In the new CBA extension that was signed between the League and the Players Association earlier this month, the players were able to bargain for something that negatively affected some of the better players in the league. It is not uncommon for some of the better players to bargain for no trade or no movement clauses in their big contracts when they are at the peak of their game. In this way, they can dictate the team in which they are traded to, should their current team wish to move them down the line. It is a great way to ensure that they can get to a city that they want to live in, one that would suit the needs of their families, especially if they have children that would be following them; or, it could help to ensure that they are traded to a team they feel can win that elusive Stanley Cup.
Well, up until now, there were ways for teams to get around those no trade and no movement clauses. The main way was for players who did not have their NTC or NMC kick in until a few years after they sign their deal. Say, for example, a player signed a 7 year deal, but did not have their no trade clause kick in until year 3 of the deal. After year 2, before the clause kicks in, the team could opt to trade the player to whoever they want. Then, the new team could void the no trade clause and the player would be out of luck. Under the old agreement, the NTC or NMC was applicable only to that team, and by trading them before the clause kicked in, the clause could be voided.
The best example of this, of relevance to all of us, is with P.K. Subban. As TSN reminds us, and as showcased by Cap Friendly, PK did negotiate in a no movement clause with Montreal. While his contract started with the 2014-15 season, the clause was not going to kick in until the 2016 offseason. However, before that happened, only days before actually, they traded him to Nashville, before the NMC would have given Subban some control over where he was dealt. Because he was dealt before it kicked in, Nashville then was able to not honor the NMC, and it never went into effect. He then, of course, ended up in New Jersey, which did not go nearly as well as anyone hoped.
Under the new terms that the players just bargained for, however, that would no longer be possible. If the new terms had been in effect then, Nashville would have been required to honor the NMC that was in the deal with Montreal, and that might have prevented him from ending up on the New Jersey Devils. Under the new terms, any no trade or no movement clause that is bargained by one team still has to be honored by any other team he is dealt to. It is now attached to the contract, not attached to the team that bargained it.
This is obviously a win for players, as it guarantees that any NTC or NMC they bargain for will remain in effect for the entirety of the contract, no matter what team they are playing for. However, there are other consequences of this as well. A team that wants to trade a player with one of these clauses will now have an even harder time doing it, and perhaps might not get as big of a return as before. It is not impossible to think that a player that could have once brought back a 2nd rounder might only get a 3rd now. Maybe that is putting too much value on the clauses, but you get the idea. Maybe a 6th rounder instead of a 5th.
Furthermore, because that NTC/NMC has value, any team trying to dump a player to open up salary cap space will have to contend with these clauses as well. The team moving a player with one of these clauses might have to retain a larger percentage of the contract when they deal the player because the new team will have the NTC/NMC to deal with. Perhaps instead of eating 50% of the contract, they might now have to retain 60%, for example. That has salary cap ramifications, especially now with the flat cap for the next several seasons.
So, given all of that, how is this affecting the New Jersey Devils and those on its current roster? At the moment, according to Cap Friendly, only three players have these clauses active at this time, while a couple of others will have clauses triggering later in deals. Here is a quick list:
Travis Zajac – NTC – expires 2021
Kyle Palmieri – modified NTC – expires 2021
Cory Schneider – NTC – expires 2022
Nico Hischier – modified NTC – active from 2024-2027
Nikita Gusev – modified NTC – active next season only
First, let’s quickly tackle those players who have clauses that are currently active: Zajac, Schneider, and Palmieri. Zajac has a full NTC, as does Schneider, while Palms has a modified NTC. That means that if the team requests it and is looking to deal him, Kyle submits an 8-team no trade list. Now, if any were dealt, these clauses would transfer.
In my opinion, this means minimal for both Zajac and Schneider, and also for Palmieri’s current deal (although it will undoubtedly matter for him in future deals). Zajac is most likely not being dealt; he has one more season left on his deal, and now on the wrong side of his 35th birthday, no one is going to want him and his $5.75 million cap hit, especially not with the flat cap. That is not to say that he does not have value on this team for next year, just that his trade value is not particularly high. Plus, he would only be a rental anyway if dealt next year, and thus the NTC would not be in play for his new team. Schneider is also most likely not being dealt, as he has a $6 million cap hit for the next two seasons still. Given that he is clearly no longer a starting goaltender, the Devils would need to eat a very large percentage of that contract if they managed to deal him. I thought that was unlikely even before this new clause transfer item in the CBA; now, it is even less likely. He will most likely be backup to Mackenzie Blackwood for the next two years and then go on his way.
