It was only a few days ago we chronicled that increasingly desperate situation the Golden Knights find themselves in. They have nothing more than a crimp grip on the last wildcard spot in the Western Conference, with the Dallas Stars having four games in hand on them just a point behind.
The Knights saw things get even more slippery last night as they were pumped 3-0 by the Wild, and the Wild didn’t even have to use their shiny new toy in Marc-Andre Fleury to get that shutout. Combined with the Oilers grabbing a point in Denver, and the Knights are two points adrift of the last automatic spot in the Pacific having played two more games than the Oilers.
And neither of those was the biggest cock-up the Knights had on Monday.
Y’see, yesterday was the NHL trade deadline, and the Knights oil-tycoon-on-a-coke-binge way of doing business has left them with a bit of a salary cap problem. Actually, it’s a rather large cap problem, as the Knights are some $12 million over the NHL’s limit. They’ve been able to dance around and through those raindrops the past couple seasons with use of LTIR (Long Term Injured Reserve) and sometimes using just 17 or even 16 skaters for certain games. The Knights have had a pretty unfathomable injury list this year, and currently Robin Lehner, Max Pacioretty, Reilly Smith, Brayden McNabb, Mark Stone, Alec Martinez are all on it. However, save Martinez who looks to be finished for the season with concussion issues, the Knights would like to have all those players back at some point soon.
But as currently constructed, they can’t due to the salary cap. The Knights could get just about everyone except Stone and Martinez onto the active roster if they wanted, but they’d also really like to get Stone back in before the season ends, him being their best player and all. Which is looking more and more urgent the closer and closer they get to missing the playoffs.
So the Knights thought they’d found a way to do so yesterday. It involved shipping winger Evgenii Dadanov and a 2nd round pick to the Anaheim Ducks for John Moore and Ryan Kesler. Moore would be immediately buried in the AHL. If you’re having a Ben Kenobi moment after hearing “Ryan Kesler” and thinking, “Now there’s a name I haven’t heard in a long time…” don’t worry, you’re not alone. Kesler has been hockey-dead for years, unable to suit up due to hip problems (which likely cracked under the pressure of supporting his mouth). However, Kesler isn’t officially retired so he can still collect his paycheck, and has been in Long Term Injury Reserve purgatory for the past three seasons. The Knights wanted to shelve Kesler immediately upon acquisition, giving them $6.8 million more in LTIR space that, combined with Martinez’s LTIR hit and the $5 million in cap space they would get from clearing Dadanov off the active roster, would allow them to bring Stone off the injured list when he’s healthy.
One problem. Dadanov has a 10-team no-trade list, which Anaheim is on. So he can’t be sent there. Which means the trade is likely to be voided, after the deadline, when the Knights can’t do anything else to clear cap space.
The problem arises from when the Knights acquired Dadanov from the Ottawa Senators this past summer. Somewhere in that transaction, either the Senators didn’t tell the Knights about his 10-team no trade clause (the Knights weren’t on it), or Dadanov’s reps failed to mention it to his new employers, or the Knights didn’t go over the fine print of his contract, or some combination therein. The end result is the Knights front office was unaware, and attempted to trade Dadanov to a team he has contractual protection from being traded to.
There hasn’t been a resolution as of yet, and the day has probably been filled with the Knights trying to convince Dadanov that Orange County is a wonderful place to live (it’s not). Should the trade be voided, the Knights could still try to ship Dadanov or another expensive piece to a non-playoff team. Trades can still happen after the deadline, it’s just that those players are ineligible for the postseason. But the Knights would probably have to give up more than the 2nd round pick they tried to send Anaheim to get cap space to get some non-playoff team to even take their call. The only expensive player they have who doesn’t have any sort of NTC at all is Reilly Smith, and it would be quite the look to ship out a well-liked and productive player mere days before the playoffs so he can finish out the season in some competitive backwater.
But if they don’t, they can’t get Stone back into the lineup, and possibly others. And the way things are going, if they don’t, then they could end up one of those non-playoff teams they may have to go crawling to to bail them out of their own mess.
Dadanov is in a position of either having to go play for the Ducks, which he got contractual say-so to have to not do, or playing for a team that latched a 2nd round pick to him just so they could get rid of him. So that’s comforting.
Remember kids, always read the fine print. That’s how they get ya. Or in this case, how they get themselves.