The NHL Should Push To Eliminate No Trade Clauses

July 24th, 2012 9 Comments

On the heels of the summer’s biggest trade which saw Columbus Blue Jackets star forward Rick Nash begrudgingly sent to the New York Rangers, it has become crystal clear that no-trade clauses should be eliminated.

Cornered by Nash’s no-trade clause and subsequent trade demand, Blue Jackets general manager Scott Howson was given a list of five or six teams which his star player was willing to be traded to.

While Howson had options, he was dealing from a position of weakness as rival general managers knew his options were considerably diminished.

As a result, Howson was all but forced to trade Nash for forwards Artem Anisimov, Brandon Dubinsky, defenseman Tim Erixon and a first round draft pick.

Now, with Howson dealing Nash away on the cheap he is taking a ton of shots in the media and a tremendous amount of backlash from the fans, which may see attendance drop significantly for the upcoming season and could ultimately lead to Howson being fired.

With no marquee player in Columbus, Howson will have a hard time selling this deal to the fans, who have little to cheer about for the upcoming season given the current state of the roster.

Don’t get me wrong, given the fact that Howson now has three first round draft choices in what is believed to be a very good draft next summer there is a good chance that the Blue Jackets will be a decent team in 3-5 years. That said, he never should have been forced to trade Nash, which is essentially what happened here.

Sure, Howson could have resisted, could have taken more time to get a proper return, but the Nash fiasco had already taken months which put all kinds of pressure on Howson to pull the trigger on a deal.

Needless to say, New York Rangers general manager Glen Staher was smart enough to resist Howson’s original requests for the Rangers top prospects and young players such as Marc Staal, Chris Kreider, Derek Stepan and Dylan McIlrath, all but forcing Howson to settle for a far lesser return.

As long as it is not your star player forcing your general managers hand I suppose most NHL fans are alright with the idea of NHL players being allowed to have a no- trade clause attached to their bountiful contracts. But just think of how you would feel if it was your star player leaving your team for a what amounted to a decent quantity of players, but hardly the quality your team will need to rebuild?

With the CBA agreement still undecided the NHL, ownership and NHL general managers should be fighting to take no-trade clauses away.

Simply put, a no-trade clause puts far too much power in the player’s hand. Imagine for a minute if your favorite team had not one but two of its star players (no-trade clause in hand) demand a trade? How hard would it be for your GM to pull off  two huge trades? How hard would it be for you to watch helplessly as your team was all but forced to rebuild?

No trade clauses may be a necessary evil for some, but the way I see it they should be abolished. I mean, I am as sympathetic to the players as the next guy, but a no-trade clause has no place in a contract.

The only way a no-trade clause benefits a team is if the player performs up to expectations for the duration of the contract and that rarely happens. Where it becomes a nightmare is when a player is unwanted by their team due to lack of performance (like Mike Komisarek in Toronto) or when the finances of a player’s contract makes him all but impossible to trade (much like Roberto Luongo in Vancouver).

When it comes to no-trade clauses, NHL teams rarely win, in fact, they almost always lose.

Here is current Toronto Maple Leafs general manager (then Anaheim Ducks GM) Brian Burke’s thoughts on no-trade clauses:

“I think (no-trade clauses are) still a big problem. We have one, and that’s for J.S. Giguere and that’s because his son has medical problems and needs to be near UCLA medical school. As well as he’s played for us and what a great guy he was, had it been for any other reason, I still wouldn’t have done it. I think they’re coach killers and they put the player in a bad spot more often than they help him. Once a team decides they don’t want you and you say, ‘I’ve got a no-trade,’ then I say, ‘fine, sit up here near me.’ To me, I don’t think they accomplish what they’re intended to accomplish. So we have very few of them and we intend to keep it that way.”

Amen Mr. Burke, Amen!

Rewind to 2008 when, with his contract about to expire, Toronto Maple Leafs forward Mats Sundin refused to waive his no-trade clause at the trade deadline. Sundin was entitled to refuse a trade, but the Maple Leafs franchise paid a huge price for not being able to trade Sundin, who would have brought in a handsome return at the time.

Once again, the NHL team loses, while the player gets all the privileges. What if the slipper was on the other foot and a player with a no-trade clause asked for a trade and the team said “sorry, you have a no-trade clause, we are not trading you”…How would a player feel if a team kept them hostage much like Sundin and others have done to their respective teams over the years?

Of course, if that scenario played out we all know the player would just play so horribly that his GM would be forced to trade him for a handful of pucks, once again illustrating that a no-trade clause is a no-win situation for NHL teams.

And what about the Dany Heatley Fiasco? Remember the Ottawa Senators feverishly trying to deal the disgruntled Heatley out of Ottawa only to be told by the player that he would not go to the Edmonton Oilers? How ridiculous was that?

