Why have a salary cap…when small market teams are still looked down upon!! by Geoff Brookes



© Geoff Brookes

Three days before the 2018 NHL trade deadline, the Winnipeg Jets were robbed by one of their rivals, the Vegas Golden Knights.

 For a little context, many have said that Derick Brassard is the most widely sought after forward in this 2018 trade deadline. It was also reported that the two teams that were pushing hardest to acquire Brassard by trade were the Pittsburgh Penguins and the Winnipeg Jets.

 According to Pierre LeBrun, the Winnipeg Jets’ offer to Ottawa for the services of player Derick Brassard was “substantial, maybe even better than Pittsburgh’s offer”. From an understated, cautious veteran of hockey panels, I believe that meant that the Jets’ offer was actually better than Pittsburgh’s offer. We don’t know the details, except we do know this:

  • In the original version of the deal between Pittsburgh and Ottawa, as first reported in the media late Friday morning, Pittsburgh was trading to Ottawa their first round pick in 2018, goaltending prospect Filip Gustavsson, and defenceman Ian Cole. It was widely reported that Ottawa wasn’t really interested in Cole and would likely trade him for something else. In addition, Ottawa and Pittsburgh would swap third round picks (Pittsburgh’s 2019 for Ottawa’s 2018),   “in a three-team deal also involving the Vegas Golden Knights” (CBC). Vincent Dunn was also being sent by Ottawa to Pittsburgh. There was no mention of any players being traded to, or from, the Vegas Golden Knights.
  • During the daytime hours on that Friday, it was reported that Vegas was covering part of Derick Brassard’s salary for the Pittsburgh Penguins, in that original version of the deal.
  • Also during the day on Friday, it was reported that the NHL had not approved the deal in the form that it had been presented to them. Here are a few sports reporters take on this:

o   Lebrun: “FYI source confirms that the reason the original Pitt-Vegas-Ottawa three-way trade got rejected by the league earlier today was for ‘improper use of salary retention mechanism’”;

o   Kypreos: “Hearing @NHL has rejected the Brassard trade unless @penguins @senators @goldenknights can restructure the trade to leagues satisfaction.”

o   Player agent Brian Lawton (@brianlawton9): “in order @GoldenKnights or any other team to retain salary they must FIRST have the player on their reserve list. You can not do a 3 way trade & assert that one club pays part of the salary for another player that is not on reserve list. Just a guess as to the wrinkle.” [as posted on twitter]

o   Friedman: “The teams will try to re-work it.”

  • Then, the “re-worked” deal was announced late on Friday evening. At least 9 hours after the original deal was announced, this was revealed as the league-approved version of the trade:

o   Along with Brassard, Pittsburgh also receives a third round draft pick (2018) and forward prospect Vincent Dunn from the Senators as well as forward prospect Tobias Lindberg from the Golden Knights.

o   The Senators have landed goaltending prospect Filip Gustavsson, defenceman Ian Cole, and two draft picks: a first rounder in 2018 and a third rounder in 2019,

o   Vegas obtains forward Ryan Reaves and a fourth-round draft pick (2018) from Pittsburgh.

salary cap

What a haul for Vegas ! And by the way, this further helps the Penguins by removing Reaves’ $1.125 million cap hit! I must repeat – none of this was in the reported original version of the trade.

The only players in this deal that get rave reviews from the media are Brassard, and goalie prospect Gustavsson. The swap of third round picks isn’t significant, and the other players traded are not significant (and go in opposite directions, so roughly even). So the original Pittsburgh offer to Ottawa is, in substance, their first round pick plus goalie prospect Gustavsson, for Brassard. Brassard was thought of as the most sought-after forward available for trade.

 We’ll likely never know what the Jets offer to Ottawa was. However, the Jets were also rumoured to be willing to trade their first round pick for a quality player before the trade deadline. Also, it’s been widely reported that the Jets likely have the most attractive collection of prospects of any team in the NHL. If the Jets’ offer was “substantial, perhaps even better than Pittsburgh’s offer”, it would likely have included (arguably) better prospect(s) than what Pittsburgh was offering, or more draft picks, or both.

According to Scott Billeck of NHL.com, the Jets were likely offering a “’solid’ package… likely means a first-round pick, a roster player and a high-level prospect.” That’s a “roster player” better than what Pittsburgh was offering!

 But what actually happened on Friday?

 John Shannon of Sportsnet asked Vegas GM George McPhee why Vegas would give so much money to Pittsburgh for the remaining term of Brassard’s contract, when they were getting back so little in return. Keep in mind that the original deal did not include anything going back to Vegas in this “three-team deal”:

 It’s worth mentioning that George McPhee, GM of Vegas, in an NHL.com interview with Scottt Billeck, did not dispute that preventing Winnipeg from getting Brassard was a motivation for Vegas, but “played down those reports in his presser, saying it wasn’t a ‘material’ part of the deal” [quote is from Billeck’s article].

 That, despite all of the above – the lack of any reported assets going to Vegas in the original deal reporting, the Lawton and Shannon tweets, and the NHL’s (rare) rejection of the original version of the trade.

 By the way, I have some nice swampland real estate for sale. Are you interested?

So, there it is, in plain view, in my opinion. Our wonderful Cindarella-story Vegas Golden Knights made sure that Derick Brassard would not go to the Winnipeg Jets!

 I’ve lived in Winnipeg, Manitoba for most of my life. I was born and raised here.

 Manitoba is a small province in Canada. We have a history of having to fight for our rights, and for fairness, within the confederation of Canada. Our Province’s inclusion in Canada began with rebellion. We’ve fought over lost federal contracts, loss of Canadian head offices, and the loss of technologically innovative contracts (including the Avro Arrow Jet). We never give up, but we are continually fighting for our place in Canada and the World. For the size of our population, we produce an unusual amount of talent and innovations.

 So when we feel that something unfairly targets our Province – or our sports teams – we get downright angry.

 We are very thankful that we have our Winnipeg Jets. We are indeed lucky to have them – both Jets 1.0 and Jets 2.0.

 But we won’t be opening any champagne bottles for the Vegas Golden Knights for a long, long time.

 Oh, and thanks also goes to the NHL, for helping Vegas to rework the deal, as “legal”, to keep Brassard from joining the Jets.


2 thoughts on “Why have a salary cap…when small market teams are still looked down upon!! by Geoff Brookes

  1. A wee bit of Dirty Pool being played here, not nice. Vegas being involved but with the assistance of the NHL to complete this deal, Bull Chips!
    What goes around comes around and the cross hairs are directly on you, Vegas.


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