Among the ways teams can increase the value of potential trade candidates is by retaining a portion of their salary. These moves are often used on star players who may have declined slightly and are no longer deemed worthy of their big cap hits, or at the deadline in order to fit in as many contracts as possible for the playoff stretch. Any team can retain up to 50% of a player’s salary for the remainder of the contract, though a single player can only be involved in two of these transactions per contract.
Teams meanwhile are limited to three retained salary transactions on the books at any one time, and they cannot in aggregate equal more than 15% of the cap ceiling. That means, for this season a team can retain up to $11,925,000 in salary given the $79.5MM cap ceiling. Some teams have already started in on that number given the previous retained salary transactions that they are still paying off. Below is a list of all the active contracts involved in transactions like this:
Mike Smith – Retained $1,416,667 per season through 2018-19
Matt Beleskey – Retained $1,900,000 per season through 2019-20
Marcus Kruger – Retained $308,333 per season through 2018-19
Jason Demers – Retained $562,500 per season through 2020-21
Dion Phaneuf – Retained $1,750,000 per season through 2020-21
Toronto Maple Leafs
Phil Kessel – Retained $1,200,000 per season through 2021-22
Roberto Luongo – Retained $800,000 per season through 2021-22
Vegas Golden Knights
Derick Brassard – Retained $2,000,000 per season through 2018-19
While these transactions are hardly crippling the above teams, they are something to remember when the trade deadline rolls around and clubs are trying to swap contracts. Teams like Toronto and Vancouver who have retained salary for another four years might not want to get into a similar situation and lock up two of their three possible options for the future.
The other question surrounding retained salary transactions will be how they affect the upcoming CBA negotiations, after teams like Vegas have acted as a sort of middle man. Brassard was never really part of the Golden Knights, only coming there on his way from Ottawa to Pittsburgh in order to reduce his salary for the Penguins. Though Vegas received compensation, it is not how the rule was intended to be used.