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Dallas Stars get cute, sign Mike Modano to a one-day contract

Harrison Mooney
Puck Daddy

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Like us, you may feel that Mike Modano's retirement, announced Wednesday, came a year too late. Drafted first overall in 1988 by the Minnesota North Stars, Modano played 20 seasons and 1,459 games with the Minnesota/Dallas franchise. Then, in an act of sacrilege, he opted not to retire last season, and played out the final 40 games of his NHL career as a member of the rival Detroit Red Wings.

It was weird.

Thankfully, GM Joe Nieuwendyk and the Dallas Stars took steps on Thursday to rectify the heinous thought of Mike Modano retiring a Red Wing by signing him to a contract the day before he officially calls it quits; a contract that directly references the number he wore in Dallas:

Stars General Manager Joe Nieuwendyk announced today that the NHL club will sign center Mike Modano to an official NHL contract, giving him the opportunity to officially retire as a Dallas Star. Modano will sign the contract at Friday's press conference. Afterwards, Modano will send in his retirement paperwork to the National Hockey League.

The amount on the contract will be $999,999.

"This is a special day for all of us," said Nieuwendyk. "Mike Modano will always be the face of this franchise. He means so much to our organization and all of our fans. We wanted to give him the opportunity to retire as a Dallas Star. Mike has given his heart and soul to this game for over 30 years. On behalf of the entire organization and the National Hockey League, we would like to thank him for his dedication."

Cute. Obviously, Modano won't play a game for the Dallas Stars, but this was a clever way to honor a player that will be forever linked to their franchise.

But does it have consequences under the current NHL CBA's salary cap?

Washington Capitals' fans pressed for their team to do the same thing Dallas did when goalie Olaf Kolzig retired in 2009. Kolzig played all but eight of his 719 NHL games with the Capitals before signing a one-year deal with the Southeast division rival Tampa Bay Lighting, and then being traded to the Toronto Maple Leafs at the deadline.

Caps fans wanted a ceremonial reacquisition; however, Caps owner Ted Leonsis wrote (via JP):

The new CBA does NOT allow us to sign any player for a day. If we did that, the signing would count against our 50 contract limit for NHL contracts. So we cannot do as some of you request. Sorry, nothing personal here.

According to Capgeek, the Stars are presently at the 50-contract maximum, although the entry-level deals of Jack Campbell, Patrick Nemeth and John Klingberg could slide, leaving them as many as three extra spots.

Here's the important thing to remember: There are zero cap implications for Modano's contract signing. According to the NHL CBA, on 35-and-older contracts:

All Player Salary and Bonuses earned in a League Year by a Player who is in the second or later year of a multi-year SPC which was signed when the Player was age 35 or older (as of June 30 prior to the League Year in which the SPC is to be effective), regardless of whether, or where, the Player is playing, except to the extent the Player is playing under his SPC in the minor leagues, in which case only the Player Salary and Bonuses in excess of $100,000 shall count towards the calculation of Actual Club Salary.

Since it's just a one-day deal and not a multi-year contract, no cap repercussions per the CBA.

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It isn't uncommon for a team to reacquire a player whose identity is wrapped up in its organization, but wound up playing a handful of years somewhere else. That said, ceremonial deals of this sort are rare in the NHL.

In the NFL, however, they're common.

Earlier this month, Jacksonville pulled a similar stunt to ensure running back Fred Taylor retired a Jaguar, signing him to a one-day contract the day before he officially called it quits. It was a nice way to make amends for the situation that led to his exit from Florida, when the Jaguars released him as a part of a rebuilding project, and, unready to retire, he wound up playing two relatively ineffective seasons with the New England Patriots.

In 2010, the Denver Broncos and St. Louis Rams did the same for kicker Jason Elam and receiver Isaac Bruce, respectively.

Bruce's situation was slightly different than Elam's, as he remained under contract to the 49ers, so the Rams had to trade for him:

Bruce, who holds every major receiving record in Rams history, was traded from the San Francisco 49ers to the Rams on Monday so the receiver could retire with St. Louis.

The ceremonial trade did not include an exchange of players or draft picks, Rams spokesman Casey Pearce said. A league source, however, told ESPN NFL Insider Adam Schefter that the 49ers would receive a conditional 2012 draft pick if Bruce plays this season for St. Louis, which is extremely unlikely.

And, speaking of the San Francisco 49ers, they did the same thing back in 2006 when they ensured the legendary Jerry Rice, who played 16 seasons in San Francisco before playing the final four of his career in Oakland and Seattle, retired in red and gold.

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