Sunday, February 10, 2008

No Trade Clauses

It has been hard to make a trade in the NHL this season because the salary cap gives GMs another constraint to work with to make trades. It is believed that the trade deadline will be an exception to that rule when some trades are made but so far nothing significant has happened. One reason for that is that many players who might make hockey sense to trade have no trade clauses in their contracts. Mats Sundin of the Toronto Maple Leafs, Rob Blake of the Los Angeles Kings and Wade Redden of the Ottawa Senators are all examples of players who are much harder to move because of their no trade clauses. In a salary capped world where no team can offer significantly more money to sign a free agent, teams have turned to other benefits such as the no trade clause to attract free agents. Now after a couple years several of these deals have not worked out as hoped and teams would like to trade the player they signed, but the contract they negotiated makes it hard. The player in question can kill any trade possibilities.

Will this make teams think twice about offering no trade clauses in the future? Probably not. Free agent signings are often short term moves where the potential longterm problems that come with the contract are overlooked.

There is a growing sentiment among some hockey fans that a player should agree to give up his no trade clause for the good of the team that no longer wants him. There is no reason a player should do this. He negotiated it fairly, now if it's inconvenient to the team that gave it to him too bad. The player has every right to hold a team to the terms of his contract. If the team doesn't like it too bad, they shouldn't have agreed to it in the first place.

If teams find no trade clauses are problematic and it prevents them from making the moves they want, they should stop offering them. Until then, their hands will remain tied with players that they want to trade who are preventing any deals.

No trade clauses are a weird thing. I can imagine a player's point of view where they want to have a "normal" family life and not be worried about getting pulled up by the roots at the whim of their team's management.

On the other hand, if you're a player who has been asked to waive his no-trade clause, do you really want to stay in that environment? I suppose it depends on how acrimonious that player's relationship with the team is.

Just mulling over a hypothetical situation like this... You might see some teams actually try to drive that player into waiving their no-trade clause by making him unhappy. Perhaps by stripping him of his captaincy or taking away some of his ice time.

That would be a very negative tactic, hopefully it would take an extremely desperate team to mistreat a marquee player like that.

I don't like the idea of a no-trade clause except for "franchise" players, and in those cases they would largely be exempt from trades because of their intangible value to the franchise.
Any team that tries to force a trade by treating a player that was considered enough of a star to be given a no trade clause badly is hurting themselves. Its never a good thing to intentionally create bad chemistry around your team and it will give possible future free agent signees a reason to not want to join your team.
That's as may be, but it might have already happened. Check out Allan Muir's article here:

There have been whispers out of St. Louis that Weight was approached a second time and given the classic Hobson's choice: Rip up the no-trade clause and accept a move to Anaheim, or prepare to see his ice time whittled down below the nation's savings rate. Not much an athlete can do at that point. It's one thing to stand by your principles. It's another to stick around where you're not wanted.

Weight's mistake may have been keeping the first request private...

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