A GM's Carol: The Ghost of No-Trade Clauses

Danny Gray
September 08 2011 08:12AM

 

 

Feaster had barely had time to get back into his deep slumber when he was violently shaken awake and came face to face with a pair of demonic eyes.

“Jaaaaaaay…..Jaaaayyyyy”

Jay slowly rises from the bed and is promptly cut off at the knees by the apparition.

“Darcy Tucker? Are you the Spirit, sir, whose coming was foretold to me?”

“I am the Ghost of The No Movement Clause”

“All No Movement Clauses?”

“Of course not Jay. Your No Movement Clauses."

"Do you see this Jay? This is your capgeek page.”

“What are all those little green locks?”

“Those are your No Movement Clauses, all 11 of them, and they will be your undoing should you not heed my warning”

“Well we don’t have that many.”

“No other team has more than 8! And that’s the Canucks! Are you trying to set some sort of record Jay?”

“Well those players are valuable to us so we rewarded them, why would we want to move them?”

“I was once valuable Jay, when I had outlived my usefulness the team couldn’t get rid of me. In fact they’re still paying me, and my contract counts against the cap.”

“I would never have to buy anyone out.”

“Do you really think anyone is going to want to pay 34 year old Alex Tanguay $3.5 Million Dollars in 2013-2014? Do you know what his buyout would cost? You’d have to pay him $1.16 million dollars until 2018-2019.”

“So we keep him around, we can get rid of other players if we need to.”

“Every remotely valuable player on the team has one Jay! Jarome Iginla, Miikka Kiprusoff, Jay Bouwmeester, Mark Girodano, Cory Sarich, Anton Babchuk, Ollie Jokienen, Curtis Glencross, Rene Bourque, Matt Stajan, and Alex Tanguay. If we were the Muskoka Five, this is the Elbow Park Eleven. These guys aren’t going anywhere and they’re going to bring the team down with them.”

“Well I got rid of Damon Langkow just fine.”

“I guess the ghost of Cliff Fletcher hasn’t haunted you yet.”

“Maybe I could cobble together some of the players who don’t have one, like Hagman, Morrisson, Kostopolous, and Staios, into a deal for a young promising Norris Nominee.”

“I was unaware that Darryl Sutter was working again. Heed my warning Jay, stop giving out No Movement Clauses”

And with that, Feaster felt a hard shove in his back and he fell face first into his crumb covered bed.

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Danny once met Doug Gilmour and it changed his life. Had he met Bret Hart the same day he would not have been able to handle it. He can be found on Twitter @ACatNamedFelix.
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#1 JP Nikota
September 08 2011, 09:13AM
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This was touched on yesterday, but although a few of these NTC/NMC are coming off the books next year, and it isn't impossible to trade players with these clauses, it certainly makes it a lot more difficult to get any kind of valuable return for these players when it's time to rebuild. GMs are crazy about cap flexibility, and it can be difficult to get a good return on am aging player with a NMC/NTC.

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#2 Kent Wilson
September 08 2011, 09:26AM
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Yeah, the point about NTC isn't that they are necessarily unmovable, it's that it limits your options and potential return should you choose to part with the player.

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#3 xis10ce
September 08 2011, 09:42AM
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Great point here, some people argue that all these clauses are a product of the Sutter era yet this year Calgary had three resignings with clauses in Tanguay, Babchuk and Glencross.

I'm hoping next year the tide starts to turn.

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#4 Pension Plan Puppets
September 08 2011, 09:43AM
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@xis10ce

Unfortunately, GMs seem to be using these more and more as a crutch. JFJ seemingly gave them to everybody!

They should be reserved for the best players and used as leverage to get a discount on the contract. Instead, everyone and their brother has one.

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#5 dusty
September 08 2011, 09:46AM
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Weak article and weak humour. Come on.

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#6 Scott
September 08 2011, 10:29AM
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@dusty

Newly written article:

A GM's Carol: The Ghost of No-Trade Clauses*

Toronto under JFJ is very similar to Calgary as they gave out too many NTC's and it impeded their ability to improve the team.

*(Humor edited out)

More entertainment value for you?

