So, James Mirtle of The Athletic dropped a bit of a bomb on everyone on Tuesday afternoon, when he wrote an article arguing that the Leafs are not actually up against the cap. His argument is that LTIR can be used in the offseason, and he quotes NHL Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly as evidence.
“Yes, they can,” Daly said when asked if teams were permitted to access additional cap room in this fashion long before the season started. “Same as in-season.”
We recently wrote an article arguing the opposite - this was based on the premise that teams CANNOT use LTIR in the offseason. The way it is presented in Mirtle’s article, many teams seem to believe the same thing. It’s been thought for years that LTIR was not usable in the offseason. This is one of the reasons why it is not considered ‘free cap space’. Mirtle has suggested on Twitter that the reason this hasn’t come up before is because no team has been so close to the upper bound allowed by the 10% overage while still needing to re-sign key free agents.
We (by this I mean Species1967) did some further digging and found a quote from Stan Bowman (GM of the Blackhawks) alluding to different versions of LTIR.
“I think there’s a little bit of a misconception on the LTI provision in the salary cap, and understandably so. It’s very complicated. It’s not as simple or as easy as people think it to be,” Bowman said on Thursday, the day before the Blackhawks hosted the 2017 NHL Draft. “I don’t want to get into too many details because it’s hard to explain it all, but there’s a couple different ways it can work.
"You can use offseason LTI and in-season LTI and there’s drawbacks to both, and there’s limitations the way that the league handles those things. It’s not as simple as people might think that we just have this ability to suddenly replace Marian with another player. It’s way more involved than that.”
Of the offseason and in-season LTI options, Bowman told CSN's Pat Boyle and Steve Konroyd that if the Blackhawks choose the latter, "Marian has to count to start the season with his full amount."
So evidently, there is a distinction, and presumably, for offseason LTIR, you don’t have to count the cap hit on opening night.
Back to the Leafs. CapFriendly also added an explainer of the Leafs cap situation, linking to Mirtle’s article. This new information contradicts their previous explanation of the situation where they, like us, argued that the Leafs didn’t have the cap room to sign Connor Brown.
Most interestingly, this contradicts something Daly told The Athletic less than two weeks ago, when Scott Powers was writing about the Hossa situation.
Here’s what NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly officially wrote about the situation when emailed on Thursday: “There is no LTI in the off-season. We are looking at the facts and will make appropriate determinations at the appropriate time. There is no timeline I can share.”
So, what gives? What was the change from June 30th (the quote above) to July 11th (the quote in Mirtle’s piece). This does make it seem like the NHL is kind of making things up on the go, which is both insane, and so very NHL. Hopefully, there’s a better explanation though. If the later clarification is correct, it does indeed mean that the Leafs have the room to sign Connor Brown whenever they want to.
We’ll continue to update this as necessary.