LTIR Primer & projecting how teams will set their roster to best utilize LTIR
LTIR Primer & projecting how teams will set their roster to best utilize LTIR
Originally published Oct 6. Some items subsequently updated and noted
Projecting how teams will set their roster to best utilize LTIR
Welcome to the second annual PuckPedia LTIR prediction piece, where we attempt to predict how teams will set their rosters up for the NHL’s opening roster submission to optimize LTIR and their cap space.
Last season, a new record was set with a whopping 19 NHL teams placing players on long-term injured reserve (LTIR). That beat the previous record, which was set the previous season, of 16 NHL teams.
You can expect to hear a lot about LTIR over the coming days as it will factor in heavily as clubs manipulate their rosters and cap sheets ahead of the Oct 9 opening roster submission.
LTIR is one of the most cited, impactful, and yet misunderstood acronyms in the NHL’s salary cap era.
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 $83.5 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. Once this method is used, the team starts the season with $0 cap space until more roster moves are made.
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 will 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 $4.5 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. Consequently, 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 15 teams have performance bonus overages from 2022-23 on their 2023-24 cap sheets.
Potential LTIR teams to start 2023-24
Currently, there are 8 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. Toronto Maple Leafs
LTIR candidates: Jake Muzzin ($5.625 million), Matt Murray ($4.6875 million), Conor Timmins ($1.1 million), Bobby McMann season opening IR ($193,716)
LTIR moves: The Leafs have many moving pieces, and the puzzle can be tricky to put together. Dylan Gambrell’s concussion could have a major impact on things. If he’s healthy and is sent down, the Leafs can put a roster together that has 19 healthy players plus Timmins and is $10.08 million over the cap by sending Knies down on paper. This puts them $234K under the combined $10.3125 million for Muzzin and Murray combined. They could subsequently add Timmins and McMann’s SOIR to LTIR, gaining $1.29 million of cap space, which could be used to recall Knies.
If Gambrell is not healthy, the most optimal route would be to put a higher cap hit player on waivers and demote them, like Lafferty or Reaves. A 19 healthy player roster including Knies with 1 of Lafferty/Reaves down is $10,628,499 over the cap. They could sign PTO player Noah Gregor to a $784,000 contract, putting them at 20 healthy players and $11,412,499 over the cap. This is just $1 short of the optimal LTIR with Muzzin, Murray, and Timmins all on LTIR ($11,412,500 combined). They could then subsequently put Gambrell and McMann’s SOIR on LTIR, gaining $968,716 of cap space. It wouldn’t be enough to recall Lafferty/Reaves, but a less expensive option could be recalled as a 21st player, or Lafferty could be swapped for Holmberg/Knies.
October 8 update:
The second path was clearly preferred by the Leafs as they traded Lafferty. Assuming McMann is injured, they can stick with prospect Minten on the roster come within $132K of the maximum LTIR with Muzzin, Murray, Timmins, and McMann SOIR. Alteratively, then can stick with the suggestion above and send Minten down and sign PTO Gregor for $784K, coming within $1 of optimal LTIR capture. They could then add McMann to LTIR, gaining his $194K SOIR Cap Hit as Cap Space. This assumes McMann starts on Injured Reserve.
2. Colorado Avalanche
LTIR candidates: Gabriel Landeskog ($7 million), Pavel Francouz ($2 million), Chris Wagner Season Opening IR ($25,135)
LTIR moves: The big question mark is what Colorado does at the backup goalie position. If they stick with Justus Annunen, they can build a roster of 23 healthy players that is $8.90 million over the cap, which includes Tufte and Malinski on the roster, and 1 of Cogliano and Meyers starting on Injured Reserve. This roster is $100K below the cap hit of Landeskog and Francouz’ combined $9.0 million. After setting their LTIR pool, they could add Chris Wagner’s $25K Season Opening IR to their LTIR pool and gain a small amount of additional space. However, if they replace Annunen with a more expensive backup, that likely means 1 or both of Tufte and Malinski sent down, and some different maneuvering to optimize LTIR.