Ultimately Heatley got his way and ended up in San Jose, but he never should have had that type of control, he never should have been able to say no to a trade when it was Heatley that wanted out of Ottawa. The way I see it, you want out of your no-trade (which you probably fought very hard for) you suck it up and accept any trade that comes your way, no list submitted, no B.S., end of story!

Now, former Anaheim Ducks defenseman Lubomir Visnovsky is claiming that his no-trade clause is still valid and that his trade to the New York Islanders this summer should be voided.

Are you kidding me?

Why the hell is Visnovsky telling us this now well after the trade has been completed? How was this deal allowed if he didn’t sign off on it in the first place? And if he didn’t sign off on it, how did the NHL miss the clause, and why didn’t his agent speak up sooner?

Once again, the no-trade clause strikes again!

Without question, no-trade clauses have to become extinct. Here’s hoping the NHL does something about them sooner rather than later.

Until next time,




  1. Dave says:

    I agree and disagree at the same time bro. Lets talk Howson first. I believe he was the master of his own demise in the Nash fiasco. From the outset in January, Howson misread the market, period. He had several deals on the table come February many of which were rumoured to have some star power coming back. It looks like teams got tired of hearing insane demands after putting together reasonable deals for Nash. Howson continued being stubborn and held his public line of wanting two top six forwards, a top pairing defensemen with a 4/5 and a first. That just isnt going to happen for a guy with Nash’s cap hit and term on his contract. Especially in a season where the CBA is expiring. Doug McLean has said is best, Howson got fleeced and has no-one to blame but himself. He held the gun to his own head – not Nash.

    To boot, Nash’s agent came out in February and said his client was willing to accept a trade to up to 8 to ten teams. Post draft and having a chance to see off season changes, playoff success and failure, strategic directions of teams (enter Maple Leaf quote here)etc. Nash re-evaluated and put things into perspective and then like you say, really hemmed Howson in giving him a list of 4 to 6 teams he’d accept a trade to. I realize its only a rumour, but both Bob McCowan and Doug McLean came out and said that Nash was willing to come to the Leafs in February. The rumoured offer was Gunnar, Kadri, Kuli and a first. Howson apparently wanted to add in Gards and Schenn. Of course, that was a no go.

    Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying Torontos deal was better than the return Howson ended up with. My point is that, common sense has to say that after hearing that type of demand – the talks get shut down. Theres no starting point to even begin to modify or come to a comprimise there. Just insane…..

    Bottom line for me, Howson is incompetant I havent the slightest clue how he is still steering that ship. He dug his own grave. Too boot, he gave Nash the no trade. At least Burke when he issues them (see Komo) he puts in modified terms. In Komos case, he has to provide Burke a list of min. 10 teams. Connolly has the same I believe as does Phanuef (not from Burke) and now Grabbo too.

    I think the CBA needs some overhauls and maybe this is one of them. Modified no move/no trades only. Maybe eliminate them all together – cant see the players accepting that though.

    Peace bro!


  2. MarkRitter says:

    Hey Dave—

    your points on Howson are very valid. I can’t argue there.

    I just think the league as a whole would be better served if the no-trade clause was abolished. Sure, they would have to honor those already in place, but going forward I’d like to see them gone.

    Simply put, the players should play and if they don’t like where they are playing they should be prepared to go to another team, for better or worse. No player should be able to hold a gun to their teams head, period! The team owns the players rights, they should have the ability to trade that asset without compromise.

    Playing for your team is kinda like a marriage. You can’t want to leave only if you know 100% for certain that you will find someone better. You have to be prepared to enter the marriage for better or for worse, and you have to be prepared to leave for better or for worse and deal with it either way. There are no guarantees in life, just because things get bad with your team shouldn’t give you the right to leave and again, if you do leave, you have to live with that choice even if it means being traded to a place you hate— you wanted to leave, you have to deal with the consequences of that, you know???…I wonder when the first no-trade clause came about, which GM gave it out??? Would be interesting to find out when and why they started…Why would any GM ever want to give away their power to trade a player anywhere they see fit???

    It’s like giving the player two aces to start every poker hand! In the end, you will lose way more times than not! No player should have that advantage.

    Kinda brings to mind the Lindros saga— he never should have been able to hold the Nords hostage. Sure, it worked out hella good for the Nords/Colorado Avalanche, but that was a shit show! Especially when you factor in Lindros was traded to both the Rangers and the Flyers!!!

    I guess the players could argue that they are traded (sans no-trade) when they really want to stay with their team, so it’s 50-50…I dunno…I just don’t like the NTC!

    Like you said, it would be a tough sell to the players, but I think the League would be better served without the NTC.

    The modified NTC is a decent compromise, and ten teams seems pretty fair. Still, if another team knows they are one of ten, and three or more are eliminated based on the players salary or lack of a good offer coming the other way, that GM is hemmed in again.

    In order to pull off a great deal you need as much flexibility as possible, a no-trade, no matter what the circumstance, diminishes your asset and diminishes the chances of a trade completed in a timely manner.

