The Chicago Blackhawks have quite a salary cap problem once again, but there’s another issue worth talking about in regard to the team’s roster construction: no-movement clauses
Chicago Blackhawks general manager Stan Bowman can say his name is synonymous with a number things. The Blackhawks, for one. Winning, certainly. Following through on a promise to overhaul the roster this offseason. And, of course, giving his players no-movement clauses.
The Blackhawks currently have eight players on their roster with some sort of no-movement/trade clause in their contract: Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane, Marian Hossa, Artem Anisimov, Patrick Sharp, Duncan Keith, Brent Seabrook and Corey Crawford. Most of those are no-movements, with Sharp having a straight-up no-trade clause and Crow holding a modified no-trade clause.
If the Blackhawks still had Marcus Kruger and Niklas Hjalmarsson on the books, that would bump this number up to 10 as well. Both guys had (and still have) modified no-trade clauses in their contracts.
Obviously, NMCs and NTCs aren’t exactly the same — NMCs protect against a player being placed on waivers or sent to the minors without their permission in addition to preventing trades. But we’re talking about the same general idea with both: a clause that keeps a player with a team under specific terms.
While we often talk about the Blackhawks’ salary cap issues, the NMCs and NTCs aren’t something that comes up quite as often as years or dollars involved in contracts. But a tweet from The Tennesseean’s Adam Vingan got me thinking about the NMCs and NTCs:
Looking at Cap Friendly, this is correct as far as NMCs go. Defenseman Alexei Emelin has a modified no-trade clause, but that’s it for the entire roster. And the Preds essentially have their entire Stanley Cup Final roster returning for 2017-18 while also sitting about $5.4 million below the salary cap ceiling.
NMCs/NTCs popular league-wide?
So, this got me wondering how popular NMCs and NTCs are across the league. Let’s run down the number of these each of the 31 teams has (numbers in parentheses indicate NMCs, modified NTCs and straight-up NTCs):
2 — Colorado (0/2/0), Los Angeles (1/1/0), Nashville (1/1/0)
3 — Columbus (3/0/0), Montreal (1/2/0), New York Islanders (2/1/0), Philadelphia (1/2/0)
4 — Arizona (3/0/1), Buffalo (1/3/0), Florida (2/2/0)
5 — Carolina (2/3/0), Edmonton (4/1/0), New Jersey (1/1/3), Pittsburgh (2/3/0), St. Louis (1/0/4), Vegas (0/4/1), Washington (0/5/0)
6 — Minnesota (3/3/0), New York Rangers (3/3/0), Vancouver (3/1/2), Winnipeg (2/4/0)
7 — Boston (5/2/0), Calgary (0/5/2), Toronto (1/6/0)
8 — Anaheim (4/4/0), Chicago (6/1/1), San Jose (1/6/1), Tampa Bay (3/0/5)
9 — Dallas (4/5/0)
10 — Detroit (1/7/2), Ottawa (0/10/0)
Da Windy City
So while the Blackhawks do not have the most movement clauses in the league on their current roster, they do hold the most no-movement clauses at six. And you might notice, of the three teams that have more NMCs/NTCs than the Blackhawks, two of them didn’t make the playoffs last season and one slogged its way to a conference final.
Only one team in the league has five NMCs in Boston, and the Bruins aren’t exactly the model of organizational success of late. Only three teams have four, and at least you can note the Ducks and Oilers have actual championship aspirations (even if the Ducks continually choke away theirs).
With all this data, we can conclude NMCs and even NTCs are not the end-all, be-all of the NHL when it comes time for a player to sign a new contract. So why do the Blackhawks have so many on their current roster?
Bowman’s love affair with clauses
I think the common conception is that once a player is successful enough in today’s NHL, they deserve a little extra security with their contract. After all, it’s not as though NHL players are paid anywhere in the neighborhood of players from the other three majors sports leagues.
But the thing is, not all of the league’s higher-paid players have a movement clause in their contracts. The Blues’ Vladimir Tarasenko is without any sort of movement clause. The Sabres’ Ryan O’Reilly can say that same, as can the Panthers’ Aaron Ekblad, the Canadiens’ Max Pacioretty, the Islanders’ Jordan Eberle and Nick Leddy, the Flyers’ Jakub Voracek, the Avalanche’s Nathan MacKinnon, the Predators’ P.K. Subban and Roman Josi, the Jets’ Mark Scheifele, the Coyotes’ Oliver Ekman-Larsson, the Flames’ Johnny Gaudreau, the Oilers’ Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and the Kings’ Drew Doughty.
That’s not close to the whole list; those are just guys who I think are top-end talent and who are getting paid well, but without an NMC or NTC. So why is Bowman giving one or the other to the likes of Anisimov, Sharp and Kruger?
Maybe it’s some sort of reward for loyalty to the team or a “thank you” for players taking less money to sign in Chicago, which is constantly cap-strapped. Maybe when a player comes to Bowman, the player’s agent points to past contracts Bowman has given out and says, “Why can’t my guy get that?”
Whatever the reason for Bowman’s love affair with movement clauses, it’s harmful to the organization. Seabrook’s contract is already starting to look bad, but you know he can’t go anywhere. Who knows what other deals could have been done with Hjalmarsson had he not had a modified clause in his contract. Sharp’s highly unlikely to be moved, so why exactly was he given a NTC?
Roster management in today’s NHL isn’t just about dollars and contract lengths — it’s also about the fine print. Your clauses and your bonuses will mean just as much, both in the short and long term.
It’s something Bowman has struggled with in Chicago. And now that it’s become more and more clear teams can succeed without carrying loads of NMC and NTC holders, it puts quite the spotlight in the Blackhawks GM’s face.