As reports come in from across the pond about Pavel Datsyuk's impending departure just as quickly as Datsyuk's agent can wave them off, we're stuck with quite a bit of time to think between now and the middle of June, when we've been told Datsyuk and the Red Wings will meet to discuss the star player's future.
For most of us, there's still a bit of hope that Datsyuk will return, bring Alexander Radulov with him, and the Wings will be able to do more than just extend the stupid streak. It may all just be a pipe dream, but who cares? If you're paying money to follow hockey instead of getting paid to work it, then dreaming is your privilege.
Unfortunately, there's also the reality that it's looking more and more likely every day that Datsyuk will be gone and that the Red Wings will be stuck with a $7.5M cap hit next season thanks to the CBA's over-35 rule which states a player who retires after year one of a multi-year deal signed after age 35 will have his cap hit stay on the books regardless of whether he's playing.
While we all know that a team can move dead cap space to a team looking to hit the salary floor, there are significant concerns over what kind of assets one of the few true floor teams might demand on such a trade. After all, it's not really that hard to hit the salary floor, so a team looking to do so would need added incentive to just take on $7.5M in dead cap space as a favor to Detroit. Ken Holland has already told the press that he's not looking to spend big assets on moving Datsyuk's contract if it comes to that, and it doesn't make sense to do so anyway.
However, aside from just biting the bullet on the entire $7.5M for one season, there's an interesting idea out there. I think would be worth exploring:
@wingingitmotown Interesting trade I've seen: Datsyuk for Pronger. Tell me why this wouldn't work. Wings save cap, Yotes save cash— . (@oms20) May 18, 2016
@HabsLaughs what about a Pronger for Datyuk trade? Yotes would get cap for $0 and Wings get cap space for real $— Chris Thomas (@christhomas233) May 20, 2016
- Datsyuk's salary is $5.5M with a $7.5M cap hit. If he plays next year in the KHL, that entire $5.5M disappears from what's owed to him without the cap hit disappearing. He will either "retire" like Ilya Kovalchuk did or he'll be suspended without pay for not reporting to his team.
- Chris Pronger carries a cap hit of$4.94M with a real live salary of $575,000. A team carrying the guy so retired that he's already in the Hall of Fame does have to pay him this salary to go along with the cap hit.
- Both deals have only one year remaining.
This is all about real money spent. The Coyotes can take on the additional $2.5M in cap hit without any worry to whether they're going to get close to exceeding the midpoint. However, the enticement here is that they save the entire $575,000 owed to Pronger. Arizona gets extra cap hit with a savings of more than half a million dollars to the franchise's bottom line.
While we know $575,000 isn't much in the overall scheme of what franchises move around every year, it's a benefit to not have to waste money on cap hit. It's possible that this alone would make the deal a straight-up swap without a need for Detroit to pony up additional assets.
For Arizona, there is a risk that Datsyuk decides to play in the NHL, which would mean they would owe him his $5.5M. It would also be extremely odd for this to happen (not to mention would likely be worth more than that in additional revenue for the storyline alone).
For Detroit, the drawback is that Pronger's cap hit isn't really "dead" as much as Datsyuk's would be, and it's only a savings of about $2.5M in cap dollars.
With Pronger being on LTIR, this means his cap has to be carried throughout the summer and he has to be placed on LTIR. With Johan Franzen also joining the LTIR ranks, that's a total of just about $8.9M in space dedicated to injured reserve. This will severely limit the Wings' flexibility over the summer, as teams are able to exceed the cap by up to 10% before they have to be compliant on opening day, but can't start using the LTIR exemption until then.
Essentially, Detroit's active roster would have to be $1.5M UNDER a $74M salary cap on opening day when both Pronger and Franzen hit LTIR and wouldn't be able to utilize all of that $8.9M in dead space at any point during the season due to the way LTIR is calculated. They would have to remain at that number under the cap all season. It's better than keeping $7.5M against the cap which can't be replaced on LTIR, but it's not a magical elixir that makes it all disappear
Is it Worth It?
For a much smaller benefit than expected in cap savings, trading Pavel Datsyuk's contract for Chris Pronger's is still worth it for the $575,000 the Red Wings would have to spend, but it's not a slam-dunk great idea as much as it's a small benefit to the team.
Ken Holland should absolutely explore all avenues of what to do, but I would consider a Datsyuk for Pronger trade an absolute last resort, and I don't think I'd be comfortable with Detroit using any other assets to make such a trade work.