Keefe says Mrázek is stepping up towards his return, plan will be to include him in some games with the Marlies (conditioning relay)
-David Alter (@dalter) November 30, 2021
Petr Mrázek and Ilya Mikheyev both missed most or all of the regular season and simply won’t be able to get back into the lineup. They could both end up in the AHL in physical condition, so it’s time to relearn how it works.
There are two types of conditional loans. If a player is in IR, where he counts towards the salary cap, and is about to return to action, or if he gets scratched a lot, he may qualify for a regular conditioning loan.
This standard form of loan lasts 14 consecutive days. The player is sent to the AHL, plays in their assigned games, and then returns to the NHL at the end. His salary is paid as if he were in the NHL, and the player counts towards the salary cap and the 23-player roster limit – whereas on IR he does not. A team needs to have the kind of cap situation that allows enough players as extras to make this possible.
The commissioner has the right to investigate the circumstances of any loan, so teams cannot use the loan to evade waivers or the salary cap. The players must also agree to the conditional loans.
The other type of loan is for LTIR players. In this case, the player remains in LTIR during the minors. A small caveat is that, for teams operating with a lot of ceiling space, they do not benefit from LTIR Summon for players, and very occasionally someone who has never been on LTIR is loaned under these rules. The crucial point is that this loan is for a player who has not played for 10 matches and 24 days (the LTIR minimum).
The player has to make this loan and he is paid as if he were still in the NHL. During this loan, the player remains in LTIR.
The loan lasts up to six days and three games, and either maximum will trigger the end of the loan. This loan is used to determine a player’s ability to exit the LTIR, not to keep a rarely used player in shape. Teams are allowed to request an extension of two more games, and this happens often.
Just like in the first type of loan, the commissioner can investigate at any time to make sure that the loan is legitimate.
The Marlies have just had their Saturday game postponed due to schedule disruptions caused by Covid outbreaks at other teams. This means that if Mrázek were to be sent out this weekend, which I think might be the plan, six days only cover the Sunday match and the Friday December 10th match. That might be enough for a goalie.
If Mikheyev has to go to the minors before he returns, they could choose to wait until December 10, then six days will give them three games in a row, or they could start on December 11 and have three games during that time. . The weekends of December 10, 11 and 12 are road games, however – the famous AHL three-for-threes have all been played at different locations. Is Ilya Mikheyev ready to sit in the Russian section of the Marlies bus for a grueling roadie? Maybe he would have fun.
To complicate matters further, the Leafs are moving west on December 13 for four games until December 19.
An added difficulty is the roster freeze rules that must be scanned so that players can be fired whenever these two actually exit the LTIR. It’s a problem for another day when those dates get closer, however.
The maneuver room
This is all a little easier than it looks, because although the rules around these loans, especially the LTIR type, are strict and Gary Bettman can always ask for proof that a player should be on LTIR, there is nothing codified about returning to the NHL. list of players after the end of the loan. So a player can be perfectly fine and play six games in the AHL with great success, then come back into the NHL and stay in LTIR until it’s convenient to get him back.
The reality is, the CBA just forgets to say that you really need to take the player out of the LTIR if he’s fit in the AHL. You can just take your time, wait for the medical clearance that any bureaucracy knows how to make sure it takes the time it takes, and for a very short period of time you get to bypass the cap.
The Leafs have tough decisions to make when both players are in good health, so it won’t be surprising if they take their time.
In general, the conditioning loan process is straightforward, necessary, and not fishy, wacky, or anything else. However, it absolutely contributes to the ability of NHL teams to let extra players go without playing. You can create a niche in the press area more easily when you are not going to physically destroy the player. You can have a backup goalie that you never play when you can send him two or three times a year to the AHL for two weeks.
But at the same time, legitimate injuries require careful management. Just ask Mrázek what happens if you play when you think you are ready and are not.
When we have more information on Mrázek and Mikheyev’s return and the implications of the list, we’ll cover that for you.