The Canucks won’t be able to call up Vasily Podkolzin (unless they put him on to the opening roster) due to performance bonuses

Photo credit:© Bob Frid-USA TODAY Sports
Stephan Roget
9 months ago
Vasily Podkolzin did not make the Vancouver Canucks out of Training Camp this year.
Podkolzin was among the large round of 20+ cuts that took the Canucks’ roster from camp-sized to near-season-ready in just one quick set of transactions. And, really, based on his preseason performance, few were surprised, though most had Podkolzin penciled in to their opening night lineups.
But opening night lineups and opening day rosters are two different things altogether, and while Podkolzin is now safely out of the running for the former, he’s still very likely to feature in the latter. As in, the Canucks are almost certainly going to recall Podkolzin back to Vancouver as they set their official season-starting active roster.
The short answer is “performance bonuses.” The long answer is this article.
Performance bonuses are a tricky thing. That they only count against the salary cap when they’re achieved is really only half the story. Teams can carry up to 7.5% of the cap ceiling in potential bonuses without issue, even if those potential bonuses might put the team over the cap, and if those bonuses are hit, they can roll over onto next season’s books.
That isn’t a concern for the Canucks, who only have about $1.5 million in total performance bonuses spread out around all their various ELC pro players.
Of far more concern are the rules that govern performance bonuses, recalls, and teams using LTIR relief space, of which the Canucks will be one.
The math gets a little complicated here. But the gist of it all is this:
Whenever a team places its first player onto long-term injured reserve, and goes “into LTIR” (exceeding the cap via LTIR) as a result, two pools are created.
The first is the salary relief pool, which is that magic number that the Canucks hit oh so perfectly last season.
The second is a performance bonus relief pool, and that one works a little different.
Whenever that first instance of LTIR occurs, the team’s active roster is snapshotted in time, and all of the potential performance bonuses present are tallied up into a performance bonus relief pool.
For as long as a team remains “in LTIR,” then whenever a new player with performance bonuses is added to the roster via recall, signing, or trade, their potential bonuses must fit within that previously-established relief pool.
If not, that amount comes out of the salary relief pool, effectively shortening the team’s available cap space by the amount of the potential bonuses.
It’s often said that, if a player isn’t on the opening day roster, then their full cap hit, bonuses and all, counts against the cap when they’re recalled. As you can see here, that’s not exactly true, but it is practically true, and especially when it comes to the Canucks and Podkolzin.
Podkolzin’s total amount of potential bonuses in this, the final year of his entry-level contract, are $850,000. That’s the most of anyone in the organization by a longshot. Jonathan Lekkerimäki’s $450,000 are the next highest, and he’s safely tucked away in Sweden. Everyone else is in the range of $80K or lower, and that makes Podkolzin a unique conundrum.
The basic effect is this: if Podkolzin is not on the Canucks’ roster when they send Tucker Poolman to LTIR (which will occur as they set their opening day roster), then whatever performance bonus relief pool they’re able to muster up will fall far short of the $850K in potential bonuses held by Podkolzin, and thus, to recall him, the Canucks would need to carve most of that $850K out of their salary relief pool.
Which, as it stands, is impossible. The Canucks are going to have enough room to ice a 23-player roster with Poolman’s relief space, but only barely. Fitting a whole ‘nother $850K in there is just not doable, not without either skating with a smaller roster or placing more players onto LTIR.
In other words, if Podkolzin is not on the opening day roster, he’ll either have to wait for more injuries before getting the call-up from Abbotsford, or else he’ll be quite literally stuck down there.
Of course, there is a simple solution available to the Canucks, and that’s just placing Podkolzin onto the opening day roster and then shipping him right back down to Abbotsford the next day.
In doing so, the Canucks would “capture” Podkolzin’s $850,000 as part of their performance relief pool, thus giving them ample room to recall him and anyone else with a bonus while they’re at it. The performance bonus relief will sit at a mostly-unused $850K (or more, if bonuses like Cole McWard’s $55K in potential bonuses are added to the mix) as long as Poolman remains on LTIR, and Podkolzin can come up and down as much as the team pleases.
This will require some clever roster manoeuvring from here on out. The Canucks are currently carrying 14 forwards, nine defenders, and two goalies. Even if Ilya Mikheyev starts the year out on IR, that still leaves at least one cut left before the opening day 23-player roster can be set. And two, if room is to be made for Podkolzin.
This could be as simple as swapping Podkolzin out for McWard and Nils Åman, none of whom require waivers this season. If Mikheyev is back, it will require one additional cut and thus someone placed on waivers, but any of Guillaume Brisebois, Noah Juulsen, or Jack Studnicka would probably be safe to pass through.
Do that, and the Canucks have nothing to worry about. The bonus relief pool will be in place, Podkolzin can safely be returned to Abbotsford to develop, and then, when he’s ready, he can come back to Vancouver to attempt to restart his NHL career.
Don’t do that, and it might be a long time before Podkolzin is seen again on this side of the Port Mann Bridge.
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