Why LTIR use is on the rise, and how it's about to impact your team
Why LTIR use is on the rise, and how it's about to impact your team
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Note: This article was originally published the morning of Oct 7 and was updated the evening of Oct 7 based on recent developments. Updated sections noted.
It’s one of the most cited, impactful and yet misunderstood acronyms in the NHL’s salary cap era: LTIR.
A record 16 NHL clubs placed players on long-term injured reserve (LTIR) last season. Thirteen teams – including the Toronto Maple Leafs – look poised to use it at the start of the upcoming season, making it a safe bet another record will be established this year.
You can expect to hear a lot about LTIR over the coming days as it'll factor in heavily as clubs manipulate their rosters and cap sheets ahead of the Oct 10 deadline to make their opening roster submission.
Here's a look at 13 clubs that are either currently or will be over the cap, their internal LTIR candidates, and how deft use of this tool can allow them to maximize their cap space throughout the 2022-23 season.
But first, a quick refresher on how LTIR works…
What is LTIR?
When a player is injured and expected to miss at least 10 NHL games AND 24 days of the NHL regular season, they are eligible for placement on LTIR. While a player is on LTIR, their team may exceed the salary cap.
Despite the common misconception, a player on LTIR does not have their cap hit removed from the team’s cap total. LTIR allows the team to potentially exceed the cap by an amount commonly referred to as the “LTIR Pool.”
How much can the LTIR team exceed the cap?
There are two methods for determining a team’s LTIR Pool, which is how much they can exceed the cap.
1. If a team is under the cap prior to placing the player on LTIR, then the LTIR pool is the injured player’s cap hit minus the team cap space available at the time. For example, if a player with a $4 million cap hit goes on LTIR, and their team has $100,000 of cap space the team’s LTIR pool would be $3.9 million ($4 million-$100,000). Because of this, teams often make several roster moves right before a player goes on LTIR to be as close to the cap as possible to maximize their LTIR Pool.
2. If a team is over the league’s $82.5 million cap when they submit their opening roster, their LTIR pool would be the amount they exceed the cap. For example, if a team is $3 million over the cap and places a player on LTIR with a $4 million cap hit, their LTIR Pool would be the $3 million they exceed the cap.
This is why a potential LTIR team tries to be as close as possible to the cap ceiling (method 1), or be over the cap by an amount close to the injured player’s cap hit (method 2) for their opening roster submission.
Once a team’s initial LTIR pool is established, any additional players going on LTIR throughout the season have their cap hit added to the existing LTIR pool
Consequences of using LTIR
While using LTIR allows a team to exceed the cap, there are some negative consequences of being an LTIR team:
· LTIR teams do not accrue cap space during the year. If a team has $1 million of space available in their LTIR pool on Day 10 of the season, assuming no other roster moves, they would still have only $1M of space available at the trade deadline. For non-LTIR teams, $1 million of projected cap space on Day 10 of the season would allow them to add a player with a $4.6 million cap hit at the trade deadline
· By definition, a team using LTIR all-season would finish the year with a final cap hit greater than the salary cap. As a consequence, any performance bonuses earned by players on that team during the season are carried over and added to that team’s cap hit for the following season. A total of 14 teams have performance bonus overages from 2021-22 on their 2022-23 cap sheets.
Potential LTIR teams to start 2022-23
Currently, there are 13 teams poised to use LTIR this season.
Here’s a closer look at each of them, including some potential ways they can optimize LTIR.
1. Vegas Golden Knights
Unsigned RFA: Nic Hague
LTIR candidates: Shea Weber ($7.857 million), Robin Lehner ($5 million), Laurent Brossoit ($2.325 million), Nolan Patrick ($1.2 million)
LTIR moves: The wildcard here is Nic Hague. Assuming he signs for around a $2 million cap hit, Vegas would be $13 million over the cap with 22 players on its projected active roster. Placing Weber, Lehner, and Patrick on LTIR would total $14.06 million, so Vegas could build a 23-man active roster close to that for their opening roster submission. Afterward, they could add Brossoit’s $2.325 million to the LTIR pool and have that as cap space available.
2. Montreal Canadiens
LTIR candidates: Carey Price ($10.5 million), Joel Edmundson ($3.5 million), Paul Byron ($3.4 million)
LTIR moves: With Canadiens players injured to start the year, that will provide Montreal with some flexibility to build a roster that is close to $10.5 million (Price's cap hit) over the cap. With Juraj Slafkovsky on the opening roster (added value in including his potential performance bonuses), and a defense spot going to Arber Xhekaj and not Corey Schueneman, Montreal can get to $10,430,833 over the cap. That is $69,000 less than the maximum LTIR pool possible. The next day, Montreal could subsequently add the other players out long-term (Byron, Edmundson, etc.) to LTIR and turn their cap hits into available cap space.
