After a wild day of signings, trades, and non-stop hockey headlines, there was some bittersweet news as the day came to a close. Cheveldayoff was talking to the media and the talk turned to Bryan Little. The official news is that Little has been recommended by doctors to not play hockey this upcoming season.
"The update basically is after consulting with all the doctors and getting all the information and taking the time to digest everything, the recommendation of the doctors is Bryan Little does not play this coming season." -Cheveldayoff
— Mitchell Clinton (@MitchellClinton) October 9, 2020
For people who have followed Little’s situation closely over the past few months, this news isn’t a huge shock. Despite some people expecting this announcement, it doesn’t make it any easier for the organization.
To be completely honest, hearing this sucks.
You could argue about Little’s usage on the second line and say that he’s a declining player on the ice, but he’s been an important player for this team since relocating from Atlanta. One of the original players from the move, Little was the top-line centre for a number of years and helped form the infamous Ladd-Little-Wheeler line. Anytime a player’s career is possibly cut short, it’s a tough pill to swallow. Winnipeg is losing an important player on the ice, but they are also losing an important piece off the ice.
Little is a true veteran that always handled himself very well. He’s just a very likeable person which is what makes this so much tougher for the organization.
Once you get past the suckiness of the announcement, there are some important things to keep in mind.
Bryan Little is under contract for four more seasons. If he sits out this season, there is a possibility that he returns in one year’s time. While some people may label that as a long-shot, it’s definitely a possibility. Little will be turning 33 next month, so there is time for him to make a return in his mid-thirties if he wants to take another crack at playing in a year or two.
The caveat with this is that nobody really knows the injury except for Little and the doctors. There might be a very low chance of ever playing again, but we don’t know those details.
The other important thing to keep in mind is that the Jets can use this to their advantage in terms of cap space by utilizing LTIR (long term injured reserve).
Just to clarify the Bryan Little/LITR/Cap space stuff…
Example: Jets spend to $80.5 million. If Little on LTIR, the Jets then can go over by his cap hit ($5.29 million) minus the $1 million they didn't spend to the ceiling (available cap).
So $85.9 million is WPG's cap.
— Scott Billeck (@ScottBilleck) October 9, 2020
The very simplified version is that LTIR allows Winnipeg to exceed the salary cap limit. This gives some more flexibility to add a piece while also giving Cheveldayoff an incentive to spend as close to the cap as possible. Spending close to the cap will maximize the relief gained by placing Little on LTIR.
With this news being announced now, it gives the Jets plenty of time to plan and make adjustments before the season begins.
It’s never a good thing to see major injuries play a role in players’ careers. However, injuries are part of the game and sometimes can’t be avoided. We wish Little all the best with his recovery, even if he isn’t supposed to play hockey this year. Is it possible that Little suits up again? It may be unlikely, but you never know what could happen. The one benefit to the team is that it provides them with plenty of time to make adjustments to the roster by utilizing the LTIR rules.