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No hiding Crosby's impact in big picture with Penguins

Saturday, Feb. 25, 2012


The NHL's long-term injury (LTI) concept is designed to protect clubs willing to spend to or near the salary cap.

It is not about hiding players so teams can upgrade before the annual trade deadline, then possibly use those players in the playoffs after they return to health.

That is one reason the Penguins will not keep center Sidney Crosby on LTI for the rest of the season, even though he has played just eight games this season. Crosby, who counts $8.7 million against the salary cap, remains out indefinitely with lingering neurological symptoms including headaches.

Crosby, as he was early in the season, is on LTI so the Penguins can use his roster spot to recall players from the minors. Many in the organization believe Crosby will be cleared to play before the Stanley Cup playoffs. If the Penguins were to keep Crosby on LTI, make a move against his cap hit and then have Crosby be cleared, the team would be unable to use him until the playoffs.

The Penguins' reputation also could take a hit if opponents or NHL officials believed the team used the money it saved on Crosby's cap hit to bolster its roster down the stretch — essentially buying time for Crosby to get healthy while upgrading the team.

Such a tactic is enticing, if not unethical, because a club would be able to use in the playoffs the injured player and the player or players acquired using the money against his cap hit. The salary cap, set at $64.3 million for this season, is not in effect during the postseason.

"Our major concern when we included this mechanism was the potential for club abuse, which might have the effect of circumventing the effectiveness of the salary cap," NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly told the Tribune-Review on Friday. "For the most part, we are satisfied that there has not been widespread abuse."

It is nearly impossible to prove a club guilty of abusing LTI, several general managers said. Mostly, it's a team's reputation at stake.

The NHL Players' Association favors anything that provides clubs with roster flexibility, officials said.

The Penguins have less than $1 million in salary-cap space with which to play before the deadline. Penguins general manager Ray Shero declined comment, but he has repeatedly said placing Crosby on LTI for the remainder of the regular season is not an option.

The reality is most general managers pay barely pay attention to LTI when considering deadline acquisitions.

"That's more for cap teams," Phoenix Coyotes general manager Don Maloney said. "I wish I had that problem, but we don't."

LTI and trade deadline

> > Proposed by the NHLPA as part of the 2005 CBA negotiations, the long-term injury concept was welcomed by the NHL. "The thought was that the team should be able to utilize a replacement players (or players) of equivalent 'value' (or 'salary') for the duration of the long-term injury," deputy commissioner Bill Daly said.

> > Placing a player on LTI does not provide a team credit toward salary-cap space, rather just room to fill its roster with a player or players equal to the injured player's individual cap hit while that player is on LTI.

> > A player like Penguins center Sidney Crosby would count against the $64.3 million salary cap after he is removed from LTI. Thus, a team like the Penguins cannot make deadline-period moves against Crosby's $8.7 million cap hit if Crosby were to play again before the Stanley Cup playoffs.

> > A player like Flyers defenseman Chris Pronger, who counts about $4.92 million against Philadelphia's cap total, will not play again this season. Thus, the Flyers can subtract his individual cap hit and add players accordingly, but they would need to be cap compliant next season if/when Pronger returns to action.

> > Any NHL player on a club's roster at 3 p.m. Monday cannot be sent to the minors, per the CBA. At the expiration of the trade deadline, each club is allowed to recall only four players who can be returned to the minors for the duration of the regular-season.

> > A team can be over the salary cap in the Stanley Cup playoffs, but the NHL and NHLPA frowns upon hiding healthy players on LTI until the playoffs, officials said. However, it is nearly impossible to prove a club guilty of that action.

Sources: Tribune-Review research and record keeping; NHL; NHLPA




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