Analysis: Cap issues, quarantine obstacles might impact NHL trade deadline

Detroit News

This has been a unique NHL season because of the pandemic.

A shorter, compressed season with games being canceled and rosters being decimated because of positive virus cases.

A division of all Canadian teams.

So, it probably stands to reason that when it hits 3 p.m. (EST) on Monday and the trade deadline ends, it’s likely to also be strange looking.

What’s usually a flurry of trades with players heading to other teams in every possible direction — that just may not be the case.

Now, the entire NHL trade deadline experience hasn’t really been what it once was.

Generally speaking, the NHL Entry Draft weekend has become a bit more conducive to trades, as a wider spectrum of teams are able to deal in a less pressurized, less frenzied environment.

But there’s still that special charm about trade deadline day, as Red Wings fans can attest to given all the exciting days during the organization’s glory years.

For the Wings, general manager Steve Yzerman has 11 unrestricted free agents on the roster, some of whom, you’d think, would interest some playoff contenders.

But, given some of the issues surrounding the trade market, it’s fair to wonder how many of the bargaining chips Yzerman is going to be able to deal.

Here are some of the obstacles in this particular market that could dampen Monday’s NHL trade deadline:

Flat salary cap

The salary cap had been impacting trade deadline day gradually, but because of the pandemic and resulting new collective bargaining agreement, it’s now a concrete problem.

A staggering 18 teams have $1 million, or less, of salary cap space remaining at the deadline, with that $81.5 million cap number not moving a penny next season, and maybe for the foreseeable future.

Tampa, Montreal, Vegas and Washington, all contenders, don’t have cap space available to even add a player making the league minimum, according to website PuckPedia, while several other teams would need to clear cap space before adding another salary.

And forget about adding a player with term left, as that’ll complicate the budget and salary structure for next season.

“A lot of teams are in the same situation we’re in where they literally have no cap space or very, very little — not enough to add a player without subtracting,” Julien BriseBois, Tampa’s general manager, said to the Associated Press. “The teams that are kind of on the bubble, I don’t know what’s ultimately going to guide their decisions. Are they going to try to add? Are they going to sell? Will there be more teams just standing pat?

“I don’t know, but it’s going to be interesting to find out.”

Many sellers

In the blink of an eye, what looked to be competitive races in all four divisions aren’t that anymore.

Only in the Central Division can you make the argument there might be a heated race for the fourth and final playoff seed.

But in the other three divisions, you can make an argument the four seeds have been decided — and the teams below them can prepare for the future.

And with so many teams seemingly out of it, that could leave 12 to 15 teams potentially wanting to sell assets.

Talk about a glut.

Suddenly a player who may have looked like an intriguing option for a team several weeks ago gets tossed to the side because another player from a squad dropping out of the playoff picture becomes available.

If a playoff team is looking for insurance on the wing, in particular, it can sift through many options by Monday’s deadline.

That could impact the Red Wings, as teams might find better options available on other teams.

Canadian quarantine

The seven teams in the North (Canadian) Division are in a peculiar spot, too.

If they acquire a player from a U.S.-based team, there’s a weeklong mandatory quarantine for that player.

That’s down from what was a 14-day quarantine, but it’s still a significant issue with the regular season ending May 8 (likely a few days after, making up postponed games).

How much is a Canadian team willing to pay — or will want to pay, in terms of assets — for a player who may be only available for about 10 regular-season games?

It’s a fair question. Teams want to work those players in and get them comfortable, and the quarantine definitely impacts that line of thinking.

So, as always, the NHL trade deadline will be intriguing, and some deals are sure to be made. But the quantity of deals might be a lot less than usual.

NHL trade deadline

►When: 3 p.m. Monday

►TV: NHL Network. Canadian networks TSN and SportsNet’s Hockey Central will begin coverage at 8 a.m.

►Red Wings: Detroit has 11 unrestricted free agents who could be dealt as rentals for playoff contending teams.

ted.kulfan@detroitnews.com

Twitter: @tkulfan

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