It is rarely ideal for a franchise to lose a player to a bonafide long-term injury/illness — about as fun as saying the term itself. However, there are salary cap benefits that come from utilizing the relief from a player being placed on a team’s LTIR list.
LTIR has been used by several teams, most notably the Toronto Maple Leafs, as a way to create more cap flexibility which amongst contending franchises is as good as gold.
Stephane Robidas became the first resident of what he would eventually be the namesake for, “Robidas Island”. A special tropical getaway where you and your cap hit take a quiet and permanent vacation. Since then, many have become citizens of Robidas Island where they silently wait out the remainder of their contracts on the sidelines due to injury or illnesses that prevent the player from continuing his career. The benefit of this for the franchise is that players who end up here won’t be able to play again, leaving no concern that suddenly a player could become well enough to recontinue their career thus costing the franchise a roster spot and worst of all, their cap hit.
The Maple Leafs have actively sought players to add to their LTIR in order to help their cap flexibility. How it works is that the CBA allows a team to ultimately get as close as possible to the cap limit and then create an inflated cap limit of the amount of the player that is placed on LTIR. With the case of Robidas, the Leafs knew that he would never be activated again so they were comfortable using the inflated cap space that was created.
So, in theory, let’s use a hypothetical player with a three million dollar cap hit. If the NHL salary cap stays flat at $81.5 million, and the hypothetical player goes onto LTIR, the team would then be able to spend three million more because they know that the player will never return. Suddenly, the player on the sidelines brings a lot of value.
For the Canucks, there are a few ways that they may be able to use this whether they plan to or not. Ideally, Micheal Ferland is able to safely find a way to resume his career in a way that doesn’t jeopardize his health so the other option is to acquire a player. One player that stands out is Ryan Kesler who has his contract currently housed by the Anaheim Ducks. Marred by hip injuries dating back to his tenure with the Canucks, Kesler will be a permanent resident of Robidas Island until his contract is up at the end of 2021/22.
His $6.875 million cap hit would provide ample cap relief if the Canucks were able to swing it to their benefit.
There is one key wrinkle to this working in the Canucks’ situation, however. The bonuses that Elias Pettersson and Quinn Hughes have unlocked count against the salary cap and can not be covered by any LTIR relief. Any relief from LTIR would have to be applied elsewhere.
In the end, the Canucks would have to be very creative if they wanted to take advantage of this avenue, and it is indeed a road less travelled for some teams, including the Canucks. Teams that have been able to make it work, however, have benefited greatly from the rewards.