We’re at the point in the summer where most major signings are complete, meaning only a handful of free agents left on the market could still command over the maximum buriable threshold of $1.15MM per year on their next contract. That means financial pictures are mostly set league-wide, and general managers can now focus more on the arduous task of salary cap management.
For many teams nowadays, long-term injured reserve (LTIR) is an important tool in helping teams keep below the salary cap’s Upper Limit, which is set at $83.5MM for 2023-24. It’s not as straightforward as it seems at first glance, though. Placing a player on LTIR does not eliminate their cap hit from the team’s books until they’re activated again. Instead, a team only gains cap relief if they exceed the Upper Limit, and the specific amount of relief received depends on the team’s cap situation on the day they place a player on LTIR. A more detailed explanation of how LTIR works can be found on CapFriendly.
All LTIR situations are not created equal. To be eligible for LTIR, a player must miss at least ten games or 24 days of action. However, they don’t need to be placed on LTIR if they’re projected to miss more than that amount of time. Oftentimes, a team operating far below the Upper Limit that won’t need any relief will simply keep the player on standard injured reserve, especially if they’re relying on an injured player’s cap hit to stay above the Lower Limit (set at $61.7MM next season).
With that said, here is a list of players who are projected to meet the injury requirements for LTIR to start 2023-24:
Buffalo Sabres – Jack Quinn
This offseason was a tough break for the young Quinn, who sustained an Achilles injury during offseason training in June and is expected to be out of the lineup through Thanksgiving. While eligible, he’s unlikely to actually be placed on LTIR. He’s still on his entry-level contract and carries a marginal cap hit of $863K, making a move extremely inconsequential to the Sabres, who CapFriendly projects with over $6MM in space.
The Panthers are set to begin the season without the services of their top two defensemen, thanks to shoulder injuries sustained and exacerbated during their run to the 2023 Stanley Cup Final. Combined, the players carry a rather significant $11MM cap hit, which should give the Panthers some season-opening flexibility. Ekblad’s expected to miss more time than Montour, but neither is expected to miss the whole season – both should be back in the fold by the time the calendar flips to 2024. CapFriendly currently projects the Panthers dipping into LTIR relief by $1.175MM to start the season.
Montreal Canadiens – Carey Price
The team’s legendary netminder isn’t expected to play again after a knee injury, and he hasn’t suited up since the end of the 2021-22 campaign. He’ll likely spend the last three seasons of his contract (carrying a $10.5MM cap hit) on LTIR. As we covered earlier in the week, Montreal is in a bit of a no man’s land with Price’s contract. They’ll likely either look to shed salary to get under the Upper Limit entirely (which they currently sit around $5MM over) or add money to maximize’s Price’s LTIR relief, which they could then weaponize in-season to be a cap broker for trades.
Tampa Bay Lightning – Brent Seabrook
Like Price, Seabrook will be on LTIR for the remainder of his $6.875MM cap hit contract, which expires next summer. Acquired from the Chicago Blackhawks after his injury made it clear he wouldn’t play again, Seabrook has provided additional options for cap flexibility for the Lightning over the last two seasons. Tampa is expected to use close to all of Seabrook’s potential relief to stay compliant throughout the season.
While not confirmed, Muzzin’s playing future remains in serious doubt after sustaining a cervical spine fracture at the beginning of last season. No recent update has been issued on his recovery, and he’s expected to miss the entire 2023-24 campaign and will spend the final year of his contract on LTIR. Murray’s situation is shrouded in much more mystery, however. The team announced last month he’d begin next season on LTIR, but no specific details of his injury were confirmed, and no timetable was issued for a potential return. Murray missed significant time last season with a concussion and an adductor injury.
Philadelphia Flyers – Ryan Ellis
Forwards Cam Atkinson and Sean Couturier are expected to return to the lineup after missing all of last season with injuries, but the same can’t be said for Ryan Ellis. President of hockey operations Keith Jones said a few days ago that Ellis is unlikely to “be able to continue his playing career because of a torn psoas muscle in his back.” Ellis played just four games for the Flyers after they acquired him from the Nashville Predators in 2021 before sustaining the career-ending injury.
Washington Capitals – Max Pacioretty
Pacioretty’s timeline for a return after sustaining back-to-back Achilles injuries isn’t clear, but he likely won’t be available to the team to start the season and should meet the requirements for LTIR. The financial circumstances surrounding the potential relief will be tricky to navigate given the performance bonuses included in his contract, however. Pacioretty should be joining the Capitals after signing a one-year deal last month, sometime in November or December if everything goes well in his recovery.
All three are players acquired by the Coyotes for the express consideration of helping them stay above the cap floor – which they are now far above after being big players on the free-agent market this summer. Nonetheless, all three are done with their NHL careers due to various injuries and will remain members of the Coyotes organization by contract only.
Colorado Avalanche – Gabriel Landeskog
Colorado will be without their captain for a second straight season after the winger underwent a cartilage transplant on his right knee this summer. Landeskog hasn’t played since hoisting the Stanley Cup in 2022, a playoff run during which he played through a knee injury. He’s signed through 2029, and there’s still the potential he plays again, although it won’t be anytime soon.
Anaheim Ducks – Isac Lundeström
Lundeström projects to be on the shelf through next January after sustaining an Achilles injury during offseason training in Sweden. Given the Ducks are far from the Upper Limit, and Lundeström carries just a $1.8MM cap hit, Anaheim could keep him on standard injured reserve for the duration of his absence.
Vegas Golden Knights – Robin Lehner
All has been quiet on Lehner’s health after he missed all of last season. The All-Star-caliber netminder had double hip surgery last summer, keeping him out for the entire 2022-23 campaign. He was not around the team at all during their run to the 2023 Stanley Cup, and the team has issued no updates on his recovery since undergoing the surgery last summer. Without any indication that he’s close to a return, Lehner closes out our list.