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Could the Vancouver Canucks help two teams facilitate a trade as the Wild just did?

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Photo credit:© Jamie Sabau-USA TODAY Sports
Noah Strang
1 year ago
The hockey world got some big news on Friday night as the Toronto Maple Leafs traded for centre Ryan O’Reilly. The 32-year-old is a gritty two-way player and a great postseason performer that is sure to help the Maple Leafs during their playoff run. However, he also has a cap hit of $7.5 million this season, far too much for Toronto to slide into their organization.
Thanks to some creative accounting, the Maple Leafs were able to acquire O’Reilly at a cap hit of just $1.875 million, a much more reasonable number. The way that they did this is by involving a third team in the trade — in this case the Minnesota Wild — that retained money on O’Reilly’s contract.
After the dust settled, the St Louis Blues retained 50% of O’Reilly’s total cap hit and the Minnesota Wild then retained another 25% (half of the remaining 50%) despite O’Reilly never joining the team. This left a quarter of his cap hit left for the Maple Leafs to deal with. All of the teams will be rid of this commitment this summer as this is the last season of the former Stanley Cup champion’s contract.
While the Blues and Maple Leafs made a hockey trade, exchanging a veteran for future assets, the Wild were involved just as a third party to facilitate the deal. At the end of the day, the Wild spent $557k in salary cap space (the $1.875 retention for the rest of this season) and $74k real dollars (the actual dollars that they will owe O’Reilly for the rest of this season) in return for a fourth-round pick. In essence, they bought a draft pick.
The Canucks are in a situation where the playoffs are out of reach and they have the salary cap room to spare. If they’re willing to spend some cash, they can emulate the Wild and earn an additional draft pick for the near future by helping two other teams make a trade.

The Canucks’ salary cap situation 

While much has been made about the Canucks’ salary cap struggles over the last few seasons, the team actually finds itself with a bit of space at the moment. That’s because Tanner Pearson and Ilya Mikheyev have been moved to LTIR,  freeing up cap space that the Canucks can now put to work.
As it stands, the Canucks are sitting with just over $7.5 million to work with. In a hard cap world, that’s a very valuable asset that the organization can use to take on bad money while earning a reward for doing so. With Oliver Ekman-Larsson now set to miss multiple weeks with a high ankle injury, it’s possible that he’s also shut down for the season and given some extra time to recover, increasing the Canucks cap room even more.
All of this means that the Canucks have money to play with and potentially act as the third team in a similar trade to the O’Reilly one. They would retain money on a large contract and receive a draft pick for their troubles. With so much cap room, they could keep a large chunk of someone’s big deal and earn a better draft pick for their services.
To make this happen, the Canucks have to be okay with spending real-life money on a player that will never wear their jersey. The Wild are spending $74k on O’Reilly this season and he wasn’t a part of the organization for a second. Ownership will need to approve spending real dollars to earn the draft pick(s) that will help the team down the line.

How could the Canucks make this work?

There are a few examples of big-name players around the league that could be on the move this deadline but whose large contract is making things difficult. The first one that comes to mind is defenceman Erik Karlsson who is having a resurgence in San Jose. The Edmonton Oilers have been linked to Karlsson but it will be difficult for them to fit his $11.5 million cap hit within their accounting books.
The Canucks could play the middleman on a Karlsson trade to the Oilers. Fellow CanucksArmy writer Cody Severtson posted a hypothetical situation the other day on Twitter that showed some of the motivations and a potential format for what the skeleton of this transaction would look like, although there would need to be a boatload of draft picks added to make everything work.
Besides Karlsson, there are a few other players that could be on the move. The truth is that any contender would love to acquire help for their playoff run at a 25% discount and the Canucks could middleman almost any trade. All they need to do is be willing to spend the cash to grab an extra draft pick or two.

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