If you’re looking to start a National Hockey League franchise, you’re going to need to build a team.
That is, after you get through all the other problems, such as the Las Vegas Golden Knights’ naming fiasco.
The brass of the newest NHL franchise will first build its roster with the expansion draft, where players will be selected from existing teams to head to sin city. (predictions for how it’ll go down are already in)
“For a team looking to improve their competitive strength there are no outside markets for player talent, but all improvements must come through trades with other NHL clubs.” — Iiris Murto
Players can also be exchanged between franchises for other players or for extra picks from the annual NHL entry draft.
“The increase in competitive strength is the most obvious reason for trade… teams only engage in trade when they benefit from it…” wrote Iiris Murto in his study on trade economics in the NHL, titled “Bargaining for players: player trade in the National Hockey League.”
A limiting factor for NHL teams is the salary cap, introduced in the 2004-05 season. The salary cap defines the budget franchises have to build their roster. The cap changes every year, and is currently at $54-$73 million.
The Wingels Trade
Recently, the San Jose Sharks traded forward Tommy Wingels to the Ottawa Senators for two minor league players and a seventh round pick in the 2017 Entry Draft.
From the headline, it appears that the Senators, according to NBC Sports, “nabbed” Wingels. The team gained an experienced player at the loss of young prospects and a late draft pick.
However, when taking a closer look at the San Jose Sharks’ line up, it’s fairly obvious that this was a “salary dump”.
“Consequently, the salary cap also introduced additional motives for trade. Clubs may now trade away high-paid players simply to make more room under the cap for the future,” wrote Murto.
“Tommy Wingels was getting paid more than $2.5 million and the Sharks weren’t playing him, they needed to move him off their roster.” said Jake Sundstrom of Fear the Fin.
“As such they made a less sexy trade to get rid of him.”
As the return of star forward Tomáš Hertl to the active roster is imminent, the Sharks needed to clear space for his 2.8 million dollar salary. With young prospects Kevin Labanc, Mirco Mueller, and Ryan Carpenter producing solid numbers, Wingels was sent away.
Sending Wingels to Ottawa is also a strategic move in itself. The Sharks will not face the Senators for the rest of the season, unless both teams make it to the Stanley Cup Finals.
“…it would be beneficial for a team to trade with a club against which they are playing relatively more rarely during the season. This way the change in the increase in the competitive level they face in the league… is minimized.” wrote Murto.
However, the benefits and losses of a trade aren’t just the numbers of stats and salaries.
“It’s tough to quantify, Wingels was well liked in the locker room so you’re at least risking upsetting the guys by trading him,” said Sundstrom.
His point is backed up by Wingels’ farewell tweets from his teammates.
While Tomáš Hertl is finally returning to the line up after being absent since November due to an injury.
Sadly, Hertl will be missing his best friend, Tommy Wingels, the player who was traded to make space in the Sharks’ budget.
“It’s legitimately one of the worst parts of the business and I feel terrible for both of them,” said Sundstrom.
RIP one of the cutest friendships in the NHL.