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Penguins recall Joseph Blandisi, place Crosby on injured reserve

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A look at the roster move and what it means (and doesn’t mean) for the salary cap

Vegas Golden Knights v Pittsburgh Penguins Photo by Joe Sargent/NHLI via Getty Images

The Blender is back! The Penguins announce today that they’ve called Joseph Blandisi up from the AHL.

Since being sent back down to Wilkes-Barre, Blandisi has four points (2 goals + 2 assists) in seven AHL games. Blandisi has played 7 games so far this season with the NHL Penguins, recording two points (1g+a).

Blandisi is needed because center Nick Bjugstad went down last night against the Devils with a painful looking injury. Blandisi can play center or wing and played center in the NHL. As we pointed out in the game preview, calling up a center-capable player gives the possibility to form a line with Blandisi, Sam Lafferty and Dominik Kahun so that the Pens can leave their preferred Zach Aston-Reese, Teddy Blueger and Brandon Tanev line in tact, as well as the other top two lines.

As a result of this move, the Pens put Sidney Crosby on injured reserve. What does that mean? There seems to be some common misconceptions about the NHL’s IR and long-term injury reserve and the salary cap ramifications for both, so let’s dive into that as a quick refresher.

Why did the Pens put Crosby on IT?

Pittsburgh had to put Crosby on IR because they can only carry 23 players on their active roster. Since we know that Crosby will be out for about six weeks, there’s no need to have him count against the 23 at this point. Placing him on IR simply means that they can use his roster spot on a healthy player for now. (Don’t worry, they’ll find a roster spot for Sid when he returns to health.)

Can the Pens put Crosby on long term injury reserve?

No, not at this time. CapFriendly has a great FAQ about LTIR here that’s definitely worth reading to learn more. Long story short and in simple terms, NHL teams can only utilize LTIR when they’re going to exceed the upper limit of the salary cap. LTIR allows them to replace the player that they lose to injury. But it offers no future benefit, no “banking” of the extra space.

The only time to really leverage LTIR to exploit the salary cap is if the player will be out for the regular season and able to return for the playoffs. The Pens did this pretty famously in 2013 when Crosby broke his jaw and the team traded a draft pick for Jussi Jokinen, a player that they wouldn’t have been able to afford otherwise. There is no salary cap in place for the playoffs, so when Crosby was healthy and returned, it was fine.

That’s not the case this year, after trading Erik Gudbranson the team had about $3 million in salary cap space. So recent call-ups in Lafferty and now Blandisi use that space to count against the salary cap. There is no benefit for the Pens financially or against the cap to put Crosby (or Patric Hornqvist, or Kris Letang) on LTIR at this time.

Pittsburgh is still $1.5 million under the salary cap right now even with the replacements, so there’s no need or ability to use LTIR at this time.

It’s a slight negative development that they have to carry the salary of the replacements (Blandisi) and don’t get to bank that space. Unlike LTIR situations, when a team is under the salary cap, that extra space does accumulate throughout the season because the NHL salary cap is prorated and calculated every single day. It’s not so bad though, being as Blandisi makes a relatively small salary in the scheme of things. If that makes your eyes glaze over, consult the CapFriendly or just be comfortable knowing the logical thought that the further under the cap a team is, the better off they will be as the season goes along.

Bottom line though: the Pens are worse off because Bjugstad is hurting and now they’re dipping back into the minors for a replacement player. The on the ice impact means the most really, but IR/LTIR concepts are often talked about and sometimes misconstrued so we wanted to take some time to put more information out there.