    I dunno man, I just side with Burkie on this one— limited number of NTC, or better yet, none at all.

    Talk soon Bud!

  3. MarkRitter says:

    Of interest, found this on HF Boards—

    Don’t know who had the first, but they were quite common in the 1970s before Gretzky.

    – Darryl Sittler had one in Toronto which prevented Puch Imach from trading him when their relationship went sour

    – Carol Vadnais had to waive his NTC in order for the blockbuster Boston/NY 1975 trade to go through

    – Gordie, Mark and Marty Howe all had NTCs as part of the deal when they joined the WHA.

    Also found this—

    Do not know who had the first NHLer to have one inserted in his contract but the no-trade clause in pro hockey is yet another innovation that can be credited to Eddie Shore.

    His well-deserved reputation as a despot led to numerous AHL players insisting that there be a mention in their contracts prohibiting a sale or trade to Shore’s AHL Springfield Indians.

  4. Hudson says:

    I agree with both of you, but especially Mark. As much as I liked Sundin, that really cheesed me off that he would not waive his no trade clause for the good of the team. Damnit. It’s not an insignificant matter when you consider these past few miserable years.

    NTC’s should just not be there. At worst, along the lines of what you guys have mentioned, a player might be be entitled to wave off a third of the league’s teams. Any more than that, and you hose the team – and the fans. But is THAT even fair? I mean, you do have perennial losers that face extinction in the long run if they never get things going. Is that fair to those teams? Is it fair to those fans? Hell no. It’s bullshit. Why should anyone be able to refuse to go to the Islanders? Total shit.

    It was funny reading your comments, Mark. I thought of Lindros before I got to that part. That should never have been allowed, then or now. I laugh at Erikson for where that buffoon has landed after scorning Calgary. Screw you. Enjoy the basement. Although I honestly think they will be better without those two wanker star players in the locker room.

    The problem here is entitlement. It’s not enough to earn 100 times what the average Joe makes. They have fame. They have fortune. And still these greedy buggers have to be in control of everything outside the game itself. Screw loyalty. And screw the fans who have put the food on your table, or desire to. It’s all about ‘me’.

    I once thought that players should have some control over their destiny. Just like us. We can choose where to work and live. Why can’t they? Well I am sorry. They are not like us.

    Sorry, that 3mil+ a year you make? The fame you enjoy? The free rides at restaurants and who knows what else? Being role models for kids everywhere? Spending up to half your year doing nothing but keeping in good shape which we peasants also might choose to do? This all actually means you don’t get shit outside the PRIVILEGE to play in the NHL making the money you do.

    You do not get to whine and kick and scream when things turn sour, and demand to be on a winning team rather than go for the honour of being part of building one that was not meant to be.

    Total shit…

    Getting pretty sick of it. And I don’t think it will ever change.


  5. MarkRitter says:

    Hey Hud—

    Nope, that is where Dave is right, the players will never give this privilege up. It is up to the GM’s to make sure these NT clauses are made a thing of the past by simply saying NO to the NTC.

    I don’t blame the players really, I blame the GM’s for giving them out, and the NHL for allowing a NTC to begin with. It was very shot sighted to have the NTC, look at the damage they are doing around the league.

    Sadly, they remain and probably will for quite some time.


  6. Hudson says:

    Hey Mark. Yeah, like Radiohead would say, they do it to themselves, they do…

    I know a friend who cheats on their taxes. The loopholes are there. And foreign countries are used too. The same thing is available to me. But I would feel like a lesser person if I were to do the same. So I won’t. It’s dishonest. And above all, it cheats the country I live in.

    So I think the players can be absolutely be blamed. They clamour for the NTC for control, hurting their team as a result for all the reasons you stated. They also hurt their own chances for cup success when they go for the big money grab, hamstringing their team under a cap system. Screw them. They are not beyond reproach.

    I also meant to add in my original post, that if a team believes in you enough to give you an excellent term like 4-8 years or – wildly – even more, you are a total asshole if you need a no trade. The team gives you total security as it stands. And you repay that faith by screwing them this way? It’s just not right.

    You’re right, it’s the GM’s. But it’s a double-edged sword, and the players have control over what they do and why. And there isn’t enough class and selflessness out there. Just like every other aspect in life, I guess. You’d just figure on there being a bit more class in the ‘upper class’.


  7. Mark Ritter says:

    Here-here Hud! and I like your point about the team showing a player loyalty by giving them an exceptional term. And then for the player to ask for the NTC, well, you are right, the loyalty is not a two-way street anymore, is it?

    Good stuff man!

  8. Dave says:

    Good points boys….I hadnt looked at it that way but its more than valid. I wonder how Nashville will look at the Weber deal five or six years from now? Suter or Parise anyone? Just nuts….


  9. Hudson says:

    Absolutely, guys. It’s just all so out of control. I hope they can curtail a lot of this garbage in a new CBA. The pendulum has to swing the other way.

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