October 8 Update: Tufte on waivers and Malinski and Meyers assigned to the AHL, it looks like Colorado does not have a regular player that is eligible for IR. In order to get close to the $9M over the cap to optimize the LTIR for Landeskog plus Francouz, they needed 23 healthy + 1 IR. If Cogliano does start on the IR, then expect them to recall 3 players and get close to $9 million over the cap. Failing that, it looks like their opening roster will be about $6.5M over the cap, meaning Landeskog will start on LTIR and they'll lose out on $500K of potential cap space this season.
3. Tampa Bay Lightning
LTIR candidates: Andrei Vasilevskiy ($9.5 million), Brent Seabrook ($6.875 million), Logan Brown ($775,000)
LTIR moves: With several potential back-up goalie options likely to hit the waiver wire this weekend, the Lightning cap picture is almost sure to change. Every year they come up with creative ways to completely optimize LTIR, so this year is likely no different. The goal for Tampa is submit a roster that does not include Vasilevskiy on LTIR, and then subsequently add him, gaining his $9.5 million as additional cap space while he’s injured.
As it stands with Tomkins as the backup goalie, to optimize LTIR it likely requires Bogosian ($850K) waived and sent down, and a 21 healthy player roster that includes Barre-Boulet as the 12th Forward and Raddysh as the 7th Defensemen. This roster is $6,873,333 over the cap, just $1,667 away from Seabrook’s $6.875 million. After submitting this, they could add Brown ($775K) and Vasilevskiy ($9.5M), which adds $10.275 million of cap space to utilize for additional call-ups while Vasilevskiy is hurt. Again, this is likely moot as it would be a surprise if Tampa doesn’t upgrade Tomkins at back-up goalie.
October 8 update: Tampa is proceeding with the 2nd path, as they waived Bogosian. If he's sent down and the backup goalie is Tomkins (or someone else with a 775K Cap Hit), they are within $1,667 of the optimal LTIR capture.
4. Vegas Golden Knights
LTIR candidates: Robin Lehner ($5 million), Zach Whitecloud ($2.75 million), Daniil Miromanov ($762,500)
LTIR moves: Vegas can build a 22 healthy player roster that is $4.91 million over the cap, which is $89K below Lehner’s $5 million. They could subsequently add Miromanov and Whitecloud to LTIR, gaining $3.51 million of additional cap space.
Alternatively, they could build a 23 healthy player roster that is over the cap by just under Lehner plus Miromanov’s $5,762,500 combined cap hit. One path is to sign PTO Max Comtois for $851,684, which then puts them exactly $5,762,500 over the cap with 23 healthy players, perfectly optimizing their LTIR capture. They could subsequently add Whitecloud to LTIR, gaining his $2.75 million as cap space.
5. Montreal Canadiens
LTIR candidates: Carey Price ($10.5 million), Christian Dvorak ($4.45 million), Chris Wideman ($762,500)
LTIR moves: With just Carey Price an LTIR candidate, Montreal was in a tough spot to optimize LTIR: either build a roster under the cap, or build a roster all the way to $10.5 million over the cap. However, the injury to Christian Dvorak makes things much easier. They can build a roster of 23 healthy players that is just under Dvorak’s $4.45 million; with Pezzetta as the 13th forward, waiver-exempt Norlinder sent down, and waiver-eligible Primeau remaining as the 3rd goalie, the roster is $4.39 million over the cap, $57,083 away from optimizing LTIR. They could then subsequently add Wideman and Price to LTIR, gaining $11.3 million of additional space.
If any players are injured and eligible for Injured Reserve to start the season, they could start with Dvorak and Wideman on LTIR, and add another player with a cap hit under $819,500. If they did that with a $775,000 player, they are within $44,500 of optimizing the LTIR pool, a little closer than the first scenario.
October 8 update: Montreal waived Armia, and did not waive Ylonen. This suggests they will go with a roster just over $4.0M over the cap, leaving them about $400K short of optimizing LTIR. However, this is likely not a huge priority since they'll subsequently add $10.5M in cap space by subsequently adding Carey Price to LTIR.
