Winnipeg Jets: The Brassard Trade Could Change Everything

WINNIPEG, MB - APRIL 1: Derick Brassard
WINNIPEG, MB - APRIL 1: Derick Brassard /

The news of Derick Brassard going to Pittsburgh broke as a surprise to most on Friday. The NHL was quick to reject the trade to even greater surprise. The reason why they did this may have long-reaching implications that affect both the idea of a sports salary cap as well as hockey itself. The Winnipeg Jets were heavily effected by this, and it better not continued.

Most NHL fans have never seen a trade revoked by the NHL before. Social media lit up on Friday about it without fans knowing the reasons behind the NHL’s decision. In fact, it is the very reason it was rejected that may impact the NHL more than Derick Brassard playing for the Penguins.

The Trade – Part 1

Derick Brassard and his trade just became the biggest story of the 2017-18 NHL hockey season.
OTTAWA, ON – FEBRUARY 22: Ottawa Senators Center Derick Brassard (19) skates by the bench to celebrate a goal during third period National Hockey League action between the Tampa Bay Lightning and Ottawa Senators on February 22, 2018, at Canadian Tire Centre in Ottawa, ON, Canada. (Photo by Richard A. Whittaker/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images) /

The Ottawa Senators ship Derick Brassard to the Pittsburgh Penguins for a 2018 1st round pick, blue-chip goaltender prospect Filip Gustavsson, and defenseman Ian Cole. Ok, this is a coup for Pittsburgh as they get a heck of a player to regain the forward depth that won them two championships in a row. But wait, the number crunchers found a problem. Pittsburgh cannot fit Brassard under their Salary Cap. Result? NHL rejects the trade and requests both sides to rework the deal so that it fits under cap rules.

Apparently, the two teams brought in a 3rd team to take on some of Brassard’s salary in order for him to fit under the Penguins cap room. Rumor has it that it was again rejected because the new 3rd team, Las Vegas, was eating a % of Brassard’s salary in order for him to fit under Pittsburgh’s cap. But since he was never an actual player for Vegas, this deal could not work. So the 3 went back to the drawing board.

The Trade – Part 2

The resulting 2nd rework was a three-team deal between the Senators, Penguins, and Vegas Golden Knights:

Ottawa Senators

In: Ian Cole, Filip Gustavsson, Pittsburgh’s 2018 1st round pick and 2019 3rd round pick.

Out: Derick BrassardVincent Dunn, and their 2018 3rd round pick.

Pittsburgh Penguins

In: Derick Brassard, Tobias Lindberg, Vincent Dunn and Ottawa’s 2018 3rd rounder

Out: Ian Cole, Filip GustavssonRyan Reaves, their 2018 1st round pick, 2019 3rd round pick and Vancouver’s 2018 4th round pick

Vegas Golden Knights:

In: Ryan Reaves, Vancouver’s 2018 4th round pick

Out: Tobias Lindberg, and retain 40% of the Brassard contract

Well, that is certainly different. Pittsburgh gets a quality center, loses a blue chip prospect, and dumps Cole. Ottawa gets picks and Cole as more trade fodder. Vegas gets…………….Ryan Reeves? Wait a minute…….

Something is rotten in the state of Denmark

We have two problems here: 1. Did a 3rd team just eat a % of Brassards contract when it would not benefit them to do so? 2. Did that same 3rd team just help 2 opposing teams to keep a player out of their own conference?

It Gets Personal

Oh no, you didn’t……

Brassard would have been a key piece in any Winnipeg Jets playoff series. The depth at center with Derick would have been phenomenal. He could plug in as a huge scoring option on the third line with Nikolaj Ehlers or move up to the second at Bryan Little‘s spot with Patrik Laine. His addition would have been a huge boon to the Jets this season.

So, let me get this straight. Vegas helps Pittsburgh circumvent their salary cap. In return, they keep a possible playoff opponent from acquiring Brassard. Yeah, I would love to be a fly on the wall in Kevin Cheveldayoffs office right now.

To lose out on him is a big loss for Cheveldayoff and the Winnipeg Jets. But to lose him because an expansion team conspired to keep you from getting him will put a bad taste in any Jets fans mouth. If Las Vegas wanted a rivalry in their first season, they just got one.

Upsetting the Apple Cart

This is essentially a loop-hole around the NHL’s salary cap. The salary cap is in place to keep teams closer in roster talent and therefore more competitive. This is good for the league as it makes for more interesting matchups and fewer blowouts. A more interesting sport is a more popular sport. A more popular sport is a growing sport. A growing sport is a profitable business. Without a salary cap talent can be piled up by the richer teams and the smaller markets will never have a realistic chance.

Also without a cap contending teams, in theory, can poach non-playoff teams of talent to create dream teams while helping the other to tank for that coveted 1st pick in the draft. A perfect example of this seems to be the NBA, where there are a few elite teams……..and everyone else who is just fodder. The NHL must learn from this, they cannot let hockey go down that path.

Next: How wild would a trade with Minnesota be?

Fix It Now

Pittsburgh GM Jim Rutherford makes a power move to strengthen his team for a 3rd straight title. The fact he did this will not sit well with eastern conference GMs. The way he did this will anger most NHL GMs. Having a 3rd team retain a players salary in exchange for assets so another team can acquire is nothing less than renting cap space from another team. That is an intentional circumvention of the very idea and purpose of an NHL salary cap.

A team should only be able to retain salary of a player they acquire in a trade if that player plays with the retaining team the rest of the season. No 3rd teams, no second deal movings, no last-minute trade deadline cap circumvention. No loopholes.

You can bet your bottom dollar there will be an NHL Board of Governors meeting where this is addressed. In the meantime, Jim Rutherford just put a bullseye on his back for the rest of this season.