NHL will rule on Marian Hossa salary cap impact for Blackhawks

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LAS VEGAS – The Chicago Blackhawks informed the National Hockey League a few weeks ago that there was a problem with winger Marian Hossa. On Wednesday, that problem came to the forefront.

“Over the course of the last few years, under the supervision of the Blackhawks medical staff, I have been privately undergoing treatment for a progressive skin disorder and the side effects of the medications involved to treat the disorder. Due to the severe side effects associated with those medications, playing hockey is not possible for me during the upcoming 2017-18 season,” said Hossa in a statement, via the Blackhawks.

While the loss of Hossa impacts the Blackhawks on the ice – he’s been a dependable forward and scorer, even at 38 years old – it benefits them off the ice. His $5.275 million salary cap hit could, in theory, be buried on long-term injured reserve, rather than Hossa potentially retiring and having the Blackhawks get hit with $3.675 million of dead space on their cap through 2020-21 as part of the League’s “cap recapture” penalty. This is huge, considering the Blackhawks are currently over the $75 million salary cap.

Commissioner Gary Bettman was asked about that scenario in Las Vegas on Wednesday.

“I’m certainly more concerned with Marian Hossa’s medical condition. I assume he would play hockey if he could,” said Bettman. “So unless we have a reason, other than pure speculation, to think something is amiss, I’m not even thinking on those terms.”

Yet the NHL is going to look at Hossa’s situation with the Blackhawks and what it means for their salary cap, according to deputy commissioner Bill Daly.

“I’m not prepared to tell you right now what exactly his cap treatment is going to be next year,” he said on Wednesday, after the NHL Board of Governors’ meeting. “You have to look at the entire body of facts and make a determination as to what the appropriate cap treatment is.”

Daly said the focus will be on the cap recapture portion of the CBA and how it could apply to this situation. “I’d go back and read the cap recapture,” he said. “It’s fact dependent.”

Well, in reading it, if Marian Hossa is placed on LTIR and remains there beyond this season, it appears the Blackhawks can steer clear of his cap hit.

From the CBA:

A Player who finishes an NHL Season on the Injured Reserve List and continues to be disabled and unable to perform his duties as a hockey Player by reason of the same injury at the time he reports to the Club’s Training Camp in the next League Year, will again be eligible to be placed on the Club’s Injured Reserve List.

This is a practice seen for players that have suffered on-ice injuries, ranging from Chris Pronger to Marc Savard to Ryane Clowe. We’re not exactly sure how it wouldn’t apply to Hossa.

The NHL was vague about what they’re looking at with Hossa, but the bottom line is that the Blackhawks are working the system through the established rules of the CBA.

Unless the NHL has it in its head that they can use the Hossa case as some kind of precedent-setting measure to prevent further LTIR circumvention – like when they went after back-sliding contracts by cancelling Ilya Kovalchuk’s with the Devils – we’re not exactly sure what they’re going after.

Yes, the Blackhawks and Hossa designed a contract in 2009 that clearly was aiming for a retirement around 2017-18.

But even if this was the case, what they’ve decided in lieu of retirement is standard practice under the CBA. A player says he can’t play but wants to. A doctor agrees. The team puts him on LTIR. His cap hit disappears. That’s how it works in the current system, right?

Yet the NHL is looking at … something.

Pierre LeBrun offers some insight into the Hossa situation:

“From my point of view, and the Blackhawks might have a different point of view, is that it’s something that won’t get resolved by this week and won’t be anything we have to opine probably before July 1,” said Daly.

Greg Wyshynski is a writer for Yahoo Sports. Contact him at puckdaddyblog@yahoo.com or find him on Twitter. His book, TAKE YOUR EYE OFF THE PUCK, is available on Amazon and wherever books are sold.