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Visualizing LTIR

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Jump in the LTIR pool and swim around.

The Cascades at Two Rivers in Odenton Maryland Photo by Benjamin C Tankersley/For The Washington Post via Getty Images

Long-Term Injury Relief, or LTIR is a complex bit of NHL salary cap business. It’s complicated enough, that until you dig right into it, it seems like magic. This summer, the Leafs did this strange thing where they traded for David Clarkson’s contract so they could have more LTIR space. And this led a lot of people to the mistaken conclusion that the more players you have on LTIR, the more “space” you have. It’s become such a common misconception that many people suggested the Leafs could get even more dead contracts and have even more space!

It’s not magic. And more importantly, the Clarkson trade was to acquire more cap hit to ensure the LTIR space was used efficiently. I explained that in a lot of words here:

But that’s a lot to take in. It’s a big idea with a lot of tentacles, so as training camp is upon us and this discussion is going to engross us when we aren’t arguing over third pairs and fourth lines, let’s look at it visually. For the purposes of this exercise Mr Marner is poised with a pen in his hand to sign a contract and everyone else is healthy.

I created a plausible 23-man roster plus David Clarkson and Nathan Horton. Their cap hits add up to $82 million, and there is the retained Kessel salary to be considered, so the total cap hit of all of those guys is $83.2 million.

That’s what it looks like. Note Horton and Clarkson at the right end, making up the lovely chlorinated LTIR pool. Zach Hyman, the green strip to their left, should be overlapped with that pool to the tune of $1.7 million. He’s using some of that pool to allow the total to be less than the cap ceiling of $81.5 million. The space left in the pool for another swimmer is $8,865,301. (Remember to add another swimmer, someone first gets cut from the roster, so the pool gets a little bigger before we throw Mitch into it.)

Now, let’s pretend that there is no Horton or Clarkson contracts. This is the same 23-man roster:

Suddenly, we’re below the cap! That’s good. The total cap hit of this 23 men and the retained salary is $73.6 million, and the cap space is $8,865,301. (Same rule applies, to sign Mitch, you first cut someone from the roster, making the cap space larger.)

I hope that helps you to see that LTIR isn’t magic, and it doesn’t add cap space. The reason why it doesn’t is that you have to count the cap hits of the players on LTIR first and then you can use the space they take up as a pool to add healthy replacements.