The trade cleared Stepan's $6.5M Cap Hit from the Coyotes. Most importantly, it moved them from a team over the $81.5M Cap, and therefore needing to place Hossa ($5.275M) on LTIR to be cap compliant, to a team below the salary cap and no longer needing to use LTIR.
After the trade, the Coyotes were $2.98M projected over the $81.5M cap with 22 healthy players on the roster (plus Hossa on IR). That means that unless they make a large acquisition, they will begin the season under the $81.5M cap. Hossa will still be out, but because they're under the cap, he will be on regular Injured Reserve instead of Long Term Injured Reserve. This has several benefits, which you can find in this LTIR overview. The key benefits are:
-By being under the cap and not using LTIR, the Coyotes will accrue Cap Space. Having Cap Space early in the year always helps later in the year, but in this shorter season and each day representing a greater % of the season, cap space accrued early works out to even more cap space available later in the year than in a normal year. There's an example here. Arizona could potentially get an asset for taking a large cap hit later this year.
-When a team is using LTIR, they are over the $81.5M cap. That means that any performance bonuses earned will automatically be a carryover bonus overage which will be a cap hit in the following year. In 19-20, the Coyotes were over the cap and using LTIR. That meant that when Keller earned $393,902 in bonuses, that total became a carryover bonus overage. Arizona elected to use the one time 2020 off-season election to split the overage over the next 2 years ($196,951 in 20-21 & 21-22). Now that they're likely to be under the $81.5M Cap, performance bonuses earned by Hayton ($1.75M in potential bonuses) will not automatically be a carry over. The bonuses will only have a carry over if the final team cap hit plus the bonuses earned are in excess of $81.5M. For example, if the Coyotes add some cap hit and finish the year with an $80.5M Final Cap Hit, and Hayton earned $850K in bonuses, they would not have an overage. If he earned $1.75M in bonuses and their final cap hit was $80.5M, their overage carryover would be $750K ($80.5M+$1.75M-$81.5M).
In addition to salary savings, this trade opens the Coyotes up to potentially adding assets later in the year in exchange for cap space, and decreases potential bonus carryover overage for next year.