Tuesday, February 20, 2007

The odd man out

Here's a player we haven't heard from this season: Richard Matvichuk, the New Jersey Devils defenceman who hasn't been allowed into the lineup due to his club's salary cap woes.

I don't know how long he's been healthy for, but how ridiculous is it that a capable veteran remains on the sidelines because of how tight GM Lou Lamoriello is for cap space? The interesting part is that he's expected to join the team for the playoffs, a time when his salary would no longer count against the cap.

I think it's about time we started calling the Devils GM 'Loophole' Lou.



At 10:55 p.m., February 20, 2007, Anonymous Anonymous said...

So what's stopping a mortal lock like (for example) Nashville from loading up with big salaries and sticking them all in the press box while they wait for A: a salary-dumping trade, B: someone to die and qualify for the LT injury exemption, C: the playoffs to start? That's not a loophole. That's the Grand Canyon.

At 12:21 a.m., February 21, 2007, Blogger Michael said...

I have had my critical eye on Lou for a long time here in Pittsburgh. Media pundits have always claimed that Lou and the Devils organization drafts well. If that is the case, wouldn't the Albany River Rats do exceptionally well when they were their farm club? Look at Lowell now. They are in the bottom of the pile in the AHL Atlantic Division. Drafting well means a great farm system to chose from.

Sure Lou has found a couple with Parise and Zajak, but that would be it.

This blog post by you only chips away at Loophole Lou's mythos.

At 12:25 a.m., February 21, 2007, Blogger J. Michael Neal said...

What's keeping this from being the Grand Canyon is that someone like Matvichuk needs to already have the injury exemption. Those guys you posit sitting in the press box while on the roster are eating up cap space while they're there. Besides, as Scott Burnside pointed out on ESPN, do you really want to count on someone who has sat out the whole year being ready to go on Day One of the playoffs?

The loophole I've thought of works a bit different, and you'll have to have some cap room to make it work. Suppose that you go into the summer knowing that you have cap room for the upcoming season, and being pretty confident that your current roster is capable of getting you into the playoffs, or pretty close to it. Then, talk a couple of big name unrestricted free agents into "retiring" over the summer, and taking a lucrative front office job with your organization. Then, right before the trade deadline when your roster has to be set, they suddenly feel that playoff hunger again, and decide to unretire. If you structure it right and that front office job is lucrative enough, you would only have to carry the prorated amount of the minimum salary contract they sign with you in February against the cap. You have them on the ice for the stretch run and the playoffs.

The potential glitch, of course, is that the rule that allows them to sign with you in February also allows them to sign with any other team at the same time. So, the potential is there that your plans could go up in flames, along with the salary for that front office job. So, you have to be confident that the player won't screw you. If you are, though, voila, you have a magic trade deadline acquisition.

I don't know the cap rules all that well, and there may be something in there somewhere that would prevent you from doing this. I don't know of it, though.

At 12:29 a.m., February 21, 2007, Blogger J. Michael Neal said...

wouldn't the Albany River Rats do exceptionally well when they were their farm club?

Not necessarily. A farm team devoted to developing prospects has a very different set of operating priorities from a farm team that is bent on winning its league. If you're determined to win, you load up on more borderline NHL players who are good now, but are also at the maximum level they'll ever be.

At 12:48 a.m., February 21, 2007, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Anonymous, Matvichuk's under the long term injury exemption, and that's the only reason he's in this situation. He's healthy now, but wasn't when the season started [it was a couple months into the season he finished recovery] so he was justifiably unter LTI as well.

This does raise the question of how exactly to deal with players returning from Long Term Injury when there's no cap room left. I'm not sure what the specific rules on that are.

At 8:26 a.m., February 21, 2007, Anonymous Lyle Richardson said...

Michael: Here's several reasons that back up the so-called "myth" about the Devils drafting well:

1989 - Bill Guerin
1990 - Martin Brodeur
1991 - Scott Niedermayer, Brian Rolston.
1992 - Jason Smith, Sergei Brylin
1993 - Jay Pandolfo, Brendan Morrison
1994 - Patrik Elias, Sheldon Souray, Steve Sullivan
1995 - Peter Sykora, Alyn McCauley, Chris Mason
1996 - Colin White, Willie Mitchell
1998 - Scott Gomez, Mike Van Ryn, Brian Gionta
1999 - Mike Commodore
2000 - David Hale, Paul Martin
2003 - Zach Parise
2004 - Travis Zajac

Few rival NHL clubs can compete with the Devils draft record. Do your homework next time. Just because a team's farm club may not have a great record doesn't mean there's no talent to draw from.

At 8:49 a.m., February 21, 2007, Blogger Tom L said...

If Matvichuk is healthy and Lou wants him for the playoffs then he better clear cap space for him now. The clause about LTIR in the CBA states that the NHL has the right to challenge the readiness of a player and if deemed healthy to play cannot be re-activated after the playoffs begin.

Darcy Regier has talked about this with the league and it's why he's unwilling to use any of the bubble-injuries like Connolly or Max to acquire people at the deadline.

As well, he's made a veiled threat to Lou saying that if Buffalo's in compliance he wants the league to make sure that everyone's in compliance.

If Lou tries to activate Matvichuk during the playoffs and the Sabres challenge this and it's deemed that he was healthy long before his return (i.e. during the regular season) then he or the players playing in his cap space will have to be declared ineligible to play.


At 9:19 a.m., February 21, 2007, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Record aside - remembering the AHL is largely a development league - Lowell has some homegrown talent.

Rod Pelley, Andy Greene, Nick Bergfors, Mark Fraser, and Jordan Parise are all NJD picks/college FAs in their 1st or 2nd season pro season. Given some time I think each of them will play at the next level.

At 10:07 p.m., February 21, 2007, Blogger John Fischer said...

I'm a bit confused here. First, no where in Chere's article does it state that Matvichuk has been medically cleared to play. It'd be one thing if he has been; but as far as I know he has not been cleared so activating him isn't even an option to begin with. For this reason alone, I think this is a mountain out of a molehill.

Second, there isn't even any guarantee a defenseman will be coming to NJ that isn't from Lowell. Stuart's already been traded and the rest is just rumors; what's more is that the Devils' blueline has done quite well thanks to the pleasant surprise that is Johnny Oduya and the improved play of Brad Lukowich. I don't think someone who has been playing for most of, if not all of, season sits so Richard Matvichuk can skate on the ice in the NHL for the first time in close to a year.


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