6. Vancouver Canucks
LTIR candidates: Tucker Poolman ($2.5 million)
LTIR moves: Vancouver has limited flexibility, with just Tucker Poolman likely eligible for LTIR. Last year, Vancouver won the LTIR optimization contest getting to exactly the optimal LTIR capture. This year, the path looks much more difficult. One somewhat radical option is to waive and send down Juulsen, Wolanin, and Studnicka, putting them at 20 healthy players (which includes Mikheyev) and $270,000 under the cap. They could then put Poolman on LTIR, and be able to exceed the cap by $2.23 million this season. After calling those 3 players back up, they would be $2.04 million over the cap, leaving $187K of cap space.
The less noisy option is to just submit a roster with 23 players that is $2.04 million over the cap. That misses out on optimizing LTIR by $457K, and then starts the season with 0 cap space. Considering the expert moves by Vancouver last year, do not rule out them pulling out a wrinkle before Monday.
October 8 update: We predicted Vancouver would make a move, and they did that by trading for Lafferty. After waiving Wolanin, they can now come within $70K of capturing Poolman's $2.5M in LTIR with the current roster. Or, to get closer, they can swap Aman for Podkolzin and bring that number of wasted potential cap space down to $28K. Adding Podkolzin for the opening roster also has the benefit of adding his performance bonuses to the performance bonus LTIR pool.
7. Washington Capitals
LTIR candidates: Max Pacioretty ($2 million), Joel Edmundson ($1.75 million)
LTIR moves: With both Pacioretty and Edmundson out long-term, the objective for Washington is to be over the cap by as close to either of those amounts. They can build a 22 healthy player roster that is $2,000,833 over the cap with Miroshnichenko, Protas, Phillips, and Malenstyn rounding out the forward group, and Johansen as 7th defenseman. However, that $833 is key, because being over $2.0 million would not allow them to set the roster with just Pacioretty on LTIR. So, the likely option is to send Protas down, call up a $775K player, and have a roster that is $1,986,666 over the cap, which comes within $13,334 of optimizing Pacioretty’s $2.0M on LTIR. They can subsequently put Edmundson on LTIR, adding $1.75 million of cap space, and allowing them to add Protas back to the roster.
8. Calgary Flames
LTIR candidates: Oliver Kylington ($2.5 million), Kevin Rooney ($1.3 million), Jackob Pelletier Season Opening IR ($406,000)
LTIR moves: With a roster of 21 healthy skaters that includes 12 forwards (Duehr/Hunt/Ruzicka as #10/11/12), and 7 Defenceman (includes Gilbert as #7), the roster is $1,681,000 over the cap. Kevin Rooney ($1.3 million) plus Pelletier ($406K on SOIR) is $1.706M, so this roster is just $25K away from fully optimizing LTIR. After submitting their opening roster, they could subsequently add Kylington to LTIR, adding his $2.5 million as cap space. This would allow them to call up 2 more healthy players, like Schwindt, Solovyov, and/or Klapka.
Ottawa Senators - A Shane Pinto contract and Josh Norris' health are obviously the wild cards with the Senators. The current roster is $63K below the salary cap with 21 players. That means that they could submit the opening roster under the cap, then put Norris on LTIR, and have $7.887M Cap Space to work with while he's injured. If Norris is eligible for LTIR, a more optimal solution would be to swap Greig for Sogaard by Monday. That brings them just $953 under the cap, meaning they would capture $62K additional cap space when Norris hits LTIR ($7.95M of Space). Putting Norris on LTIR would allow them to sign Pinto; the challenge with that strategy is that barring additional long-term injuries, they would have work to do to clear enough space for Norris to return.
Minnesota Wild – With a 21 healthy player roster, Minnesota can be within $43K of the cap. If Spurgeon ($7.575 million) is injured long-term and qualifies for LTIR, they could place him on it and have $7.53M of cap space in LTIR available while he’s out.
Florida Panthers – Florida looks to be comfortably under the cap with 22 healthy players. However, with both Aaron Ekblad ($7.5 million), Brandon Montour ($3.5 million) likely eligible for LTIR, some additional injuries could cause them to move to an LTIR team.
In addition to the 8 teams likely to start the season in LTIR, another 10 teams project to have less than $700,000 of cap space. That means if injuries hit, we could expect many of these teams to also enter LTIR at some point.
Watch for the teams making roster moves through the Oct 9 roster submission and see the final rosters on PuckPedia.com.
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