3. Tampa Bay Lightning
LTIR candidates: Brent Seabrook ($6,875 million), Zach Bogosian ($850,000), Anthony Cirelli ($4.8 million)
LTIR pool moves: With Bogosian & Seabrook to LTIR, Tampa can exceed the cap by $7.725 million. Their best strategy might be to waive and send down a player making $1.1 million or more (like Philippe Myers), send down waiver exempt Fortier, call up Goncalves ($820K) and include a $750K F. That would put them exactly $7.725M over the cap, completely maximizing their LTIR pool. Tampa remains the champ of optimizing LTIR, not wasting even $1 of potential LTIR. The next day, Tampa could place Cirelli on LTIR, adding his $4.8 million cap hit to their LTIR pool, and then swap Goncalves and the $750K F for Myers, Fortier, and recall a 23rd active player
Updated the evening of Oct 7
4. Washington Capitals
LTIR candidates: Nicklas Backstrom ($9.2 million), Tom Wilson ($5.167 million), Carl Hagelin ($2.75 million)
LTIR pool moves: The Oshie injury, assuming he’s available in the near future, could be a blessing for Washington. With Wilson and Hagelin to LTIR, they can exceed the cap by $7.917 million. If they submit a roster with the full 23 active players including Aliaksei Protas ($789,000) + Wilson and Hagelin on LTIR and Backstrom/Oshie IR, the roster would be $7,910,834 over the cap, just $5,833 less than the maximum LTIR of $7,916,667 for Wilson/Hagelin. After submitting the roster, Backstrom could be placed on LTIR, adding his $9.2 million cap hit to their LTIR pool and available space.
5. Edmonton Oilers
LTIR candidates: Oscar Klefbom ($4.167 million), Mike Smith ($2.2 million), Tyler Benson ($750,000)
LTIR pool moves: This was telegraphed the moment McLeod was signed to a very specific $798,000 contract. The Benson long-term injury doesn't change a thing.
With McLeod @ 798K, #LetsGoOilers proj roster includes 21 healthy (12F/7D/2G) w/ Holloway + 1 of Malone/McKegg on roster.— PuckPedia (@PuckPedia) September 22, 2022
Samorukov, Shore, & 1 of Ryan/Janmark waived/down.
Klefbom/Smith to LTIR, can exceed cap by 6.367M & they’d be $165 less than thathttps://t.co/hXQrxg265R
The projected roster of $7,116,835 is just $165 short of the maximum possible LTIR pool of $7,117,000 for Klefbom, Smith, and Benson. This means the Oilers would waive and send down Devin Shore, Dimitri Samorukov, and one player with a cap hit of $1.125 million or more (likely 1 of Derek Ryan or Mattias Janmark).
6. Florida Panthers
LTIR candidates: Anthony Duclair ($3 million)
LTIR pool moves: The Panthers’ projected roster is $4 million over the cap. With just Duclair as an LTIR candidate, they’ll need to clear $1 million to be cap compliant, barring another LTIR-eligible injury. That means waiving and sending a player with a cap hit $1 million or greater down.
7. Vancouver Canucks
LTIR candidates: Michael Ferland ($3.5 million), Brock Boeser ($6.65 million), Ilya Mikheyev ($4.75 million), Travis Dermott ($1.4 million)
LTIR pool moves: With many injuries of unknown duration, the Canucks’ puzzle has many potential options, but the Dickinson/Stillman makes it more clear. If Mikheyev is not eligible for LTIR, they could go with Ferland and Dermott on LTIR, allowing them to be $4.9 million over the cap. With Karlsson and Aman ($884K) on the roster, as well as Dries ($762.5K) & Di Giuseppe ($750K), and 7D including Burroughs, they are $4,894,167 over the cap, just $5,833 away from maximizing LTIR. Tyler Myers would start on IR in this scenario.
Updated October 7 after the Dickinson/Stillman trade
8. Carolina Hurricanes
LTIR candidates: Jake Gardiner ($4.050 million), Max Pacioretty ($7 million)
LTIR pool moves: As projected, they waived/sent down a player over $1.125 million (Martinook). The next step is to recall Pyotr Kochetkov (to get the benefit of performance bonuses) and Rees ($839K), with Chatfield and Noesen on the roster. That is $4,036,084 over the cap, $13,916 below the max $4.05 million for Gardiner. They could subsequently put Pacioretty on LTIR to add his $7M as cap space, and/or send Rees and Kochetkov back down and sign Stepan.
Updated after Martinook was waived. Earlier version projected a player with a $1.25M+ Cap Hit would be waived and demoted.
