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Thursday, October 7, 2010

It's Not Over Yet Between New Jersey Devils and Toronto Maple Leafs

Patrik Elias's No Movement Clause
Might be the Final Inhibitor to a
Trade Between Toronto and New Jersey
My previous post on how New Jersey Devils must deal with Toronto Maple Leafs if they want to trade one of their bad contracts has garnered a lot of interest where some have viewed the piece with incongruence.  I must add, it has been civil and respectful when coming from New Jersey Devils fans.

The team should be proud of its loyal fans.  In addition to their devotion, they are also extremely knowledgeable.  I remember one participant in a Tom Gilutti chat boards reiterating the relevance of Brian Rolston's contract being a "35+" contract where his salary can not be buried in the minors.  Of course, he was so frustrated with having to reiterate his point that he threatened to kill himself if it had to do it one more time.  Poor bastard is probably dead by now.

From the blogasphere, Lyle Richardson was the strongest contrarian with his piece posted at  He asserted: 

"The easiest and likely best way for the Devils to address their situation is to demote either Dainius Zubrus or defenseman (sic) Colin White now that Bryce Salvador will start the season on the long-term injured reserve list."

I agree with him.  But, not fully.  Assigning bad contracts to the minors is the best way of resolving this cap problem.  However, given the financial cost, potentially up to $16 mil., it is not the “easiest” way.  Also, it can no longer be claimed to be the likeliest thing to happen given it has yet to happen and the NHL season has started.

In all likelihood, Lou Lamoriello is trying to work out a trade.  If this is the case, I continue to assert Toronto is the most likely trading partner.

Lou can move NTC (No Trade Clause) contracts to Toronto simply by placing them on waivers and letting Toronto (who gets second claim on any waived players) pick them up.  So, Lamoriello can trade Brian Rolston or Jamie Langenbrunner to Toronto.  Of course, Edmonton Oilers can intercede and claim the player.  I am sure Brian Burke will be crushed if this happened trying to take Brian Rolston from New Jersey.

Toronto can free up cap space just by alone assigning Jeff Finger to the minors.  This would allow Toronto to receive $3.5 mil in cap from New Jersey.  

I cannot see Toronto eating Fingers $3.5 mil just to fill in holes on the third line.  I only see it being done to facilitate upgrading their first line.  I am not disparaging Dainius Zubrus, Brian Rolston, and Jamie Langenbrunner.  They are "win now" players signed to "win now" contracts.  They are final pieces you add to your team after you have your first line established.  Good veterans who are over 30 years old playing on your third line at a premium salary.

Lou Lamoriello thought his team was ready for these players when he signed them.  Clearly, he had a change of heart or thinking when signing Ilya KovalchukToronto is not at the stage to go after the final pieces.  Besides, if I am wrong, all Burke has to do to get Zubrus is wait for New Jersey to place him on waivers.

For Toronto to waive Jeff Finger, it has to be for a deal involving either Travis Zajac ($3.877 mil), Patrik Elias ($6 mil), or Zach Parise ($3.125 mil).  You will first have to kill Lamoriello to get Zach Parise.  If you don’t, New Jersey Devils fans will.  So, $3.5 mil in cap space will not be enough to get a deal done.  This takes us to the next tool in Toronto's possession. 

Bonus-laden contracts.  Toronto has many of them.  They total $5.12 by my calculation, which is over the $4.455 max, allowed for deferral to next year.  Moving first line centre Tyler Bozak ($875k salary - $2.85 mil bonus) will free up $1.515 mil in cap space for the Leafs plus allow Leafs to use $680k held in reserve for bringing up third goalie Jussi Rynnas (bonus laden contract).  This makes available an extra $2.195 mil in cap available to a total of $5.695 mil.

Enough space to take Travis Zajac and close to Patrik Elias.  I imagine, this is the nucleus of the trade ideas coming from Brian Burke.  “Let’s start with Tyler Bozak for Zajac or Elias as the foundation for our trade.”

This alone, will be unacceptable for Lou Lamoriello.  To paraphrase Lyle Richardson, New Jersey will not trade one of their best players for a lesser player to resolve their cap situation.  I will add my own assertion, New Jersey cannot expect to trade one of their good veteran players for a player of equal skill who is younger and paid a half to a third of the salary plus have Toronto eat Jeff Finger’s contract to make space.

Burke and Lamoriello need a compromise to do a deal.  Given New Jersey's moves in the past few days, we have a real reason to believe they are working on one.  For a deal to be done, Lou will identify a player he covets from Toronto.  I suspect Tomas Kaberle ($4.25 mil).  Plus, he will identify his worst contracts for Toronto to pick up.  Brian Rolston ($5,062,500) should be at the top of the list.  Remember, New Jersey and Toronto can work around his NTC using waivers.  If not Rolston, it could be Zubrus ($3.4) or Jamie Langenbrunner ($2.8 mil).

So, the nucleus of any deal probably will be Tyler Bozak and Tomas Kaberle to New Jersey for Travis Zajac and Brian Rolston or Patrik Elias and Dainius Zubrus/Jamie Langenbrunner.  Plug it into capgeek and you will see there is room to sign Adam Mair (up to $950k to $1 mil) and add another forward such as Tedenby or two forwards at the minimum $500k.

Tomas Kaberle does have a NTC contract.  But, not many people believe it is outlandish to think he prefers playing with Kovalchuk over playing for Ron Wilson in the final year of his contract.  It may not be an obstacle.  The biggest obstacle for which I have no resolution to suggest is getting Patrik Elias's approval because of his NMC (No Movement Clause) contract.  Perhaps, this explains why everything seems to be in limbo.

Please understand.  I don't know what will happen.  I am just a hockey fan speculating on the situation.  However, I do believe my speculation has some merit.

Post Script to New Jersey fans.  If this happened two years later, Lou Lamoriello would have more options to address the problem because he has plethora of good young prospects.  Some of them, Nick Palmieri and Adam Henrique, I have seen play in Ontario Hockey League games.


  1. I have to think that Zajac is going to be very tough to acquire.

    As much as this scenario is a lot more fun and infinitely more interesting than contract burying, I still think that's probably what happens... sadly.

  2. If logic prevails, a contract will get buried. For whatever reason, Lou is buying time and hanging by a thread.

    It will be interesting to see how resolves his situation with Adam Mair. It sounds like Adam Mair believe he is playing the first game even though a contract has not been announced. For me, this is a moment a truth.

    The next moment of truth is 1st of Nov when Salvador and Salmela come off of LTIR. Coincidently, waiver claim switches to current season standing from last season standings. For Lou, this must be like a shuffling of the deck where there can be new teams he can trade Langenbrunner to by placing him on waivers.

    The thing which makes me shake my head the most is Brian Burke and Lou Lamoriello were the two biggest talkers about burying big contracts this year. Neither one has done so.

    Oh well, let's wait see. As always, I appreciate your comments and blog posts at