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#8 RexLibris
September 08 2011, 10:52AM
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This is something I've offered up as well, in that the Flames aren't likely to cash in on a bunch of expiring UFA contracts and reap the rewards of a handful of extra draft picks as a result. Many of those NTCs and NMCs are on marginal players (Stajan, Jokinen, Sarich, Babchuk) with little return value to begin with, and the clauses in effect it essentially reduces the return to either a later round pick than would otherwise be returned or a lesser prospect or even roster player.

I think that in the (unlikely) event of Iginla being traded even his NTC would perhaps diminish, to a lesser extent, the return because the bidding GMs know that they aren't in competition with 28 other guys. Moving superstars rarely recieves an equal return. Often GMs will want to spread out the impact of the cost across their asset portfolio, to include picks, prospects, and roster players so that no single field of their franchise pays too high a price.

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#9 Scott
September 08 2011, 11:00AM
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@Danny Gray

Haha, no problem.

An interesting point in this discussion is what happened with Sundin at the end of his tenure in Toronto and his refusal to waive his NTC, and damaging his reputation (atleast in the media, and possilbe with ownership and management) in the process. If Feaster came out and publicly stated that they asked Jerome to waive his NTC and he refused, the PR battle could get just as ugly. Many players (like Regeher) would rather just waive and get out of town then to deal with a team and media turning against them like that.

While mostly seen as a benefit to the player, it can quickly turn to a negative. In your example about Tanguay in his last year, the fans will begin to wish they could move him and will begin to get fustrated. The player than looks like the jerk for not helping the team Hopefully these types of situations don't occur here, but there is a distinct possibility. (Avoided in the Regehr trade because of it happening in the offseason, with the draft and free agency destracting everyone.)

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#10 Tach
September 08 2011, 11:04AM
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Well, I thought the article was fun and informative. I don't think the problem is quite as intransigent as it looks because, as has been pointed out, at least 4 of the ugliest ones come off the books at the end of this season.

I agree with the comment that the NTC/NMC ought to be used as a means to secure a "discount". I don't necessarily agree that it has to only be for the best players. If you get enough of a discount in either absolute dollars or in term (because I think it is way less problematic handing out an NTC on a 1 or 2 year deal than on a 4 or 5 year deal) then it makes sense.

I heard an interview with someone once and they said that the problem with the hometown discount from the player's perspective is that it makes them a more marketable commodity and therefore trade bait - negating any benefit they get from giving a hometown discount.

The issue then becomes the magnitude of the discount given by the player. In my mind, the full NTC/NMC ought not to be given unless the GM has some certainty that the deal remains one where the player's contributions exceed their cap hit (or actual salary for budget teams) for the entire term of the contract. A possible exception would be where the discount up front is so significant as to take on the back end risk - like the Iginla contract.

The problem the Flames have run into is that by giving out NTC/NMC clauses on deals with marginal discounts (hello Jay Bouwmeester and Matt Stajan) you lose any negotiating leverage with the players who ask for it. They know that you will give it up for almost nothing, so they will stand pat until they get it.

I was hoping that Feaster would start to reel that leverage in a bit, but the Tanguay and Glencross signings have smashed that hope.

Also, I think an NMC should almost never be handed out, the distinction being that you can't get waived and sent to the minors. If you play so crappy that the team is willing to pay you just to get your cap hit off the team - that isn't protection against your contract being too favourable on the hometown discount.

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#11 Section205
September 08 2011, 11:08AM
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Strike two... Nobody would have traded for Tucker and his contract. NMC is moot if you can't give the player away, without buying him out first.

Can't wait for the season to start. I expect a great season from our talented lineup. Our future is safe as long as we keep our draft picks and make good selections. There is no secret to success.

Darryl had to trade away 2nd rounders to fill the roster, only because the previous regime couldn't draft when they had the best chances. Krahn, Fata, and (who was the other 6th overall pick again?). At least Sutter got Phaneuf at 9th overall in 2003.

Feaster has a competitive roster and can save his picks for the future. He looks like he is serious about investing resources into making good picks.

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#12 Scott
September 08 2011, 11:11AM
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@Section205

Interesting comment about Daryl trading away 2nd rounders to bring in veterans to fill the roster. As it appears that Feaster has to trade away 2nd rounders to remove veteran players from the roster (Kotalik).

Ahhh, the circle of life.

