A sudden outbreak of the mumps in the Canucks’ dressing room is wreaking havoc on their roster situation, with a couple of recalls already made and likely more to come. The salary cap is a tricky thing for NHL teams to deal with at the best of times, but a sudden influx and efflux of players, along with an illness that could keep a force an ever fluctuating number of players out of the lineup.
This is a great time to understand how the Injured Reserve, Long Term Injured Reserve, and Emergency Recalls work, so that’s what we’ll be going over today.
IR versus LTIR
It seems that every part of the CBA is often connected with many others, and this is no exception. To understand Injured Reserve rules, you have to understand the rules governing the roster. I already wrote about both of these topics in early January when the Canucks claimed Reid Boucher. The Roster rule is simply this: A team can only carry 23 players at any one time on its Active Roster in accordance with Article 16.4 of the CBA:
Naturally, every team in the NHL is going to have to carry more than 23 players at some point, due to injuries. That’s where the Injured Reserve comes in. It allows teams to move players off the active roster, so that they can make recalls of players they’ve loaned to minor leagues. The Injured Reserve is covered by Article 16.11:
Teams are allowed to retroactively assign players to the Injured Reserve dating back to when they first became unfit of playing. This is seen frequently when teams are unsure of whether a player will be out for multiple games – they might wait a couple of days with 22 healthy players, then assign the injured player to IR retroactive to the date of their last game and make a recall.
There is no limit to how many players a team can place on the Injured Reserve at any one point. However, players on the Injured Reserve still count against the salary cap Upper Limit. If a team runs out of cap space because of recalled players while another player is dealing with a long term injury, the team has the option of invoking the Long Term Injury/Illness Exception, or LTIR, to fit more players under the cap.
A couple of common misconceptions to clear up: one, the LTIR is not so much a separate reserve list from the IR, as it is a salary cap exemption. One doesn’t really move from IR to LTIR, but instead applies for and LTIR exception for an injured player’s salary. Two, having a player on LTIR does not mean that their salary doesn’t count against the cap, but instead grants the ability to exceed the salary cap Upper Limit.
Another notable difference between IR and LTIR is the length of time. IR requires not playing for seven calendar days, while LTIR involves not playing for 24 calendar days and ten NHL games.
The full rules for LTIR are laid out in Article 50.10 (d):
As mentioned, LTIR allows a team to exceed the Upper Limit, but only once the Upper Limit is reached. For example, imagine a team had a $72 million payroll and the Upper Limit was $73 million, and then a $2.5 million player sustained a long term injury. The team then acquires a $2 million dollar player, which would bring the team’s payroll to $74 million, one million too high. The team can then apply for LTIR for the $2.5 million player, and in this case, they will have a $74 million payroll, while receiving $1 million in cap relief. Note that they only receive cap relief in the amount that they would exceed the limit, not the entirety of the salary of the LTIR player.
Another facet of LTIR is that teams only need to apply for it when they are against the salary cap, again because it is an Upper Limit exemption. That’s why, on the Canucks roster for instance, neither Anton Rodin or Erik Gudbranson are currently on LTIR, despite being out of a long period of time without any timetable for returning.
The only Canuck currently on LTIR accordingly to CapFriendly.com is Derek Dorsett. Judging by the tables on CapFriendly.com, the Canucks were able to add Alex Grenier’s $600,000 salary and Evan McEneny’s $585,000 today and staying within the $2.65 million Upper Limit Exception. These moves left them with roughly $800,000 in space under the new Upper Limit.
Following the Comets games last night, word got out that the Canucks would be calling up Jordan Subban and Joseph LaBate as well. While either of Subban’s $755,000 salary and LaBate’s $680,000 salary would fit under the new limit, both would not at the same time. Therefore we’d expect the Canucks to invoke LTIR today on Erik Gudbranson, raising the theoretical Upper Limit exception by another $3.5 million. Plenty of room to work with.
Canucks flush with mumps. Recall Alex Grenier,Evan McEneny, Jordan Subban, and Joe Labate from Utica.
— John Shannon (@JSportsnet) February 25, 2017
There is a different potential issue however. Given the unknowns still involved in this case, it’s hard to definitively know what the best course of action is to take. The only confirmed case so far is Troy Stecher, so we’d think he’s a lock to hit the IR – the mumps should keep him out for at least seven days, and depending when he reported his symptoms, the seven days could have already started a day or two ago.
However, the Canucks might be reticent to place all five on IR without knowing how long they’ll be unable to play. It certainly seems that they’ll be unable to play tomorrow night however, and that’s where the Emergency Recall comes in.
Emergency Recall is described in Article 13.12 (m) of the CBA:
Emergency Recall is allowed when incapacitating injury or illness reduces the playing strength of a team to below two goaltenders, six defenders and 12 forwards. The Canucks had eight defenders and 13 forwards, and have lost as many as three defenders and two forwards to the mumps, leaving them with five defenders and 11 forwards – one too few at both positions, hence the recalls of Evan McEneny and Alex Grenier.
Without confirmation from the team or the league, we don’t know for sure whether a regular recall or an Emergency Recall was used. At most, Emergency Recalls could have been used on McEneny and Grenier, the first two to receive recalls. Assuming all five Canucks players showing symptoms are unfit to play, their additions brought the Canucks back to 12 forwards and six defencemen, ruling out further Emergency Recalls.
The additional recalls of Subban and LaBate then could not be Emergency Recalls, and thus other players must be hitting the Injured Reserve to make room. Given the four call ups, we can safely say that at least four regular players (two defencemen, and two forwards) won’t be playing tonight. It’s possible that one of them could be in the clear.
The smart money on that appears to be on Chris Tanev, who apparently is the only one of the group to receive a second mumps innoculation in adulthood. He was also the first one to experience symptoms, and thus may be closest to returning.
#Canucks Desjardins says he found out might be mumps Wednesday night and at that time, Tanev was 1st case and might be earliest to return
— Jon Abbott (@HockeyAbbs) February 25, 2017
There is another benefit to the Emergency Recall: it effectively extends the life of waiver limits, noted in Article 13.5 (ii):
This is meaningless for players that don’t require waivers (McEneny, Subban, LaBate), but it is useful for Alex Grenier, who cleared waivers earlier in the season. He can now be on the roster and get into games without them counting as days or games accrued while on regular recall.
You may recall that Andrey Pedan needed to be sent back to the minors last month because his waivers were about to expire. Given the information that I have here, it appears that Pedan could have been called up again now via Emergency Recall without accumulating further days, thus he should be allowed to stay on the roster and play up to ten games while the defenceman he replaces is injured.
However, once McEneny was recalled with the first round of call ups, that ship appears to have sailed. Emergency Recalls require fewer than six fit defencemen – and McEneny became number six.
The mumps have certainly forced the Canucks into some cap acrobatics, and it will be interesting (for people like me at least) to follow along and see how they handle it.
MORE FUN WITH THE CBA!
Offseason Training (from Ryan Biech)
Bo Horvat Goes to the All-Star Game (from Ryan Biech)
On the Conclusion of the CBA (from Ryan Biech)