Of those three, the one it could potentially affect in the future would be Palmieri, although not really on his current deal. He has one year left on it, and on the off chance he even was dealt at the trade deadline this year, he would just be a rental to another team, and thus the modified NTC would not really matter to his new team. He would play through to the end of the deal. Now, for the next contract he signs, hopefully with the Devils, it will certainly matter. That deal will take him through his early 30s, when he will still most likely be on the top or near the top of his game. If he were to be dealt after next year, any NTC or NMC in his new deal will absolutely matter. It will be harder to deal him, and the Devils might not get as much in return should they seek to move him. It could help to ensure that he remains a Devil throughout his next contract, even if the team continues to struggle on the ice.
As for the two that have clauses that will trigger later on, the only one it could really affect is Hischier. Gusev has a modified NTC just for this upcoming season, so the same argument applies here as it does for Palmieri: if he is dealt this year, it will be as a half-season rental, and so the clause will mean nothing to the new team. And again, like with Palms, if he does manage to get a NTC in his next deal, it could have the effect of making him harder to trade, keeping him in New Jersey into and through his early 30s. This is not necessarily a bad thing, same with Palmieri, as both could be integral to the turnaround of this franchise in the next few seasons. But it is worth mentioning.
Now, for the one player that has a current deal where this new clause transfer could actually matter: Nico Hischier. In his massive deal that he signed in October, he got a modified NTC that will kick in at the start of the 2024-25 season and will last for three years, until the contract expires in 2027. To showcase that in another light, it will kick in when he is 25 years old and expire when he is 28. Yes, he still is that young.
You might think that there is a strong chance it doesn’t matter at all for Nico too, and I agree with that. Nico is absolutely at the center of the core of this team moving forward. I personally think he should get the next “C” and wear it for a decade and a half. If this organization rebounds in any way between now and the start of his modified NTC, and the team is clearly moving in a positive direction at that time, there is no way they will think to deal Nico. He is the present and future of this team, along with Hughes and Blackwood.
However, there is at least a minimal chance things go awry and we are talking differently in a few years. Say he gets injured often over the next few years, and/or the team stagnates and reverts back to its Mickey Mouse Organization ways, and by 2025, a new GM is in place and wants to stockpile picks for another rebuild. At that point, moving a 25/26 year old Nico, who maybe hasn’t lived up to the contract, would make some sense. He would be young enough to warrant a large haul in return, and that could be what the doctor ordered for the franchise. Now, again, I don’t realistically see that panning out. I like the young core of this team, and with him at the center of that, I think good things will eventually come. But it does have to be mentioned. In that scenario, however, will the clause in his contract affect his movement? Most likely not, as given his age at the time, still very young, it would be enough to overcome any misgivings about a modified NTC.
So in the end, I think for the New Jersey Devils at this time, and in the near future, this new clause in the CBA where no trade clauses and no movement clauses transfer in trades does not play any real factor, at least where their current roster is concerned. Of the 5 players who have those clauses in current contracts, the only one it could really affect would be Nico in a few years, but given that he is the core of this franchise, and should be for the next 15 seasons, the odds of him being dealt, NTC or no NTC, is minimal.
Now, it could and probably will affect future contracts, like I alluded to when I discussed Palmieri and Gusev. That could also be true for the likes of Hughes, Blackwood, Damon Severson, Ty Smith, or anyone else who really grows and improves their game on this team. It could also matter to any players the team signs in free agency. Any big splash like that would come with a NTC more likely than not, and that would matter. But that is too hard to speculate about at the moment, as are any trades the Devils might make for a player with a NTC or NMC. They are possible, and having those clauses transfer could matter, but without any hard information on specific players or contracts, it is not my place to discuss that at this time.
So, for the moment, as Devils fans, the new clause transfer in the CBA is not anything we need be concerned with. It should not affect moves the organization makes with respect to anyone on the current roster with their current contracts, and if it actually does, it will not be for several seasons yet.