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#13 Pension Plan Puppets
September 08 2011, 11:28AM
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@Section205

We'll never know. I'd bet that someone would have taken Tucker on along with a 2nd rounder like Buffalo recently did with Kotalik.

You have a lot more confidence in this roster than most Flames fans I've spoken to. On paper it sure doesn't look much better than last year's.

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#14 Pension Plan Puppets
September 08 2011, 11:31AM
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@Tach

I'd agree with the fact that you could use it to secure discounts from other players but in practice how often would you want to give it to 2nd tier guys?

That's a good observation about hometown discounts. That's when they should come with a NTC. Otherwise, pay them market rate and keep the flexibility of being able to bail out.

And NMC are killer. If a guy wants to protect himself against the possibility that he'll be so terrible that a team will want to waive him or send him to the minors then a GM should probably question whether they should be signing him.

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#15 Section205
September 08 2011, 11:31AM
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@Scott

Yeah, things go in cycles. Like Burke trades lottery picks for a "star" player then later trades another "star" for late round firsts. Rhett Warrener did say that Sutter was crticized for doing exactly the same things that earned him the accolades before.

Are you saying you don't like Feaster's off season moves? I think he has done very well.

Are you saying trading 2nd rounders for Kipper, Bourque and Nilson wasn't good? Who did we have in the system?

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#16 Pension Plan Puppets
September 08 2011, 11:32AM
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@dusty

Weak comment and weak article. You come on.

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#17 Section205
September 08 2011, 11:51AM
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@PPP

It's a positive that this team is mostly unchanged, because it is a good team. It was playing badly from Jan 2010 to Dec 2010 (still beating the leafs,mind you). But they broke out of the slump in a big way. Brent Sutter has finally figured out some things with his players. We won't WANT to trade anyone at the deadline.

I think Feaster is wise to keep it together. Next year there is 22M cap pace, roster space for 3 or 4 cheap young players plus some nice free agency options.

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#19 Scott
September 08 2011, 12:03PM
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@Section205

I'm alot more critical of Feaster than I ever was of Sutter, and until the Phaneuf trade was a huge fan of Sutter's. After that point things got shaky real quick. I don't agree with trading Regehr at all, while still trying to sell this team as a playoff team. It wasn't a playoff team last year and has gotten significantly worse in terms of overall team defense. So i think the team should atleast have the courtesy to call this a rebuild instead of scrapping together a team that at best will squeak into the playoffs and calling it a playoff team. Plus the fact that Feaster has signed like a dozen depth defensemen for the AHL, maxed out our 50 contracts so any trading will be restricted to player for player or for picks. If they picked up Stempniak and don't resign him or trade him, I'll be happy with that.

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#21 JohnnytheJuice
September 08 2011, 12:12PM
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Interesting article, but this is the Leaf Nation board not the Flames nation...

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#22 Kent Wilson
September 08 2011, 12:24PM
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@JohnnytheJuice

It's appearing on both sites actually.

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#23 Tach
September 08 2011, 12:32PM
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@Pension Plan Puppets

"I'd agree with the fact that you could use it to secure discounts from other players but in practice how often would you want to give it to 2nd tier guys?"

I don't know that the best approach is to say we will only hand out X many NTCs or only X many aside from our top players. I just think that the reality is that you are only going to secure so much discount that at some point the NTC becomes worth more than any player will give back in a discount at their price level.

For guy's like Jokinen and Tanguay, there may be enough wiggle room that you can squeeze value out of the NMC. For guys like Stajan and Glencross, you would have to get them to take such a deep cut that it just doesn't become feasible. And if you get down to guys like Jackman and Kostopolous, they are already bumping along the minimum so there is no feasible value to extract.

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#24 RexLibris
September 08 2011, 01:00PM
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I keep hearing Flames fans saying that they needn't worry because there is so much money coming off the books et the end of this year with expiring UFAs, but nobody seems to acknowledge that those roster spots have to be filled with something approximating a player and with the farm system so shallow of plug-and-play depth guys who are NHL-ready, that shortfall has to be made up somehow. The Flames could slot in one or two rookies like a Nemisz, a Howse, or a Brodie, but there are only so many bodies to go around and the play of the team is likely to drop off. Also, when you play that many rookies, in a team environment that has become very accustomed to veteran presence and poise, will there be enough patience within the fanbase or the coaching staff to weather the learning curve?

