The Hart Memorial Trophy is awarded annually “to the player adjudged to be the most valuable to his team”.
There has been some debate over who should qualify to receive this award in recent years. Some argue only players on playoff teams should be eligible. However, Connor McDavid, arguably the best player in the National Hockey League, plays for the Edmonton Oilers. The inept Oilers once again find themselves out of the playoff picture, for the third time in the four years of the Connor McDavid era. Fans deserve better. Connor McDavid deserves better. The Edmonton Oilers organisation deserves less. And my proposal aims to give it to them.
I propose a new award, let’s call it “The Connor McDavid Award” for convenience sake. The player adjudged to be the best player on a non-playoff team would be it’s recipient. Now the winner doesn’t get some ego-stroking trophy to place on their mantle, but rather, the award they receive is in the form of a fascinating opportunity. As a reward for their outstanding play, they can choose to make their contract null and void with immediate effect, and become a free-agent, free to sign with whichever team they so choose. So, using the example of Connor McDavid, he would have the ability to walk away from the Edmonton Oilers, and sign with a new team on July 1.
How Would it Work?
Is there precedent for such an event? Recall after the new Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) was signed in 2013 that General Managers were given two compliance buyouts. This enabled them to buyout the contracts of two players on their team to assist them in becoming salary-cap compliant. The player received money from the team, became a free-agent, and then was able to sign a contract with another team at a more reasonable amount. A double pay-day if you will. So has there been precedence for a contract being made null and void? Absolutely. And the other party received compensation.
For our scenario, an extra draft pick will be inserted into the first round of the NHL Entry Draft as compensation. Using our example, the Edmonton Oilers would receive the first non-lottery pick in the draft, the fourth overall pick. That would be in addition to their own first round pick. Now is Connor McDavid worth more than the fourth overall pick? Absolutely. But it’s better than nothing, which, frankly, is what Edmonton deserves for their incompetence.
Risks and Benefits
The risk for McDavid, or whomever is the recipient of the award, is that they may not be offered as much money as they are currently if they choose to sign with a contender. Most contending teams in the NHL don’t have much salary cap room. However, if for example the Toronto Maple Leafs thought they had a realistic chance of signing McDavid, General Manager Kyle Dubas is unhesitatingly doing whatever it takes to free up the requisite room. So, one side benefit of such an award is incentivizing General Managers to make trades.
And this goes both ways. For example, what if Edmonton is out of a playoff spot a week prior to the trade deadline? Knowing that their star player has a realistic chance of receiving the Connor McDavid award, what do they do? They have two clear options. First, double down like the Columbus Blue Jackets did at the deadline this year, trading away future draft picks for rental players to help them make the playoffs, or, investigate trading Connor McDavid for a return greater than they would otherwise be compensated should he win the award. For fans who love trades, this would be Nirvana.
What do you think? Let me know your thoughts in the comments, or via twitter @CanberrasCanuck.