A Recent History of the NHL's Salary Dumps and How They've Panned Out

By Coby Maeir on August 5, 2022 at 10:15 am
Oliver Bjorkstrand
Gaelen Morse-USA TODAY Sports

Two weeks ago, the Blue Jackets parted ways with Oliver Bjorkstrand and the $5.4M cap hit that his contract carries for the next four seasons.

In exchange for Bjorkstrand, the Seattle Kraken traded 2023 third and fourth picks to Columbus. Without looking at the context, this is a heist. However, context is always key, and because of the signings of Johnny Gaudreau and Patrik Laine, the Blue Jackets had to shed some salary to be cap-compliant for the 2022-23 season. Therefore, the Bjorkstrand trade can be categorized as a salary dump. Click here to read from our own Dan Dukart about why this trade had to happen. 

Let's take a look at a few of the salary dumps around the league in recent history and see how they panned out for the teams that made those moves. All cap numbers and cap-related stats are from capfriendly.com.

We'll start in the 2019 off-season. The Toronto Maple Leafs traded Patrick Marleau ($6.25M cap hit) along with a 2020 first-round pick (13th overall - Seth Jarvis) and a 2020 seventh-round pick (199th overall - Alexander Pashin) to the Carolina Hurricanes in exchange for a 2020 sixth-round pick (177th overall - Axel Rindell).

The Leafs had to do this trade to free up cap space so they could sign Mitch Marner, who was an RFA at the time, who they would end up signing to a six-year deal with a $10.903M cap hit. On the other hand, Jarvis had a fantastic debut campaign in the NHL, as he finished in the top-10 in both goals and points among rookies in 2021-22. As for the other draft picks involved, Neither Pashin nor Rindell has yet to play in the NHL.

Yes, Toronto had to make the trade, and yes, Mitch Marner is a world-class player. But, since this trade, Carolina has won three playoff series including the 2020 qualifying round. Toronto? Zero. However, if the Leafs win the Stanley Cup with Marner playing a big role, this trade will have been well worth it. 

Let's head over to the 2020 off-season. The St. Louis Blues acquired a 2020 third-round pick (86th overall - Dylan Peterson) and a 2020 seventh-round pick (203rd overall - Chase Bradley) from the Montreal Canadiens in exchange for Jake Allen ($4.35M cap hit) and a 2022 seventh-round pick (216th overall - Miguel Tourigny).

This salary dump is less egregious than the previous trade, but Allen posted a .927SV% in 24 regular-season games and a .935SV% in five playoff games in 2019-20, so you could argue that a goalie with those numbers at that cap number could garner a larger return. Nevertheless, the Blues had to account for the $6.5M cap hit extensions kicking in for both Brayden Schenn and Justin Faulk at the beginning of the 2020-21 season, and it also freed up space which enabled them to sign Torey Krug to a seven-year deal at a $6.5M cap hit. Additionally, Jordan Binnington was entering the final year of a two-year deal and would sign a six-year extension with a $6M cap hit in March 2021. 

This trade worked out well for both clubs. While none of the players selected with the draft picks have yet to play in the NHL, Allen posted a .907SV% in 29 regular-season games in 2020-21, which helped the Habs make the playoffs and go all the way to the Stanley Cup Final. The Blues were able to use the cap space to re-sign key players and make significant free-agent signings that have helped them stay competitive in the two seasons since.

Staying in the 2020 off-season, The Detroit Red Wings acquired Marc Staal ($5.7M cap hit) and a 2021 second-round pick (48th overall - Artem Grushnikov) from the New York Rangers in exchange for future considerations.

If you are wondering if a trade is a salary dump, if a team is only receiving future considerations, there's a good chance it's a salary dump. This was a necessary move for the Rangers, as Chris Kreider's eight-year, $6.5M cap hit extension kicked in for the 2020-21 season and they also had to account for RFA Tony DeAngelo, who they signed to a two-year, $4.8M cap hit contract. 

The Wings benefitted largely from this, too. Staal brought a veteran presence to a team in a rebuild and the pick they acquired was packaged with the 23rd and 138th overall picks of the 2021 draft and sent to Dallas for the 15th overall pick in the draft. With that selected, Detroit picked Sebastian Cossa, who they hope is the goalie of the future. 

Last but not least, in the 2020 off-season, The Colorado Avalanche acquired the signing rights to Devon Toews from the New York Islanders in exchange for a 2021 second-round pick (60th overall - Janis Moser) and a 2022 second-round pick (65th overall - Calle Odelius).

Upon acquiring Toews, Colorado signed him to a four-year contract with a $4.1M cap hit and won the Stanley Cup in 2022. 

Well, considering that the 2021 second-round pick the Islanders acquired was used to dump Andrew Ladd's salary in a trade to Arizona a year later and Devon Toews played a key role on the Stanley Cup champion Avalanche, so far, this is as one-sided as it gets. However, if Odelius becomes an elite defenseman for the Islanders, the trade won't look as slanted toward Colorado as it does now. 

This section is an honorable mention to the Vegas Golden Knights, who throughout the past three off-seasons (2020-2022), have traded Max Pacioretty, Marc-Andre Fleury, Paul Stastny, Nate Schmidt, and Evgenii Dadonov for a combination of future considerations along with players who have never played for the team and picks that were later traded before they were used, such when the pick Vegas received from Winnipeg for Stastny was part of a trade package sent to the Rangers in exchange for Brett Howden

In a hard-cap league like the NHL, these trades are bound to happen. Whether or not trading Bjorkstrand will be worth it for the Jackets depends on the play of Johnny Gaudreau and Patrik Laine. That question will be answered over the next few seasons, the first of which is just over two months away.