When Radim Vrbata departed for the cooler, wetter and more financially-palatable pastures of Vancouver in early July, Arizona Coyotes fans were left with a sense of shock, confusion and sadness. The void left in the wake of Vrbata's absence was quite noticeable, even to the most casual fan.
Shortly after news broke of the signing, it was easy to see why the Coyotes passed on bring back the scoring winger. Vrbata signed a two-year, $10 million contract with the Canucks, an AAV Arizona surely balked at. In the end, it was just another case of losing a quality player to a team that could afford to shell out more money. Except that was not the case at all.
What made the deal ultimately fail? Vrbata wanted a no-move/no-trade clause in his contract. Aside from Shane Doan, Maloney never goes there— Craig Morgan (@cmorganfoxaz) July 3, 2014
This stance by general manager Don Maloney coupled with reports of Vrbata's willingness to give the Desert Dogs a hometown discount, of sorts, turned fans' sorrow into anger. Maloney told FOX Sports Arizona's Craig Morgan, "Once you open the door for one person then everyone from there on in is looking for it," in regards to handing out NMCs/NTCs.
Will Maloney regret drawing this line in the sand? Probably not.
While the loss of Vrbata certainly hurts Arizona's chances to qualify for the postseason in 2014-15, ensuring roster flexibility for years to come is more important. Being trapped with a disgruntled or ineffective player with no ability to move them off the roster is an unenviable and tumultuous situation for any GM to handle. Maloney has set a precedent for all future contract negotiations that, in the end, will benefit the team.
There is concern that avoiding full NMCs (which by design includes a full NTC unless otherwise negotiated) will hinder the Coyotes in the free agent market. However, the number of top players with full NMCs for the duration of their contracts is fairly small. Per Cap Geek, of the top 50 players with the highest cap hits, only 14 (28%) have full NMCs for their entire contracts. Including players who have NMCs in sections of their contract, that number jumps to 19. Unless the Coyotes grow or go after a bonafide star (top-20 player in the league), not handing out full NTCs should not be a deal breaker.
Such a strategy has worked well for the Los Angeles Kings, who currently have just one player on their roster with a NMC, Mike Richards, and they did not sign the forward to that contract (there is also dispute as to whether Richards' trade to Los Angeles voided the NMC). Championship teams can be built without full NMCs.
Despite Maloney's reluctance to hand out these types of clauses, there are three Coyotes who have some sort of NMC. The first is Martin Erat, who was given a full NMC when he signed a seven-year, $31.5 million contract with the Nashville Predators in 2008. Since Erat is in the last year of that deal and making just $2.25 million in salary, the clause is unlikely to cause any problems. Mike Smith also has a NMC in his deal, but for only the first three years of the six-year, $34 million contract he signed before last season. The goaltender has just a full NTC for the final three years.
The only player on the Coyotes with a full NMC for the duration of his contract that was handed out by Maloney is Shane Doan. So yes, there is precedent of a right winger with a big money offer from the Canucks getting a full NMC to take less money to stay in the Valley. But, the captain's legacy in Sedona Red is unmatched and gives an out for Maloney to dismiss Doan's NMC as a special circumstance.
Will Maloney one day hand out a full NMC for an entire contract? There is a decent chance. Whether that player is Oliver Ekman-Larsson or a currently unforeseen star the Coyotes grab down the line, Maloney might eventually have to soften his stance. Today is not that day.