9. Boston Bruins
LTIR candidates: Brad Marchand ($6.125 million), Charlie McAvoy ($9.5 million), Matt Grzelcyk ($3.687 million)
LTIR pool moves: The most recent practice lines in Boston have a projected roster of 23 active players including 15 forwards, including Taylor Hall (who may not be ready to start the season), Jakub Luako, A.J. Greer, Jack Studnicka and six defencemen. However, this roster is $3,730,833 over the cap, which is more than LTIR candidate Grzelcyk’s $3,687,500 cap hit.
A solution is to waive and demote Chris Wagner, send down waiver-exempt Lauko, and recall John Beecher ($925,000) and Lysell ($894,000). This roster of 15 forwards, six defencemen and two goalies is $3,660,833 over the cap, which is $27,000 less than the maximum LTIR pool with Grzelcyk on LTIR. Subsequently, they could place McAvoy and Marchand on LTIR, adding their cap hits to their LTIR pool and available cap space, and then flip back Beecher and Fabian Lysell for Lauko and Wagner.
10. Toronto Maple Leafs
LTIR candidates: John Tavares ($11 million), Pierre Engvall ($2.25 million), Timothy Liljegren ($1.4 million), Jordie Benn ($750,000)
LTIR pool moves: For a deep dive on the moves the Leafs could make to maximize their LTIR pool, check out this in-depth article in partnership with Chris Johnston.
11. St. Louis Blues
LTIR candidates: Marco Scandella ($3.275 million), Scott Perunovich ($750,000)
LTIR pool moves: The Blues are another case where some minor training camp injuries can really provide a cap benefit. With Logan Brown, Ivan Barbashev, and Alexei Toropchenko all dealing with minor short-term injuries, that allows St. Louis to build a roster with 23 active players plus two of Barbashev, Brown, and Toropchenko on IR, Perunovich starting on IR, and Scandella ($3.275 million) on LTIR.
If the roster includes Jake Neighbours, Klim Kostin, and Brady Lyle ($800,000), it is $3,273,334 over the cap, which is just $1,666 less than the maximum possible LTIR with Scandella’s $3,275,000 on LTIR. Subsequently, they could add Perunovich ($750,000) to LTIR, adding his cap hit to their available space, while Lyle could be sent down in exchange for someone else.
12. Philadelphia Flyers
LTIR candidates: Sean Couturier ($7.75 million), Ryan Ellis ($6.25 million), Patrick Brown ($750,000)
LTIR pool moves: The Flyers are an interesting case because their injured players all ownvery large cap hits, with the exception of Patrick Brown who may be LTIR eligible. They also sent down Cameron York, who would typically be included in setting an LTIR pool due to his performance bonuses. The Flyers cannot build a roster even close to Ellis’ $6.25 million, so the next option is to either be under the cap (unlikely unless a large cap-hit player was waived and demoted), or be over the cap by up to Brown’s $750,000.
A roster with 11 forwards including a healthy Joel Farabee, waiver eligible Hayden Hodgson ($800,000) and sending down waiver exempt with low-performance bonus players Tanner Laczynski, Noah Cates, Wade Allison, seven defencemen including Ronald Attard and sending down waiver exempt Yegor Zamula is $442,000 over the cap. This is $308,000 less than the maximum potential LTIR with Brown on LTIR.
After setting their LTIR pool, they could subsequently add Ellis and Couturier to LTIR and add their cap hits to their available cap space. With all that additional cap room created, perhaps the additional cap hit incurred if York is subsequently recalled is not that critical. The other option would be to flip York and Attard at a later date as they have similar performance bonuses.
13. New Jersey Devils
LTIR candidates: Jonathan Bernier ($4.125 million)
LTIR pool moves: New Jersey will likely be the first team to use LTIR this season by submitting an opening roster that is under the cap. With 13 forwards, seven defencemen and two goalies on the roster including Simon Nemec, this 22 active player roster is $73,000 below the salary cap. After the submission, they can place Bernier ($4.125 million) on LTIR, and have an LTIR pool and an ability to exceed the salary cap by $4.05 million. That gives them plenty of flexibility for additional roster moves such as carrying a 23rd active player.
Pittsburgh does not have anyone injured that appears to qualify for LTIR. However, considering they’ll likely need to waive a player and go with a 22-player active roster to come in $45,000 under the cap, they would be perfectly poised to set an efficient LTIR pool if someone did go down with an injury.
San Jose has players with low cap hits with what appear to be short-term injuries (Markus Nutivaara, Alexander Barabanov), and Nicolai Knyzhov ($850,000). However, with $230,000 of projected cap space, they are better off accruing cap space to start the year and only setting an LTIR pool if they incur additional injuries and need the cap space.
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