accepting a trade to ALL teams or a trade to NO teams.  Simple.  

Not perfect but better.   

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Comments

  1. I think you nailed when you wrote about an “uneven playing field”. That’s the way it’s designed. Life isn’t fair, Mitch.

    Let’s allow ourselves a moment of fantasy. Let’s imagine that in 1 or 2 years two teams emerge to become NHL power houses and those teams are the Buffalo Sabres and the Winnipeg Jets. And those teams make it to the Stanley Cup finals 4 years out of 5. What do you think would happen?

    I have no illusions about this. I think the big market teams and Bettman who is addicted to big TV markets would push to change the rules. I live in Montreal and today on TSN Radio I heard a lot of griping about the cap structure and how it should be designed more along the lines what you have in MLB and the NBA with luxury taxes, etc… Now imagine if teams like Chicago, LA and NYR go into a prolonged decline. You see where I’m going with this.

    So, yes, you could do away with NMCs and Limited Trade contracts but in the end it might be lesser of all evils. Better the devil you know than the one you don’t.

    • Mitch Kasprick says

      good points …. In the WHA days, the Jets were the flagship franchise and everybody wanted to play there … winning does that but the NHL Jets (1.0 or 2.0) have never tasted anything remotely close to that success.
      I don’t like luxury taxes because the rich teams can still outspend their stupidity and their mistakes.

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