The NHL is reviewing whether the Chicago Blackhawks will be allowed to place Marian Hossa on long-term injured reserve, reports The Athletic’s James Mirtle. If not, the team would be stuck with Hossa’s $5.275 million cap hit on their books all season with no relief.
This hopefully won’t be an issue as LTIR reviews are not totally uncommon, and Scott Powers says it’s unlikely Hossa’s status is rejected.
I'm highly doubtful they'll be denied.— Scott Powers (@ByScottPowers) September 22, 2017
But the news signals the league still hasn’t decided his status one way or another. That could throw some chaos into Chicago’s lap.
The Blackhawks announced earlier this summer that Hossa, who has four years remaining on his contract, would sit out the 2017-18 season due to a skin disorder related to his equipment. The team plans to place him on LTIR once the season begins, which would give it an exception to go over the salary cap. The NHL could scuttle that plan, however.
Mirtle says the league is currently reviewing two LTIR cases: Hossa and the Maple Leafs’ Joffrey Lupul. “With Hossa's case, a lot of other teams complained the Blackhawks were getting cap relief,” he writes.
Long-term injured reserve allows teams to get cap relief for players who are unfit to perform. Teams have to provide proof that the player is actually injured, but in these cases, it appears the NHL is using an independent doctor to evaluate whether Hossa and Lupul are in playing condition.
Lupul recently posted on Instagram that the Maple Leafs made him fail his physical during training camp and he’s actually healthy enough to play. Apparently the league initiated the review process for him after seeing those tweets, although that’s separate from the Hossa situation.
The main reason Hossa’s LTIR status has gotten so much attention is his contract. The base salary on his 12-year, $63 million deal drops to $1 million this year, which would be a convenient time for him to retire. However, with cap recapture penalties on the contract, retirement would place a significant cap penalty on the Blackhawks each season.
There’s some belief that Chicago cooked up this skin disorder as an excuse to place Hossa on LTIR, rather than deal with the cap ramifications of his contract. One possibility is that Hossa’s skin condition isn’t so bad as to render him unplayable, but with his salary dropped to a relatively low level, it’s no longer worth suffering through the health issues to continue playing.
That would mean the skin condition is indeed real, so the NHL might have a hard time going from that to arguing Hossa should be ineligible for LTIR. However, if that is the conclusion they come to, it would be a devastating blow to the Blackhawks’ cap flexibility for the 2017-18 season. It would also create uncertainty over how the team would handle the remaining three years on Hossa’s contract.
So this is going to be a really important situation to watch, and we should get a resolution soon. Mirtle says the league expects to make final decisions on Hossa and Lupul by the start of the season, which is in less than two weeks. The Blackhawks’ ability to make in-season upgrades hangs in the balance.