Before we start let me clarify that no player has recently tested positive to my knowledge and that is not what this is about. What I’m talking about is how the pandemic has affected the start date for next season. Could the lack of a concrete start date be holding the Bruins back from making moves? A report recently came out revealing Marchand, Pastrnak, and McAvoy all had offseason surgery. According to the article, McAvoy will be ready for opening day.
On the negative side, Marchand is out for an expected four-month recovery time. The news is even worse for Pasta who has a five-month recovery timetable from his September 16th hip surgery. Losing two of our best players for any amount of time is a huge blow to this team. Complicating things, because of COVID we don’t know how long that will be. This uncertainty could be affecting the use of LTIR to bring in replacements to temporarily fill those roles.
What Is LTIR?
If you don’t know LTIR stands for long-term injured reserve. If a player is going to miss more than 24 days or 10 NHL games their team is temporarily allowed to spend over the salary cap to replace the injured player. So if a player making six million dollars a year was hurt for that length of time their team could spend up to that six million over the cap to replace them. The problem that the team then faces is once the injured player returns the team must once again be cap compliant. This provision is mostly used with players who suffer career-ending injuries. For example, Marc Savard who because of concussions wasn’t able to keep playing in the NHL. However, Savard didn’t retire because he was under contract. LTIR allowed the Bruins to replace his salary and spend over the cap while still paying him.
Effects of COVID
So with LTIR explained and it looking like Marchand or Pasta could qualify what is holding Sweeney back? As the rule states a player must miss at least 10 games. If Marchand is coming back even 5 months after his mid-September surgery that’s a mid-February return. As for Pasta, he’s already scheduled for a mid-February return. With it looking more and more likely that the start date could be pushed to Feb. 1st or even later it’s possible neither player would miss the required games. This unknown coupled with the difficulty teams are having clearing cap could be blocking some roster additions.
If the Bruins are able to use even a portion of the LTIR money it would give them an advantage with the flat cap. As the season goes on and players are being paid it will become easier to move money out. While no team might want Moore or Ritchie now perhaps a month into the season with some of their salary already paid they are easier to move. Even if the Bruins can add just 3 million in extra spending power that would give them close to ten million dollars they could spend.
With Grzelcyk now locked up, that leaves just Chara and Debrusk as our notable free agents. The Bruins have also been connected to Mike Hoffman in recent days. Opening a little extra spending room would go a long way to making some of those signings. This strategy also has its risks depending on when the season is going to start. Even with decreased salaries mid-season teams might still be less than willing to add to their budgets.
While nobody is going to complain about giving up draft picks to cut salary if the team wins, the story could be very different if they lose. Just look at Tampa at the deadline everyone questioned giving up firsts and prospects for bottom 6 players. Fast forward to them being champions and everyone says how pivotal those additions were. The only difference is instead of giving up picks for Goodrow we would hopefully be adding Hoffman. All we can do is wait for news from the league and NHLPA. Hopefully, they can give us some answers sooner rather than later. Until then stay safe out there and LET’S GO BRUINS!!
Featured image courtesy of Brian Fluharty/USA TODAY Sports.