With Curtis Glencross’ fresh new NMC, the Flames will head into next season with a league-high 10 such clauses on their roster (Iginla, Langkow, Stajan, Bourque, Jokinen, Bouwmeester, Regehr, Sarich, Kiprusoff, Glencross), leading to some understandable consternation about the inflexibility of a roster that is both expensive and hasn’t proven to be all that good the last two years. As such, an investigation of the use of the NTC/NMC is in order I think.
Under the current CBA, a no-move/no-trade clause can give the cap-strapped GM a non-monetary bargaining chip in contract negotiations. Used properly, granting the player a bit more power over his future means lowering the per-season cap commitment of the team and therefore increasing the chances of garnering more value out of the deal. NTC’s can also be used as an added incentive for a player to sign in city A versus city B if the latter team is unwilling to commit to the clause.
For the record, I think the Flames employed the NMC correctly when we look at the Glencross deal in isolation: the chance of the club replacing his contributiuons via free agency at the price of 2.55M per season were, I think, rather slim given the lackluster nature of the market this summer. Unless I’m completely misreading the tea-leaves, I’d say Glencross left about $2M on the table over the entirety of his 4-year deal. At least.
Glencross also had other reasons for taking a "home town discount" (family, success in the org) but the NMC becomes something of a necessity for players signing cap-friendly deals since another natural result of their (ahem) altruism is a more trade-friendly contract. Besides increased autonomy, NMC’s grant the player who leaves some money the table some protection against the team leveraging his contract in trades down the road. If the guy is a good bet to outplay his contract, then this is a defensible mechanism to include in the deal.
As has been mentioned by a number of commenters, A NTC/NMC doesn’t necessarily mean a player becomes completely immovable – numerous NHLers with such clauses in their contracts have been traded since the loock-out. The problem being, of course, that movement clauses can significantly hamper a club’s leverage in trade negotiations. The degree to which varies depending on what moderates the clause, but all but the most nominal NTC’s can artifically whittle down potential trade partners (and therefore demand), thereby reducing the chances of garnering a useful return if and when a player wears out his welcome on a given club.
Dany Heatley, for example, was dealt to the San Jose Sharks despite a NTC. Of course, it was the player in that instance who demanded a trade and the subsequent return for the Senators was, uh…nominal (to be kind). Once Heatley decided he wanted out of Ottawa, his NTC gave him pretty much all the leverage. Outside of suspending the player and drawing things out in sort of messy divorce, Bryan Murray was pretty much forced to deal one of his primary assets for a collection of flotsam. Keep in mind the Oilers had an arguably better package on the table for the Calgary native and the deal was (understandably) vetoed by the player. The Sens sold a former conerstone of the franchise for pennies on the dollar as a result.
A NTC can hamper trade talks in other ways, particularly when it’s been used injudiciously: a bad contract can become doubly so if the deal is further hobbled by further movement restictions. Moving bad dollars is tough enough in a capped environment. Example: Ales Kotalik, whose Sather negotiated cap hit was bad enough, but made even more noxious by the inclusion of the NTC. Only Sutter’s peculiar mania near the end of his tenure allowed Glen to escape that particular misstep mostly unscathed.
Movement clauses also don’t make much sense when they aren’t leveraged by management to lower the players real dollars/cap hit. Aside from intrinsic qualities of the franchise (management, city, ability to compete, current players, etc.) the primary incentives an organization can offer in contract negotiations are: salary (per year), term (number of years) and control (NMC/NTC). Granting all three should be left to the rareist cases; ie "franchise" type players. Otherwise the level of risk for the team is overwhelming. As a result, frugal managers will often deploy salary, term and control in a sort of equilibirium where more of one means less of the others.
Finally, NTC/NMC shouldn’t be granted to players who lack any significant leverage in negotiations. Guys who probably aren’t going to garner a lot of attention in the free agent market, for instance.
These are some of the reasons why many of Sutter’s final contracts are poor bets: he doled out term, salary and control to guys like Matt Stajan and Rene Bourque without any marked discount in return. He also bowed to a NTM for Olli Jokinen, despite the fact the guy flamed out spectacularly in town and was coming off the worst season of his career. There’s no chance Jokinen was a hot commodity on the market last year and he had precious little leverage in negotiations as a result. Why Sutter gave him a NMC is absolutely beyond me. At least he didn’t sign him long-term I guess.
The Flames and NTC’s
Other Flames examples: Cory Sarich (term, cap-hit and NTC) and Jay Bouwmeester (term, cap-hit and NTC). You may also include Langkow and Regehr here, although it’s arguable they signed deals that were percevied to be below market-value at the time they were negotiated.
As mentioned, the club boasts one of the most expensive, clause-ladened rosters in the NHL heading into this summer, which hampers Feaster’s ability to effectively clear the decks and start making real, meaningful change to the roster. While a movement clause doesn’t necessarily mean a deal is immovable in isolation, the effect of stacking one atop the other is an accumulation of risk. The chances of stubbing your toe on a NTC inceases with each new one granted, leading inexorably to the club either being stuck with player (or five) they don’t want or, at best, moving him for a bag of pucks a la Dany Heatley.
In conclusion: NTC/NMC’s aren’t necessarily bad things if used properly and I have no complaints about Curtis Glencross prying one out of Feaster. However, Darryl Sutter didn’t use them properly and the Flames are rather ineffecient as a result.