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Campbell's Cuts: No-trade clauses here to stay

Michal Handzus negotiated a no-trade clause when he signed with the Kings during the summer. (Photo by Mike Stobe/Getty Images)

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Michal Handzus negotiated a no-trade clause when he signed with the Kings during the summer. (Photo by Mike Stobe/Getty Images)

Unless GMs can somehow convince the league they need to be saved from themselves, no-trade clauses will continue to be an integral part of the NHL landscape.

So deal with it.

Everybody loves trades. Fans enjoy the excitement and optimism they generate. The media - which hypes the deadline endlessly, then gripes when there is too little action - lives for this kind of stuff.

To see all of it get scuttled because a star player has the audacity to actually invoke a no-trade clause that he negotiated spoils everything. The fact Toronto Maple Leafs captain Mats Sundin is somehow seen as disloyal for refusing to be dealt for prospects and young players is a good example of how perverse this whole trade deadline mania has become.

And, as an aside, Sundin is not being disloyal. First, he’s simply exercising the rights he has earned. Second, knowing Sundin, he probably really feels he can be a part of the solution in Toronto, all of which makes him delusional, not disloyal.

The elevated importance of the no-trade clause has caused something of a hue and cries and calls for them to somehow be abolished.

Sorry, not going to happen. If the league really wanted to do that, it missed the opportunity when it had its foot on the necks of the players in the last round of collective bargaining.

Like so many other aspects of the CBA, the league failed to leverage the power it had and didn’t capitalize enough on the players’ willingness to cave in order to get back to playing hockey.

And the reality is the league doesn’t really care about no-trade/no-movement clauses in the first place. And why should it?

The league head office doesn’t really have to concern itself where a player is playing if teams are conforming to the salary cap. In fact, it could be argued that no-trade clauses actually are good for the league because they can serve, in some cases, to keep salaries down.

If you look at a good number of the players who have them, you can bet almost all of them could have commanded more money if they hadn’t insisted on no-trade clauses in their deals. Without a no-trade clause, Tomas Kaberle is almost certainly a $5 million to $6 million-a-year defenseman instead of coming in at a relatively reasonable $4.25 million.

And for all the problems they cause, no-trade clauses are also a good tool for GMs who want to sign players. If you’re the GM of the Florida Panthers, Tampa Bay Lightning, Dallas Stars, Edmonton Oilers or Calgary Flames, what good is selling a player on low state/provincial taxes if you can’t guarantee he’ll stick around to enjoy the benefits?

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More than 100 players in the NHL now have no-trade clauses and many of them are understandable. It’s pretty easy to figure out why players such as Sundin, Martin Brodeur, Alex Ovechkin and Sidney Crosby have them.

But what exactly have the likes of Todd Marchant, P.J. Axelsson, Scott Walker, Niclas Wallin, Stephen Weiss, Michal Handzus, Bryan Smolinski, Mike Grier, Martin Rucinsky, Chris Gratton, Bryan McCabe, Darcy Tucker and Pavel Kubina done to warrant having no-trade/movement clauses in their contracts?

It seems to me if GMs really do want these clauses to have less of an impact, they should just not agree to so many of them. But competitive pressures will always guide these people and if guaranteeing a player’s final say in whether and where he gets traded is part of the equation when it comes to signing them, GMs will continue to happily dole them out like candy kisses on Halloween night.

And if the GMs ever come to the league and try to pressure the NHL to change the CBA the way it did with extending entry-level contracts, the head office can simply point out to GMs that they are fully capable of policing themselves in this matter.

But this group of people has never been particularly adept at doing that, no matter what kind of spending constraints they have placed on them. So there’s no reason to suggest they’re going to be more conservative in the future when it comes to no-trades.

They have become a fact of life in the NHL and everyone is going to just have to learn to live with it.

Ken Campbell is a senior writer for The Hockey News and a regular contributor to THN.com. His blog appears Tuesdays and Fridays and his column, Campbell's Cuts, appears Mondays.

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