Traditionally the time we have designated in the modern working world as when the sun is over the yardarm, 5 p.m. suddenly matters more than just when you go get a beer and settle in to wait patiently for the next hockey game to start.
There are a lot of things in the NHL CBA that set 5 p.m. New York time as a time of significance. It’s the time when a new day begins in the NHL for things like registering contracts or trades. It’s also when the salary day flips over to the “next day”. All of this is outlined in Article 50.9, but for us today, what we need to understand is how this affects movement to and from the Taxi Squad and player salary.
A few days ago, the Maple Leafs sent Alex Barabanov to the squad and called up Mikko Lehtonen. They did that for one day, and for that one day, they each were paid according to their new location. Lehtonen got one day’s NHL salary, which was the point of the exercise.
The day in question is measured at 5 p.m.:
(i) For any Player who is on a Club’s Active Roster, Injured Reserve, Injured Non-Roster or Non-Roster pursuant to an approved and registered SPC at 5:00 p.m. New York time on a particular day during a League Year, such Player shall receive his Player Salary and Bonuses for that day, and such Player Salary and Bonuses shall be included in the calculation of the Club’s Actual Club Salary and Averaged Club Salary for that day.
So, Lehtonen was on the roster on the Leafs off-day at 5 p.m., but the next day, Friday, was gameday, so they were switched back before 5 p.m. The reason for that timing to the switch is that to play in a game, a player has to be on the active roster by 5 p.m.:
(iii) Any Player who is not on a Club’s Active Roster, Injured Reserve, Injured Non-Roster or Non-Roster pursuant to an approved and registered SPC at 5:00 p.m. New York time on a particular day during a League Year shall be ineligible to play for such Club on that day, and such Player shall be ineligible to receive Player Salary and Bonuses from that Club for that day.
Barabanov was back on the Leafs roster and played Friday night. What this means is that when a change like this one is discovered:
Per NHL official roster update at approx. 11:30am, Nicholas Robertson added to team's active roster and Alexander Barabonov removed. The Leafs did this earlier in the week with Mikko Lehtonen, but didn't any change to their lineup. Should get some confirmation later this aft.— 𝐃𝐚𝐯𝐢𝐝 𝐀𝐥𝐭𝐞𝐫 (@dalter) January 16, 2021
You need to consider the timing before you suspect some kind of salary swap instead of the obvious roster change. Nick Robertson was not on the active roster yesterday at 5 p.m. He can’t be sent back to the squad today at 5 p.m. and get paid NHL salary for the day, so the only possible reason he’s been activated is because he’s going to play tonight.
In other words, paper transactions, either to bank cap space or to play salary games and give a player a bit of extra money, have to happen on an off-day.
The Leafs have no extra cap space to add extra players to the roster. Only a swap can happen, and there is only ever going to be one waivers-exempt player on the active roster at any one time.
That is, until Aaron Dell is waived.
And when a player is waived, they are still on the roster for 24 hours until they are either claimed or can be loaned to the AHL/Taxi Squad. No last minute roster changes are possible via the waiver wire.
To understand the player transactions by the Leafs this season, remember to look at your watch. And if it’s after five, you can make your own decisions about beer.