You have 9 forwards coming off the books at the end of this year and, by my count, only 4 who could be considered ready for NHL duty by next year(Nemisz, Wahl, Howse, and Byron), 5 if you rush Baertshi. There are two coming off on D and at least there you could technically play Brodie and Breen. But my point is that the Flames organization refuses to discuss a rebuild, but teh harsh reality appears ready to force itself on them regardless. It's like a guy standing in front of where his house was before a tornado and he's talking about what kind of laminate flooring he has planned for a reno.

The same kind of denialist talk was coming from Burke two years ago when he kept telling everyone that the rules don't apply to Toronto and that he's smarter than everyone else because he's going to rebuild with college free agents, smart trades, and some wily UFA signings. The UFA bit hasn't gone well, but of course he's not to blame. The college route has been so-so, and as for the trades, well, Seguin, Hamilton and Knight. Enough said.

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#25 Tach
September 08 2011, 01:23PM
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@RexLibris

I did the math on this in the last GM's Carol thread at comment #32. By my calculation, all of the guys coming off the books are replaceable at around market rates with ~$3 million left to upgrade, and that was only using 2 or 3 guys from Abbotsford to fill in(Jackman replacement, Kostopolous replacement, maybe a Hagman replacement).

I wouldn't underestimate that $3 million either. For example, if we took that $3 million and just upgraded a single winger it would mean a big difference. For instance if we replaced Hagman with a winger up to $6 million, we could get UFAs like Shane Doan, Ales Hemsky or (he is listed as Left Wing on NHLnumbers.com) Zach Parise at their current cap hits.

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#27 Tach
September 08 2011, 02:47PM
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@Danny Gray

Agreed.

The reason this becomes problematic for teams is when you fail to develop your own homegrown talent. The Flames have a series of first round busts going back to at least 1997 up to 2006) (D. Tkaczuk - bust, R. Fata - bust, O. Saprykin - meh, B. Krahn - bust, C. Kobasew - meh, E. Nystrom - meh, D. Phaneuf - 1, yay!, C. Chucko - bust, M. Pelech - bust, L. Irving - bust to meh).

It looks like the Leafs had a similar problem although maybe not so exacerbated in 1994 to 2004 (E. Fichaud - traded away but a bust, J. Ware - bust, 96-97 traded away, N. Antropov - 1, yay!, L. Cereda - bust, B. Boyes - yay, oh crap traded away, C. Colaiacovo - 2, yay!, A. Steen - meh to yay?, 03-04 traded away)

To make up for this, you either have to go through what the Flames did in the mid to late 1990s when they unloaded top shelf players (Nieuwendy, Fleury)for other teams prospects that you then develop instead of your own (Iginla, Regehr) or you try and do what Burke is doing now which is find talent in unusual places or buy it with future picks. I think the jury may still be out on which, or either, of these worked or will work.

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#29 Pension Plan Puppets
September 08 2011, 08:05PM
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@JohnnytheJuice

We're collaborating!

And it's worked out well. All three posts have gotten a lot of good discussion. So kudos to Flames fans for looking at it critically rather than emotionally.

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#30 RexLibris
September 08 2011, 11:20PM
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Pension Plan Puppets wrote:

We're collaborating!

And it's worked out well. All three posts have gotten a lot of good discussion. So kudos to Flames fans for looking at it critically rather than emotionally.

Agreed. I was pretty sure after the first installment that there was going to be some serious pushback but I've noticed that there is a large segment of the Flames fan-dom that is anxious, even demanding, for some new direction and leadership. It seems Feaster is just selling them a slightly different version of what they've had for the last 8 or 9 years and they know it.

I've contrasted the situation of the Jets to the Flames and said that the Jets are in a better position long-term. The Flames will win more games, and the Jets aren't exactly overflowing with young prospects, but their advantage is in having a management system that is in touch with what the franchise needs and the most effective way to reach their goal. The biggest impediment for the Flames organization lies with either their ownership or their president. I guess that could be another similarity between them and the Leafs of old.

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#31 daoust
September 09 2011, 11:19AM
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The flames signed Tanguay to a 5-yr contract with a NMC? How did I miss something that absurd?? And how does Corey frickin Sarich get a NMC?

I don't want to poke fun at Calgary though. I'm sympathetic to their situation.

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