How the Canucks’ greatest Pacific Division rivals greatly exceeded the salary cap (again) at the 2024 Trade Deadline

Photo credit:© Stephen R. Sylvanie-USA TODAY Sports
Stephan Roget
1 month ago
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Well, you can’t say we didn’t warn you.
A couple of weeks back, us intrepid folks at CanucksArmy published a piece entitled “How the Vegas Golden Knights are ready to circumvent the cap again (and why the Canucks can’t do the same).”
And while we didn’t quite nail down the details in that particular prognostication, we came close enough thematically to make it worth bringing up again.
At the time of that publication, Vegas centre Jack Eichel had just been placed on LTIR for an indeterminate period, and it seemed likely that the Golden Knights were going to keep him there until the end of the regular season and the start of the playoffs. In doing so, they would have opened up up to $10 million in relief space to spend at the deadline, and we predicted that they would do exactly that.
There is no cap ceiling in the playoffs, or any cap-related restrictions of any time. Stashing someone on LTIR, spending their relief space at the deadline, and then suddenly having that player return to health just in time for Game One of the playoffs is such a time-honoured workaround that by now it’s almost considered a yearly tradition.
Especially in Vegas.
But the reality ended up being a lot stranger than our fiction.
Literally the day after that article hit, news broke that Vegas captain Mark Stone had suffered a lacerated spleen. Now, we’re not here to go full conspiracy theorist. We’re pretty sure that spleen is actually lacerated, and we don’t think it was an inside job.
But we do find it mighty suspicious that as soon as Stone suffered the injury, Eichel’s status was upgraded from “who knows when he could be back?” to “he’ll play on Monday.” With Stone now on LTIR, Eichel was activated and returned to the Vegas lineup on March 4.
With Stone on LTIR until at least Game One, and Robin Lehner still there from the offseason, the Golden Knights hit Trade Deadline Day with more than $5 million in available relief space to spend at the deadline.
Yet, somehow, they managed to spend more.
In a twist that no one saw coming, Vegas decided to cut out a few middleman on their usual LTIR shenanigans by acquiring a player already suffering from a long-term injury: Tomas Hertl of the San Jose Sharks.
Hertl underwent a procedure to remove cartilage from his left knee in early February, and was said to be out at least seven weeks thereafter at the time. The writing seemed to be on the wall for Hertl to miss the remainder of the season for the Sharks.
Or not.
Right at the deadline buzzer, the Golden Knights shocked the hockey world by trading for the injured Hertl, giving up their 2025 first rounder and prospect David Edstrom in return for Hertl, two thirds, and 17% retention for the next six years running.
At that point, because Hertl had only been placed on IR by the Sharks, not LTIR, the Golden Knights still needed to find room for him and his reduced $6.75 million cap hit before he could be placed on LTIR. They accomplished that by simply demoting Byron Froese and Mason Morelli, giving them the space to accommodate Hertl and leave a little less than $300K in wiggle room.
When the dust settled, the Golden Knights’ roster looked like this:
-11 active forwards
-7 active defence
-2 active goaltenders
-4 players on IR (Hertl, Alec Martinez, Brett Howden, and William Carrier)
-2 players on LTIR (Stone and Lehner)
-A total cap hit of $97,710,817.
From here on out, it’s relatively straightforward. Before their next game, the Golden Knights will almost certainly place Hertl on LTIR, opening up another $6.75 million in relief space. That gives them enough room to recall their full complement of reinforcements (so long as they stick to their maximum of four recalls), and then with no roster limits there’s enough room to activate those other players on IR whenever they are healthy.
Hertl stays on LTIR until Game One of the playoffs, when he can be activated and added to the roster without issue. Whether or not the same is true of Stone remains to be seen, but nobody is going to be all that shocked if both are out there for warmups come late April.
That means that the Vegas Golden Knights will hit the playoffs with a roster that is more than $14 million in excess of the NHL’s supposed cap ceiling of $83.5 million.
Even if we discount the likely-retired Lehner and his $5 million from that equation, that’s still almost $10 million worth of players over the so-called limit.
They’re not the only ones, of course. The Toronto Maple Leafs exited the deadline with a cap expenditure over $98 million. The Tampa Bay Lightning, too.
The Canucks themselves are over the limit by about $2-3 million, depending on their latest recall.
The main difference here is that the bulk of the Golden Knights’ relief space comes from players that we all know damn well are going to be healthy for the playoffs. They’ve already all-but-confirmed that’s the exact plan with Hertl. Stone’s status is a little less certain, but that was the case last year, and he made it back for the first round all the same.
So why couldn’t the Canucks have taken advantage of this loophole themselves?
Well, they could have. Tyler Myers just went down with a week-to-week injury. As of this writing he’s still on he active roster, but he’ll almost certainly be shuffled to LTIR shortly to make room for further post-deadline recalls.
Could the Canucks have just kept Myers on LTIR until the playoffs and thus gained themselves up to $6 million in relief space? Yup. With him already out week-to-week, chances are good that nobody would have batted an eyelash is his absence stretched from, say, four weeks to the full six weeks left in the regular season.
In the end, they chose not to go down that path.
That being said, we also have to acknowledge that attempting to circumvent the cap is a much riskier endeavour for the Vancouver Canucks than it is for any other franchise.
In the wake of the Hertl shenanigans on deadline day, we heard a lot of this sentiment:
“Don’t blame the Vegas Golden Knights for exploiting a LEGAL loophole. Blame your own team for not having the courage to do the same!”
And that would be all well and good, if not for the fact that our local team is the only team in NHL history to be punished retroactively for exploiting a legal loophole prior to it being closed. Roberto Luongo’s contract was deemed legal, too, when it was signed, but Gary Bettman and Co. didn’t celebrate the Canucks’ boldness and creativity, they hit them with retroactive recapture penalties well after the fact.
If a similar post-dated punished ever falls on the heads of the Golden Knights, we’ll back off and stop complaining about the hypocrisy, but we all know that’s never going to happen.
And so we are left with the Canucks’ greatest threat in the Pacific Division having just picked up the likes of Hertl, Noah Hanifin, and Anthony Mantha and ballooned their roster to nearly $100 million worth of players, making an outright mockery of the salary cap.
And what’s left for the Canucks to do about it?
Absolutely nothing. Except, perhaps, beating the Golden Knights in the playoffs all the same.
Thankfully, in the sport of hockey, even $100 million doesn’t buy any guarantees.

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