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What should (or could?) be done about messy no-trade clauses?

Aug 17, 2010, 5:30 PM EDT

Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for oopsburke.jpgWhen someone is about to sign a contract, there’s often that thought: you better check the fine print.

Sure, it’s easy to follow dollars and cents, whether it’s a players salary vs. their cap hit. But what about some of the more nuanced elements of a contract? A lot of times deals get complicated when you start throwing in player/team options, incentive-laden bonuses and one particular thing that sprouted up this weekend: a no-trade clause.

It’s a prickly issue, especially in the salary cap era, as a player who seems essential one season can turn expendable a couple years later. Greg Wyshynski of Puck Daddy discussed Brian Burke’s emphatic stance not to trade a player (such at Tomas Kaberle) who has a no trade clause today.

The way I see it: There’s no harm in asking. Fans have every right to be upset when a player doesn’t waive one for the “betterment of the team” or his own career — hello, Mats Sundin(notes) — but at the end of the day, the team agreed to the no-trade provision, usually because the player made a concession on money or years. So you can’t kill a guy for playing one of the few cards the players still hold with regard to their career paths.

Jeff Marek of CBC Sports sided with Burke’s philosophy because (a) no-trade clauses are usually negotiated as part of a player contract in lieu of additional money and (b) you can’t compensate a player for waiving that no-trade clause.

But in thinking about Burke’s philosophy, what about this proposal: Should the next CBA allow players and their teams to negotiate a no-trade clause buyout, in which a team can remove the NTC for given amount at any point in the contract?

It would be an option, not mandatory, for players seeking no-trade clauses. Maybe there’s even a way to open that provision up for in-season negotiation, rather than a “trigger” price; although whether it’s a pre-determined amount or a negotiated sum, one imagines there’d have to be some kind of salary cap implication for the NTC buyout.

Thumbnail image for kaberleshovesthrasher.jpgTeams have all sorts of “rights” when it comes to moving players around. They can send a reasonably decent player to the minors simply for salary reasons – just look at Michael Nylander’s situation in Washington. He wasn’t necessarily the best fit for coach Bruce Boudreau’s attacking style, but at a more reasonable price, he’d be a no-brainer for another NHL team. Yet he’s stuck in foreign league/AHL limbo because of his costly contract.

The next Collective Bargaining Agreement negotiations could be looked at in two distinctly different ways. You could either see it as a harbinger of doom if you subscribe to the (frightfully reasonable) notion that the league is heading for another crippling lockout. On the other hand, you may look at it as an opportunity for the NHL to clean up the messy loopholes and blunders of their first post-lockout labor agreement.

I cannot say for sure what the best way to handle NTC’s would be … except for the numbly obvious suggestion that teams avoid them altogether. What do you think, PHT readers?

  1. Alex - Aug 17, 2010 at 9:32 PM

    I like the idea BUT think that there are bigge fish to fry in the next CBA (preventing Kovalchuk type contracts tops amongst them)
    That said I would make it an available option on the players contract and not a blanket change to all no trade clauses. It gives teams and players more tools to use when making deals which makes a good GM more tools to help his team.

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